What does it take to get into heaven? Interesting question.
Every six months I join thousands of others going to General Conference. Every April and October that means that I get to visit with the street preachers, who (in the name of Christianity) are more than happy to consign people to hell. After seeing them every six months however, they’ve gotten a bit used to me and I’ve gotten a bit used to them. We aren’t sending Christmas cards to each other, but it’s not unusual to wish each other well. (Other than the going to hell thing, of course.)
When they aren’t busy waving temple garments in the faces of fellow conference-goers, one common tactic of these preachers is to ask people how they expect to get into heaven. They are quick to point out that Mormon theology demands perfection in order to get into heaven, and that perfection the same as a works-based salvation. They somehow find fault with what they view as the Mormon concept of being perfect, “even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
The street preachers are not alone, however. Many more urbane preachers are critical of what they view as the Mormon penchant for perfection. Consider the non-uncommon criticism of Keith and Becky Walker at Evidence Ministries (a counter-cult ministry), who say “Does LDS theology contribute to the problem [of feeling the pressure of being perfect]? Most definitely. Basic Mormon teaching emphasizes the need for perfection.”
So, do we need to be perfect to get into heaven? Critics say that Mormons believe it. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found that one of our current presidential contenders agrees with the Mormons, and agrees that we really must be perfect to get into heaven.
Who is this contender? Romney? Nope. Mike Huckabee. Slipping back into preacher mode, Mike preached the following sermon to fellow Southern Baptists:
“The criteria to get into heaven is you have to be not good, but perfect. That’s the real challenge in it,” [Huckabee] said at First Baptist North Spartanburg, a megachurch with 2,500 members.
“On that day, when I pull up, I’ll be asked, `Do you have what it takes to get in?'” Huckabee said. “And if I ask, `Well, what does it take to get in?’ ‘Gotta be perfect.'”
I wonder if the street preachers will next be camping out in front of the First Baptist North Spartanburg church? After all, isn’t Pastor Huckabee preaching that perfection is required? (I wonder how many of the congregants went on anti-depressants today, knowing they could never measure up to that perfection.)
Of course, the AP story made it clear that Pastor Huckabee wasn’t saying we need to do it alone:
“Well, I’m afraid I don’t have that, but you know what, I won’t be there alone that day. Somebody is going to be with me. His name is Jesus, and he’s promised that he would never leave me or forsake me,” he said.
Sounds an awful lot like Mormon theology, if you ask me. Mormons have always believed that perfection is only possible through the free grace of Jesus Christ, mediator for our sins and redeemer of the world.
Perhaps we and our critics have more in common than what they want us to believe.