Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 11

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 11: Grace and Works"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101, a work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

Response to claims made in Mormonism 101, "Chapter 11: Grace and Works"

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Response to claim: 150 - The authors claim that "Mormon leaders have redefined the word salvation and given it a split definition that is certainly not taught by the Bible"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that "Mormon leaders have redefined the word salvation and given it a split definition that is certainly not taught by the Bible."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Question: What can the writings of early Christians tell us about how to receive salvation in Jesus Christ?

Here are a few examples of what the early Church fathers taught on salvation:

Justin Martyr

Justin (110-165 A.D.) said:

“works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:249, chap 100, Dialogue with Trypho)

“by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:185, chap. 65, First Apology of Justin)

"But there is no other [way] than this,-to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins; and for the rest, to live sinless lives." (ANF 1:217, chap. 44, Dialogue with Justin)

“Christ has come to restore both the free sons and the servants amongst them, conferring the same honour on all of them who keep His commandments” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:267, chap 134, Dialogue with Trypho)

Irenaeus

Irenaeus said:

“But He taught that they should obey the commandments which God enjoined from the beginning, and do away with their former covetousness by good works, and follow after Christ.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 4, chap. 12, Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:476)

“God has always preserved freedom, and the power of self-government in man, while at the same time He issued His own exhortations, in order that those who do not obey Him should be righteously judged (condemned) because they have not obeyed Him; and that those who have obeyed and believed on Him should be honoured with immortality.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:480, Against Heresies 15)

“God, who stands in need of nothing, takes our good works to Himself for this purpose, that He may grant us a recompense of His own good things, as our Lord says: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you. For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me; sick, and ye visited Me; in prison, and ye came to Me."[Mat. 25:34]” (Irenaeus Against Heresies, book 4, Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:486)

“And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole[Christian] faith.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:331, Irenaeus Against Heresies, Chap. 21)

Clement of Alexandria

Clement said:

“Being baptized, we are illuminated. Illuminated, we become sons...This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. Washing, by which we cleanse away our sins. Grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted. Illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly.” (Clement of Alexandria, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:215)

“Straightway, on our regeneration, we attained that perfection after which we aspired. For we were illuminated, which is to know God.” (Clement of Alexandria, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:215)

Theophilus

Theophilus said:

“The things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this also could be a sign of men being destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and bath of regeneration-as many as come to the truth and are born again” (Theophilus, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:101)


Response to claim: 151-152 - Bruce R. McConkie said that salvation by grace alone was "the second greatest heresy of Christianity"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

Latter-day Saints "stereotype the evangelical Christian church as teaching that works are not important." According to the authors, Bruce R. McConkie said that salvation by grace alone was "the second greatest heresy of Christianity."

Author's sources: *Bruce R. McConkie, BYU 1983-84 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, "What Think Ye of Salvation by Grace?" 45;
  • Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 670-671.
  • LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, 25.
  • Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 478-480.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Question: Do Mormons ignore the doctrine of grace at the expense of "works"?

Some claim that the Church ignores the doctrine of grace at the expense of "works." Critics argue that Church leaders do not teach this doctrine, and as a result most members of the Church do not expect to be saved, since they are not "good enough."

Prophets and teachers must emphasize different parts of that message, depending upon their audience. The repentant sinner needs to hear about Christ’s grace and mercy, so that he or she does not fret about his or her inability to be ‘perfect.’ The arrogant and proud sinner (who does not really believe he or she needs repentance or Jesus) needs to hear about the consequences of continued disobedience. In that moment, a message emphasizing grace may be misplaced, since despite the eventual salvation offered to almost all, the suffering of the unrepentant wicked is terrible beyond understanding.

But, the doctrine of grace is a key part of the gospel of Jesus Christ and, like the Bible prophets, His modern servants teach it. The vocabulary used may vary from other Christian faiths, because the Church does not wish to adopt other aspects of grace theology (such as TULIP) which they do not wish to endorse.

The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of grace clearly, and repeatedly

The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of grace clearly, and repeatedly. It insists that it is one of the most important of all:

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. (2 Nephi 2:8.)

And, the Book of Mormon's final verses teach a similar key doctrine:

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32-33.)

Joseph often taught about the principles of mercy and grace

Joseph often taught about the principles of mercy and grace. In one address to the Nauvoo Lyceum, he was recorded as saying:

Joseph said...that...the Lord apointed us to fall & also Redeemed us—for where sin a bounded Grace did Much more a bound 3—for Paul says Rom—5. 10 for if—when were enemys we were Reconciled to God by the Death of his Son, much more, being Reconciled, we shall be saved by his Life[1]

Bruce R. McConkie: "if you’re working zealously in this life—though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do—you’re still going to be saved"

Elder McConkie is not known for his "soft" take on doctrinal issues, yet he teaches this doctrine clearly and full of hope:

Everyone in the Church who is on the straight and narrow path, who is striving and struggling and desiring to do what is right, though far from perfect in this life; if he passes out of this life while he’s on the straight and narrow, he’s going to go on to eternal reward in his Father’s kingdom.

We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. … The way it operates is this: you get on the path that’s named the ‘straight and narrow.’ You do it by entering the gate of repentance and baptism. The straight and narrow path leads from the gate of repentance and baptism, a very great distance, to a reward that’s called eternal life. … Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you’re working zealously in this life—though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do—you’re still going to be saved.[2]

And, elsewhere, Elder McConkie taught:

As members of the Church, if we chart a course leading to eternal life; if we begin the processes of spiritual rebirth, and are going in the right direction; if we chart a course of sanctifying our souls, and degree by degree are going in that direction; and if we chart a course of becoming perfect, and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed—there is no question whatever about it—we shall gain eternal life. Even though we have spiritual rebirth ahead of us, perfection ahead of us, the full degree of sanctification ahead of us, if we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we'll continue in exactly that same course. We'll no longer be subject to the passions and the appetites of the flesh. We will have passed successfully the tests of this mortal probation and in due course we'll get the fulness of our Father's kingdom—and that means eternal life in his everlasting presence.[3]

Many recent conference talks address this doctrine specifically

Finally, many recent conference talks address this doctrine specifically. (See below). For example, after describing the many ways in which the term 'saved' is used in LDS theology, Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught:

...all should answer: “Yes, I have been saved. Glory to God for the gospel and gift and grace of His Son!”[4]

Often members of the Church do not use the same type of theological language to speak about grace

Two LDS authors noted that often members of the Church do not use the same type of theological language to speak about grace, because such language also includes concepts with which they do not agree:

...Latter-day Saints reject all five principles of the Calvinistic doctrine of grace enunciated at the Council of Dort and represented by the acronym TULIP (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints). To the extent that Latter-day Saints avoid some traditional Christian locutions (such as being "born again" or "grace alone" or even "saved") for expressing their doctrine of grace, it is because objectionable theological baggage has unfortunately become associated with the terms. However, this avoidance does not constitute (nor has it ever constituted) an avoidance of a doctrine of grace nor the rejection of a resource on which church members can rely when they "feel themselves lacking." Any avoidance of "grace" has been merely nominal and not doctrinal...

Latter-day Saints do not accept the Protestant assumption that faith/grace and human agency/actions/works constitute two separate grammars of discourse. To the contrary, we believe that it is false and that James and even Paul, as well as living prophets, make it clear that faith/grace and human agency/actions/works are actually inseparable.[5]

Other Christians may misunderstand the Latter-day Saints because of different language, but the concept and doctrine of grace (as illustrated above) is a firm and vital part of the LDS doctrine of salvation.


Response to claim: 153-154 - Latter-day Saints have unrealistic expectations with regard to achieving exaltation

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

Latter-day Saints have unrealistic expectations with regard to achieving exaltation. The authors claim that it is not possible to live "celestial law." Joseph Fielding Smith "sounded pessimistic" when he said "that if we save one-half of the Latter-day Satins, that is, with an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God, we will be doing well." Orson Whitney said that we have to obey "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" in order to live "celestial law."

Author's sources: *Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:15.
  • Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 404.
  • John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, 3rd ed., 327-328.
  • Orson Whitney, Conference Report (October 1910): 53.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:133.
  • John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, 20.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

This idea is refuted by Bruce R. McConkie:

We don’t need to get a complex or get a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. … The way it operates is this: you get on the path that’s named the ‘straight and narrow.’ You do it by entering the gate of repentance and baptism. The straight and narrow path leads from the gate of repentance and baptism, a very great distance, to a reward that’s called eternal life. … Now is the time and the day of your salvation, so if you’re working zealously in this life—though you haven’t fully overcome the world and you haven’t done all you hoped you might do—you’re still going to be saved.[6]

Response to claim: 155 -"Because of the unreasonable demand put on them," Mormons "may live their daily lives with the guild of never being good enough for celestial exaltation

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

*The authors claim that "[b]ecause of the unreasonable demand put on them, [Latter-day Saints] may live their daily lives with the guild of never being good enough for celestial exaltation. Some have even given up trying."

Author's sources: *Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ, 45.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The authors have no data to support this assertion.



Response to claim: 155-156 - "Some Latter-day Saints have felt that moral lapses in obedience can be overcome in the next life. Such thinking undermines the LDS concept of a mortal probation"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors make an anecdotal claim that "[s]ome Latter-day Saints have felt that moral lapses in obedience can be overcome in the next life. Such thinking undermines the LDS concept of a mortal probation. They then quote several LDS leaders and the Book of Mormon to support this position.

Author's sources: *Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:69
  • Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 229.
  • Alma 34:32-33
  • Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 210.
  • Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 9-10.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

In this particular instance, we agree with the authors, LDS leaders and the Book of Mormon. This life is our mortal probation, and any Latter-day Saint who believes that they can sin in this life and simply make it up in the next is mistaken.



Response to claim: 156 - The authors dismiss the concept of repentance by claiming that it is inconsistent, "since it is in keeping the law that one is exalted, not admitting you broke it"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors dismiss the concept of repentance by claiming that it is inconsistent, "since it is in keeping the law that one is exalted, not admitting you broke it."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Yet, repentance is taught in the Bible, and a true prophet will preach repentance.

Response to claim: 157 - he authors claim that "no Mormon will ever receive" forgiveness, since no "human has the ability to clear the desire or urge to sin out of their life"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that "no Mormon will ever receive" forgiveness, since no "human has the ability to clear the desire or urge to sin out of their life." They claim that Spencer W. Kimball said that "those who thought frequent repentance was a means of getting right with God must 'straighten out their thinking.'"

Author's sources: *Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 170.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The authors' claim is nonsense. The authors wish to paint the Mormon concept of repentance as something difficult and unachievable.



Response to claim: 157-158 - The authors claim that LDS leaders give "mixed signals as to whether or not perfection is necessary for exaltation"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that LDS leaders give "mixed signals as to whether or not perfection is necessary for exaltation."

Author's sources: *Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign (May 1989): 20-21.
  • Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 208-209.
  • Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign (November 1999), 5.
  • Henry B. Eyring, Ensign (November 1999), 34.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Latter-day Saints believe the Jesus Christ was the only perfect person to ever live on the earth. To imply that LDS leaders are sending "mixed messages" regarding whether or not one can achieve perfection in this life is erroneous.



Response to claim: 159 - Since it is impossible to be perfect, the authors claim that "it is wrong for the LDS Church to demand complete obedience to all the laws of God in order to receive exaltation"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that Gordon B. Hinckley stated that Latter-day Saints should "keep trying" to attain perfection. Yet, since it is impossible to be perfect, the authors claim that "it is wrong for the LDS Church to demand complete obedience to all the laws of God in order to receive exaltation." They quote Stephen R. Robinson, who they claim "admits" that "keeping the commandments" is "a troublesome expression for Latter-day Saints."

Author's sources: *Robinson, Believing Christ, 45-46.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

Latter-day Saint prophets have never taught that one must achieve perfection in this life in order to receive exaltation. They have said that we must continue trying to be perfect. Mormons know that the only perfect being who ever lived on the earth was Jesus Christ himself.



Response to claim: 159-160 - The authors claim that Russell M. Nelson said that "trying was good enough," while Spencer W. Kimball contradicts this

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claim that Russell M. Nelson said that "trying was good enough," while Spencer W. Kimball contradicts this.

Author's sources: *Russell M. Nelson, Ensign (November 1995), 88.
  • Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 165.
  • Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 164.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is a falsehood - The author has disseminated false information

The authors are attempting to create a contradiction where there is none. Elder Nelson didn't say that "trying" was "good enough". He said that "When our imperfections appear, we can keep trying to correct them."[7]. Spencer W. Kimball does not disagree with this. He said, "Perfection is our goal, but we all still have a long way to go to obtain perfection."[8]



Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, McIntire Minute Book, 9 February 1841, cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 63.GL direct link
  2. }Bruce R. McConkie, “The Probationary Test of Mortality,” Salt Lake Institute of Religion devotional, 10 January 1982, 12.
  3. Bruce R. McConkie, "Jesus Christ and Him Crucified," (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977), 400–401.
  4. Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998), 55.
  5. David L. Paulsen and Cory G. Walker, "Work, Worship, and Grace: Review of The Mormon Culture of Salvation: Force, Grace and Glory by Douglas J. Davies," FARMS Review 18/2 (2006): 83–177. off-site wiki (Key source)
  6. }Bruce R. McConkie, “The Probationary Test of Mortality,” Salt Lake Institute of Religion devotional, 10 January 1982, 12.
  7. Russel M. Nelson, "Perfection Pending," Ensign. (November 1995)
  8. Spencer W. Kimball, "Give the Lord Your Loyalty," Ensign (March 1980).