Monday, February 9, 2009

Grace and Salvation

I have been looking into the topic of Grace and the roll it plays in salvation lately and have spent some time in my mind contrasting the Mormon view with that of the Christians. I’m going to try to put my thoughts on paper here the best I can about this subject. Let’s start by quoting a 2001 Mormon General Conference talk. Keep in mind the highlighted section when reading the story of the school boy and see if you can find the contradiction.

"I am profoundly grateful for the principle of saving grace. Many people think they need only confess that Jesus is the Christ and then they are saved by grace alone. We cannot be saved by grace alone, “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

Some years ago, President Gordon B. Hinckley told “something of a parable” about “a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them.

“Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, ‘What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’

“ ‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response.

“A day or so later, … the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. ‘The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old.’

“As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. ‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’

“The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy’s licking.

“ ‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’ the teacher asked.

“After five strokes across Tom’s back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. ‘Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. “Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!”
"James E. Faust, “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 18)

The first part of the quote establishes the LDS view on salvation and the roll grace plays in it. He chooses to quote 2 Nephi 25:23 that says, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”

Notice the end of the story. Tom, who is obviously a representation of Christ, volunteered to take the punishment for the small boy. The boy did nothing to deserve this intercession but Tom gave it willingly despite the wrong done by the boy. There was no works involved, no “after all we can do”. Instead, the only thing the small boy did was acknowledge (after the punishment has been handed out) he sinned and proclaim his love and gratitude for Tom and what he did for him forever.

This story seems to line up more with the Christian view

Romans 10:9-10
9That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

Foust goes on the quote another Mormon leader by saying…

With reference to our mortal acts and the Atonement, President J. Reuben Clark Jr. contributed this valuable insight when he said:

“I feel that [the Savior] will give that punishment which is the very least that our transgression will justify. I believe that he will bring into his justice all of the infinite love and blessing and mercy and kindness and understanding which he has. …

“And on the other hand, I believe that when it comes to making the rewards for our good conduct, he will give us the maximum that it is possible to give, having in mind the offense which we have committed.”

If the above statement is true, then there is no hope for salvation as a member of the Mormon church. It is a LDS belief that “no unclean thing can dwell with God”. If that is true, and the power of grace does not kick in until you have done “all that you can do”, then where is your hope? Can you ever really say that you have exhausted all of your resources and done absolutely everything in your power to live the “law” and be perfect (sinless)? If your answer to this is no, then it is my hope that you will see the freedom and peace Christ offers everyone in the Bible. Paul sums it up so well in the following versus.

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 10:13
for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Christ often speaks of the folly found in trying to keep the law as a way to gain salvation. It is not found in the law, but in a sincere belief in Him who died for us even though we can do nothing to deserve or re-pay such a gift.

In the 29 years I spent in the Mormon church, there was never peace in my life. No amount of work or effort was ever enough. Instead of encouragement, reprimand and threats of Satan’s power to control were often given as motivation to do more.

Does Christ want us to be good, moral, and righteous people? Of course He does. The question that begs to be asked then is; are we striving to do and be those things by trying to live by the law and be sin free? Or, are we alive in Christ and because we recognize the grace given to us once we believe on His name, there is nothing we can do to earn or deserve what has been already given to us?

The idea that we can in some way, earn part of our own salvation diminishes the sacrifice made on the cross and limits the power God has to save us.

I see the following verses as Christ's direct words to people who put too much emphasis on the law like Mormons and many other legalistic religions.

Matthew 11:28-30
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."