What Do Mormon’s Believe?–Works vs. Grace

It is not unusual to find those who are confused as to what Mormons believe regarding salvation by works or by grace.  Somehow the idea has been perpetuated that Mormons do not believe in salvation by grace but rather that somehow we believe we can work our way to heaven.   This can be particularly disturbing to those who believe that one only needs to confess Jesus as their Christ and exercise faith in Him to receive salvation.  When we turn to the Bible to examine its teachings regarding faith and works, we find that James teaches us in chapter 2:18-24

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God.  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

In addition to this passage confirming that Abraham was justified not only by his faith, but also by his works, it also tells us that even the devils believe that Jesus is the Christ, and thus belief alone is not sufficient for salvation.  We can find multiple verses in the Bible that express this same sentiment.  However, we can also find verses such as those by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans, found in chapter 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” and in his epistle to Titus found in chapter 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost”.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe that Paul’s emphasis is that no amount of good works will be sufficient to save us without the mercy and grace available to us because of the magnificent and transcendent gift of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.   We also believe that as disciples of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to be His light to the world as taught in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  We join many of our Christian brothers and sisters who also follow the teachings and commandments of Jesus. We desire to be His witnesses because of our love, adoration, and gratitude to Him.  Our belief and hope is that our good works will glorify our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ.  In addition, we know that our Heavenly Father loves us.  We know that His commandments are for our personal happiness.  By following His commandments, we receive greater happiness and peace in this life.

As Mormons, we absolutely believe that we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ.  I know that He is truly my Savior and Redeemer.  I strive to follow His teachings each and everyday, but am very well aware that I fall miserably short.  Nevertheless, I can rejoice because of His goodness and mercy knowing that I do not trust in my own ability to save, but rather in His redeeming blood.  “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 we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23,26)   “I, [truly], stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused by the grace that so fully He proffers me.  I tremble to know that for me He was crucified, that for me a sinner He suffered, He bled and died.  Oh it is wonderful that He would care for me enough to die for me.  Oh it is wonderful, wonderful to me.” (Hymns, 1985, no. 193.)

Next Week:  Article of Faith #12–Mormon beliefs regarding obedience to laws of the land.

In the meantime, Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4  [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog?(Feb. 17, 2011)]

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What Do Mormons Believe?–Article of Faith #8

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.

In Ezekiel 37:16-17 we read, “Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.”

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe The Holy Bible to be the stick of Judah and The Book of Mormon to be the stick of Ephraim to which Ezekiel here refers.  We do not consider The Book of Mormon to be more important than the Bible.  In fact, in every formal reference to the two, the Bible is listed first.  We consider them both to be very sacred companions to one another in declaring that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the World.  As such companions, these sacred writings fulfill the law of witnesses to which Paul refers in 2 Corinthians 13:1, “…In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Because the Bible has been translated many times throughout the years, it is inevitable that translation errors have occurred.  These errors have mostly been unintentional and simply due to the fallibility of man.  For instance, consider the verses found in 1 Chronicles 21:15 which say: And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it: and as he was destroying, the Lord beheld, and he repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed, It is enough, stay now thine hand. And the angel of the Lord stood by the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite.

This verse seems to imply that the Lord repented of his evil, but the Lord has no evil in him.  Thus, we believe that this was a translation error that should have read:  And God sent an angel unto Jerusalem to destroy it. And the angel stretched forth his hand unto Jerusalem to destroy it; and God said to the angel, Stay now thine hand, it is enough; for as he was destroying, the Lord beheld Israel, that he repented him of the evil; therefore the Lord stayed the angel that destroyed, as he stood by the threshing-floor of Ornan, the Jebusite.

This helps to clarify that it was not the Lord who repented of evil, but rather that the Lord stayed the hand of the angel because Israel had repented of his evil.  Therefore, ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly…’

I have read The Book of Mormon, many, many times throughout my life, often side by side with The Holy Bible.  I can testify of the miraculous spirit I have felt as I have gleaned many important truths from both of these books and have striven to apply their eternal principles in my life.  They indeed testify that Jesus Christ is truly the Messiah–a truth for which I am profoundly grateful.

Please take time to watch this very short video with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland as he explains our love for both The Holy Bible and The Book of Mormon.

To learn more about The Book of Mormon, please read ‘Safety for the Soul‘ by Jeffrey R. Holland and my previous post ‘What is The Book of Mormon?‘.

Next Week:  Article of Faith #9–Mormon beliefs regarding revelation.

In the meantime, Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4  [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]

What is The Book of Mormon?

The Book of MormonRecently, ‘The Book of Mormon’ has received a lot of attention because of the Tony Award-winning production ‘The Book of Mormon’.  Although perhaps entertaining, I assume the production did little in helping its audience to understand exactly what ‘The Book of Mormon’ really is.  Therefore, it is still the source of a great deal of misunderstanding.  For instance, there are those who believe that for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormons), ‘The Book of Mormon’ is a substitute for the Bible (see ‘Are Mormons Christian?’ to learn why we are referred to as Mormons).  Actually, this could not be further from the truth.  Because ‘The Book of Mormon’ has played such a key role in my own life, I would like to help others understand what it is and why we, as a church, consider it to be sacred.

‘The Book of Mormon’ is a volume of scripture that is comparable to the Bible.  Just as The New Testament is a record of Jesus Christ’s ministry in the Holy Land, ‘The Book of Mormon’ is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas.  It was actually written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation.  Their words were written on gold plates and eventually quoted and abridged by the ancient prophet-historian Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations.  One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites.  The other, the Jaredites, came much earlier at the time the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel.

The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after His resurrection.  During His mortal ministry, Jesus stated in John 10:16 “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”  We believe that the Nephites on the American continent were among those to whom He referred in this statement.

After Mormon completed his abridgement of the record, he gave the plates to his son, Moroni, who wrote a few more words and then buried the plates in the hill Cumorah.  On September 21, 1823, this same Moroni, then a glorified resurrected being, appeared to Joseph Smith giving him instructions regarding the translation of the ancient record into English.  In due time, the record was delivered to Joseph Smith who translated them by the gift and power of God.  The record is now published in many languages as a new and additional witness that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God and that all who will come unto Him and obey the law and ordinances of the gospel may be saved.

We, therefore, cherish ‘The Book of Mormon’ as a companion to the Bible witnessing that Jesus is indeed the Christ.  It fulfills the law of witnesses found in the Bible and repeated by Jesus in Mathew 18:16 “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.”  I can testify that as I have read both ‘The Book of Mormon’ and ‘The Holy Bible’ side by side, I have felt a confirming power that Jesus is the Christ, my Savior and my Redeemer.  Therefore, I can add my own witness that “the [Broadway] production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”  I am grateful for the blessing it has been to me and my family.

For More about ‘The Book of Mormon’ see this wonderful message by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:  ‘Safety for the Soul.

Reference:  ‘The Book of Mormon’ Introduction page.

Coming up:  With the 2012 Presidential Campaign having two Mormon Republican candidates, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, there is and will be more talk about Mormons.  But, what do Mormons really believe?  If you are interested in learning more about Mormon beliefs in a ‘non-threatening’ manner, over the next few months I will be posting a weekly discussion regarding basic Mormon beliefs.  These doctrines come from a document known as ‘The Articles of Faith’.   The ‘Articles of Faith’ help people who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to understand how our Church is different from other churches. ‘The Articles of Faith’ do not contain all of the teachings and beliefs of the Church, but they do explain some of our most important beliefs.  Each week I will focus on one of the thirteen articles contained in the document with a very short discussion following each one.  I will also, at times, provide links for further information.  I welcome your comments and questions, but ask if you leave comments that you do so in a respectful manner.  Otherwise, I will not approve them for publication.

In the meantime, Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4  [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]

Are Mormons Christians?

Before discussing whether or not Mormons are Christians, it is important to know what a Mormon is.  The name itself is probably confusing to people.  When my mother, a catholic at the time, was engaged to my father, her parents wrote to her relatives in New Hampshire and told them that she was marrying a Mormon.  Her relatives wrote back asking, “What kind of  Moron is she marrying?”  I think this shows that there are many who have never heard of the religion and still others who do not know who, what, or where a Mormon is.  With that in mind let me explain.

The official name of the Mormon Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (heretofore ‘the Church’).  The term Mormon was actually a nickname spoken of in a derogatory manner by enemies of the Church .  Early opponents of the Church took the term from the Book of Mormon and disparagingly used it to refer to anyone who had accepted Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon.  Mormon was the ancient prophet who compiled the record which makes up what is now known as The Book of Mormon.  Because he is a person of honor to members of the Church, it was a name that they graciously accepted.  However, it is important to recognize the Church’s true and correct name, for it contains where the devotion of its members is truly directed.

Mormons accept Jesus Christ as the literal Son of God and as their personal Savior and Redeemer.  They believe that it is only in and through Him that they can be forgiven of their sins and thereby be worthy to live in the presence of God.  He is the one and only way to gain eternal life and without Him there would be no hope of ever receiving such.  They also believe that because of Jesus Christ’s willingness to lay down His life and then to take it up again, He has broken the bands of death and has thus provided a way for all mankind to be reunited with their bodies at the time of resurrection.  This is a gift offered freely to all, rich and poor, black and white, good and evil.  In addition, because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind is offered the opportunity to be forgiven of their sins and thus be worthy of eternal life.  This gift is contingent upon one’s desire to accept it as witnessed by his willingness to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Redeemer and thus be willing to follow Him and to keep all of His commandments.

Although there are many who claim that Mormons are not Christian, I know that these beliefs, which are the most important doctrine within the Church,  clearly show that Mormons are indeed Christian.  We do not claim superiority over any other group or people.  We are very imperfect human beings who strive to follow Jesus Christ but who consistently fall miserably short.  We, nevertheless, press forward with a steadfastness and a hope in Christ believing that He can and will make up for all we cannot do for ourselves.

Please look for a future post on “What is The Book of Mormon?”  In the meantime, Remember that 2 Plus 2 Doesn’t Always Equal 4  [And please take time to read my original post to understand Why the Title of this Blog? (Feb. 17, 2011)]