By Michael W. Fordham
Q. What is the LDS view on grace, works and salvation? If LDS really believe that salvation requires works, how can one explain verses in the Bible that state that salvation only comes by grace and not by works? How can one explain Moroni 10:32? Many claim that this is wrong as the grace of Christ is sufficient for us and we can not do anything to merit salvation ourselves, etc.
A. (by Michael W. Fordham) Your question is based upon the traditional Christian doctrine of “faith alone” being all that is necessary for salvation. Those who follow this false doctrine would critize Latter-day Saints for believing in doing good works. However, we do not believe that we “work” our way into heaven. In other words, Latter-Day Saints do not believe that our works save us. This misconception is based on the emphasis LDS people place on doing good works, and the traditional idea that faith alone will save you. But “faith alone” is not Biblical doctrine. In fact, even though fundamentalist Christians insist that works have nothing to do with salvation, the Bible says otherwise. Many Christians equate faith and belief as the same thing. There are many scriptures that inform us that if we believe, that we will be saved. But is belief the same thing as faith? Is there more to being saved than to believe (have faith) in Jesus Christ?
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
The devils believe in Christ. In fact, they do more than believe, they know Christ and the apostles.
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
Since devils not only believe in Christ, but in fact know Him, we must ask if the devils are saved, because if they are not, then belief will not save us.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Obviously, just because someone claims to believe in Christ does not mean they will be saved. So what else needs to be done to be saved?
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (emphasis added).
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins (emphasis added).
Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews (emphasis added).
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (emphasis added).
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (emphasis added).
- CONFESS SINS
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (emphasis added).
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved (emphasis added).
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved (emphasis added).
There is more yet that is required for salvation other than “only” faith.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
What is it we are to be “doers” of?
1 John 3:18
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (emphasis added).
1 Timothy 6:18
That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate (emphasis added).
Latter-day Saints believe in obeying the Lord, and He has specifically told us to do “good works.” We should be doing the work of the Lord. Even though many Christians today claim that we are “saved by grace, without works,” the Bible disagrees with them. What did Christ think of works? Did He think “works” was useless or unimportant as some think?
But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
Christ was our example. He taught us what we need to do by showing us, not just telling us. Christ showed us that we need not only to have faith and believe, but that we also need to be baptized, gain knowledge, pray often, confess and forsake our sins, and endure to the end. He also taught by example that we should “abound in good works.” In fact, we will be judged by our works, not our faith.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
2 Timothy 4:14
Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
1 Corinthians 3:8
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
There are good works and evil works. Traditional believing Christians claim that works come as a result of being saved. I have always wondered how one can claim to be saved before he is even judged. According to the Bible, we will be judged accordingly to the works that we perform. Works is how we show our love, sincerity, worthiness, and faithfulness to the Lord. By works we are justified, not saved.
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (emphasis added).
Faith and works go hand in hand. It is traditional Christianity that teaches ” you are saved only through faith without works.” The Bible very clearly opposes this false doctrine.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
We are saved through faith, not by faith.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (emphasis added).
Faith alone is not enough. There were those in the days of Christ who made the same argument against works that today’s traditional Christians do. Jesus had even asked His persecutors which work they were persecuting Him for.
They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate (emphasis added).
Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
It is by grace that we are saved, not by our works. Grace comes through the atoning sacrifice that Christ made for us, and that is by which we are saved.
But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (emphasis added).
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
I challenge anyone to produce so much as one Biblical scripture that states we are saved by faith alone, or only by faith. This is not a Biblical doctrine, but a doctrine of man as set forth by the creeds of man. In fact, the only verses which have these words used together are listed here (the words are in bold text):
Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
1 Thessalonians 1:8
For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak any thing.
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Not a single one of these verses say anything that could be construed as saying that faith alone is all we need to be saved. In fact, the book of James, in its discussion on faith, asks if faith can save you.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
In the answer to that question, there are two verses which uses the words “faith” and “only” as meaning faith alone, and they very clearly state that faith alone will not save us! They very clearly contradict the traditional Christian belief that all we need to be saved is faith alone.
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone (emphasis added).
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (emphasis added).
Latter-Day Saints agree with the Bible that there is more than faith necessary for salvation, and part of that is good works. We are justified by our works. We will be judged by our works. But in no way, shape, or form, do we claim that we can “earn” our way to heaven. Our modern day scriptures are in full agreement with the Bible.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved. (2 Nephi 10:24, emphasis added)
“By Grace We are Saved. The doctrine here stated is, salvation is freely given and cannot be “earned.” We find the same thought in the Doctrine and Covenants (6:13): “There is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.” And the Apostle Paul recognizes the difference between earnings and favors, when he says that the “wages of sin” is death, but the “gift” of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rom. 6:23) We can earn death, but we must receive life as a gift, or not at all.” (George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Volume 1, p. 379, edited and arranged by Philip C. Reynolds, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1955)
While Latter-day Saints do not accept the “faith alone” doctrine, we also do not accept the “saved by works” doctrine that our critics try to put upon us. The reason we do not believe that faith alone will save us, is because that principle, besides being unbiblical, would destroy the principle of repentance.
“One erroneous teaching of many Christian churches is: By faith alone we are saved. This false doctrine would relieve man from the responsibility of his acts other than to confess a belief in God, and would teach man that no matter how great the sin, a confession would bring him complete forgiveness and salvation. What the world needs is more preaching of the necessity of abstaining from sin and of living useful and righteous lives, and less preaching of forgiveness of sin. This would then be a different world. The truth is that men must repent of their sins and forsake them before they can expect forgiveness. Even when our sins are forgiven, God cannot reward us for the good we have not done.” (LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, Ch.4, p.24, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1976)
However, works are important and cannot be ignored. But works will not “earn” us the right to be in heaven. Since we accept the Biblical teaching of salvation, we accept the atonement of Christ.