Critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claim that LDS members are not Christian because they do not believe in salvation through the grace of Christ. They claim that LDS believe in a “works based” salvation.
It is important to first come to a commonly understood meaning of the term salvation. Among members of the LDS Church this term is often used interchangeably with the term exaltation, but the two concepts are very different. If you ask, as I have done, a member of the LDS church – perhaps in the hall between Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School – what is required for salvation, you will get an answer that involves baptism, obedience, temple ordinances, etc. If you then say, well, wait just a minute – and then ask what it takes to be resurrected and live in a kingdom of glory in the hereafter, you will get a sudden look on their face, sort of an “aha” moment and they will answer, correctly – nothing. You do not have to do anything to gain salvation that includes resurrection and living in a kingdom of glory hereafter. You need only to be born on this earth.
Exaltation involves a great deal more and can effectively be dealt with in another paper. It does involve baptism, obedience, and temple ordinances. It also involves blessings well beyond salvation.
Salvation, according to LDS doctrine, is the overcoming of the transgression of Adam and results in being resurrected and living forever in heaven, in a kingdom of glory. It is given to all men and women, regardless of their status in life, their sinful state, or their belief, or lack of belief, in Christ. All men will bow the knee and confess that Jesus is the Christ at some point, but that is another issue.
What is salvation to an evangelical Christian? I am always concerned about telling others what they believe, but I think I can spell out some general understandings of what salvation means to the Christians I have known and/or exchanged emails with. If I understand it correctly, and perhaps one of you who are evangelical might want to correct me, salvation results in the saved individual being resurrected and living with Jesus in heaven. What happens there is not clear, but it is also not important to our current discussion.
So I think I am correct in saying that both traditional Christians and LDS Christians believe that salvation involves resurrection and living in heaven with God. There are variations in how this understanding is applied, but the general statement is, I think, true as far as it goes.
What is needed to gain salvation from a traditional Christian’s point of view? Is it correct to say that one must accept Jesus as one’s personal Savior and that salvation results from that action? Nothing must be done but accept Jesus, for the gift of grace provides all that is needed for one to be saved.
If that is the case, and I have every reason for it to be true as far as it goes, then we have a bit of a problem with this idea of salvation by grace in the traditional Christian view. Practice does not follow the statement of belief.
I have been told, I do not know how many times, that the profession of faith by an LDS person is not acceptable – because I worship a “different” Jesus. This adds to the basic requirement for a profession of faith the absolute necessity to be correct in your understanding of the Savior and his mission. If you err, even a little bit, then your profession, no matter how sincere, does not count.
How is one to obtain this correct understanding? One is not allowed to pray for revelation from God on the matter, as God no longer speaks to man through personal revelation. One, then, must ask a learned minister to explain it all to you if you are desirous of salvation. Now, there may be great variances between what one minister might say and another would profess to be true. How can one choose? You are not allowed to ask God and then trust the feelings that come in answer as they are just too hard to understand. So, one must choose the right minister who will teach you the correct doctrine. Does that sound like a matter of luck or perhaps just require prolonged personal effort to study and choose the right one?
So what are the steps to salvation from an evangelical, traditional Christian, point of view? First, one must find the right teacher. Second, one must accept the teachings and profess a belief and acceptance of those teachings. Third, one must have a salvation experience where one accepts Christ as your personal Savior. Then you are saved and will go to heaven. Is that stated fairly accurately? If not I would appreciate a correction.
If this is correct then the determining factor in the salvation process, the element that must be complied with in order for salvation to be effective, according to this traditional view, is not the grace of Christ, but the actions (read WORKS) of the penitent sinner. If the actions of the person do not happen then salvation does not take place and the grace of Christ is without effect. Is this true? I hope I have not stated anything incorrectly.
Evangelicals believe in Salvation by works. There is no escaping the conclusion.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the universal salvation of all men through the absolutely FREE gift of Grace from God, through the atonement of his son, Jesus Christ. There is no escaping the conclusion.
Why then are LDS the ones that are accused of not accepting the free gift of the grace of God through his Son, Jesus Christ? LDS are accused of being a “works based” religion in order to gain salvation. It does not make much sense to make such an accusation, does it?
I invite your comments.