Is Mormonism Moving Towards a Christian Orthodoxy? Introduction: Why the question?
REASON #1: Recent Comments from Evangelical Scholars & Pastors have given the impression that Mormonism is changing and/or that we have misunderstood Mormonism. TWO REASONS
“ I am now convinced that we evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the LDS folks here this evening: We have sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and we have been guilty of that sort of transgression in things we have said about you. We have told you what you believe without making a sincere effort first of all to ask you what you believe…Indeed, we have even on occasion demonized you…” Richard Mouw, President Fuller Seminary , 2004 Cited by James R. White, Fuller President Apologizes to Mormons in Error , www.aomin.org/Mouw1.html).
“ As an evangelical Christian I want more than anything else that people – whatever disagreements I might have with them on other matters – know Jesus personally, as the heaven-sent Savior who left heaven’s throne to come to the manger, and to Gethsemane, and to Calvary, to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. I also know that having a genuine personal relationship with Jesus Christ does not require that we have all our theology straight. All true Christians are on a journey, and until we see the Savior face-to-face we will all see through a glass darkly.
“ But I also believe with all my heart that theology is important. There is a real danger for all of us that we will define Jesus in such a way that we cannot adequately claim the full salvation that he alone can provide. I think that an open-minded Christian reader of this book will sense that Bob Millet is in fact trusting in the Jesus of the Bible for his salvation. That is certainly my sense . And this is why I find it especially exciting to be in dialogue with him and other LDS friends about what it means to have a theologically adequate understanding of the person and work of the One who alone is mighty to save.” Richard J. Mouw, “Afterword,” in A Different Jesus: The Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 183. Italics mine.
“ Many of us have wrongly accused Mormons of teaching salvation by works because they have put such strong emphasis on works. We have become convinced that Mormons do not understand or teach grace – the vision of God saving us by God’s work – because they talk so much about the necessity of works. One of the problems with this evangelical view of LDS teaching is that, as I have just tried to show, Jesus also teaches the necessity of works. By “necessity,” I mean the idea that true faith will “ necessarily ” produce works of love.” Gerald R. McDermott Gerald R. McDermott & Robert L. Millet , Claiming Christ: A Mormon – Evangelical Dialogu e (Grand Rapids MI: Brazos Press, 2007), 169.
“ Perhaps we can learn from Mormons that we have wrongly separated faith from works, that we have created a false dichotomy between justification and sanctification and that while we are saved from being justified by the law, nevertheless the law is still ‘holy, and just, and good.’ (Rom.7:12). Don’t get me wrong. I think Mormons, like some Arminians, have made faith a work and have therefore turned salvation into something of a human achievement. But at the same time, they are not Pelagians, who crudely say we can work our way into the kingdom. And they have a proper understanding of the nature of true faith – an inner disposition that ‘worketh by love’. Gerald R. McDermott Gerald R. McDermott & Robert L. Millet , Claiming Christ: A Mormon – Evangelical Dialogu e (Grand Rapids MI: Brazos Press, 2007), 177.
REASON #2: Recent Comments from LDS Scholars have given the impression that Mormonism is changing. Is Mormonism changing its views about ____________? SALVATION Why the question?
“ One sometimes hears that Latter-day Saints aren’t Christians because all true Christians believe in salvation by grace, while the Mormons believe in salvation by works. If this were true, it would mean that Mormons believe each individual ‘works out his own salvation.’ Under such a belief, salvation becomes an individual accomplishment – something each one does to and for himself or herself – while the atonement of Christ becomes merely a handy tool to be used by the individual in his or her own do-it-yourself salvation kit. Those who view salvation in this way – and apparently there are some misinformed Latter-day Saints who do – in effect say, ‘And surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.’
“ Salvation ceases to be the greatest of all the gifts of God (D&C 6:13) and becomes something an individual earns for himself by simply following the proper steps or numbers. Under this view Christ is dethroned as a personal Savior, as the one who actually accomplishes the work of individual salvation, and salvation is no longer a Christ-centered but rather a self-centered activity.” Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1991), 104.
“ We may be justified by faith . To do so we must recognize our sinful condition; confess our need for help, for relief, for redemption; and acknowledge freely that the only way we can be made right with God is through having total trust, complete confidence, and ready reliance on one who did live the law of God perfectly. We have faith in Christ in the sense that we trust his word, trust what he said, trust what he has done, and trust that he can deliver us from death, hell and endless torment. We have faith in Christ in that we have confidence in his own matchless life, confidence in the power of his atoning blood to wash and sanctify us from sin, and confidence in his ability to raise us from the dead and glorify us hereafter.
“ We have faith in Christ in the sense that we humbly acknowledge that we cannot rely on our own unaided efforts for salvation; we cannot rely on any other mortal to fill in the gaps and cover the debt; and we must rely, as the Book of Mormon teaches, wholly and alone upon the merits and mercy and grace of Jesus Christ (2 Nephi 31:9; Moroni 6:4). Salvation or eternal life is the greatest of all the gifts of God (2 Nephi 2:4; D&C 6:13; 14:7). One does not earn a gift; he or she receives it, humbly and gratefully. Do the Latter-day Saints, then, believe in salvation by grace? Of course we do, for our own scriptural works (certainly including the Bible) so attest. Grace is unearned divine assistance. It is unmerited divine favor.
“ It is divine enabling power. I’ve heard it put this way: grace is God’s acceptance of us; faith is our acceptance of God’s acceptance of us; and peace is our acceptance of us.” Robert L. Millet Gerald R. McDermott & Robert L. Millet , Claiming Christ: A Mormon – Evangelical Dialogu e (Grand Rapids MI: Brazos Press, 2007), 182.
“ Faith is the complete trust, confidence in, and reliance upon the merits, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ for salvation. It is a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9; Moroni 10:11), a divine endowment that affirms to the human heart the identity and redemptive mission of the Savior. Men and women’s good works, though acceptable to God, will always be insufficient to save them. In short, had there been no means of bridging the chasm between sinful humanity and a sinless God, nothing we could do would make up for the loss. Thus there is a need for some means to reconcile finite humanity with an infinite Deity, to repair the breech between earth and the heavens.
“ Because ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23), we cannot be justified by law or by works. Our only option is to be justified by faith, to lean upon One who did in fact keep the law of God perfectly. It is only through the name of Jesus Christ – meaning his power or authority, his atoning mission and work – that salvation comes to the children of men (Acts 4:12; Mosiah 3:17).” Robert L. Millet, The Vision of Mormonism: Pressing the Boundaries of Christianity (St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 2007), 52-53.
“ The means by which the Savior justifies us is wondrous indeed. It entails what might be called ‘the great exchange.’ It is certainly true that Jesus seeks through his atoning sacrifice and through the medium of the Holy Spirit to change us, to transform us from fallen and helpless mortals into ‘new creatures in Christ.’ But there is more. Jesus offers to exchange with us. In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul speaks of his eagerness to forsake the allurements of the world in order to obtain the riches of Christ. ‘I count all things but loss,’ he said, ‘for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ’
“ and now note the important addition – ‘and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.’ (Philippians 3:8-9; emphasis added.). Paul’s point is vital: justification comes by faith, by trusting in Christ’s righteousness, in His merits, mercy, and grace. (See Romans 10:1-4; compare Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:3; Helaman 14:13; D&C 45:3-5.). Latter-day Saints acknowledge that though our efforts to be righteous are necessary, they will forevermore be insufficient.” Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: A New Look at Christianity (Salt Lake City, Utah: Shadow Mountain, 1998), 71-72.
“ A short time ago, a colleague and I sat at lunch with two prominent theologians. This was not our first visit together, as we met two years earlier and had had a sweet and delightful discussion of Jesus Christ, then centrality of his Atonement, the lifting and liberating power of his grace, and how our discipleship is and should forever be lived out day by day. In that initial meeting there was no defensiveness, no pretense, no effort to put the other down or prove him wrong. Instead, there was that simple exchange of views, an acknowledgement of our differences and a spirit of rejoicing in those central features of the doctrine of Christ about which we were in complete agreement, a sobering spirit of gratitude for the incomparable blessings that flow from the life and death and transforming power of the Redeemer.
“ Now, two years later, we picked up where we had left off, almost as if no time had passed at all. Many things were said, diagrams were drawn on napkins, and a free flow of ideas took place. At about the midpoint of our meeting, one of our friends turned to me and said: ‘Okay Bob, here’s the question of questions, the one thing I would like to ask to determine what you really believe.’ I indicated that I thought I was ready for his query, though I readily admit that his preference to the question was a bit unnerving. He continued: ‘you are standing before the judgment bar of the Almighty, and God turns to you and asks: ‘Robert Millet, what right do you have to enter heaven? Why should I let you in?’
I looked my friend in the eye and replied: ‘I would say to God: I claim the right to enter heaven because of my complete trust in and reliance upon the merits and mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ My questioner stared at me for about ten seconds, smiled gently, and said: ‘Bob, that’s the correct answer to the question.’” Richard J. Mouw, “Afterword,” in A Different Jesus: The Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 183.
This does not sound like Grandma’s Mormonism! What does the LDS church teach about salvation?
LDS Articles of Faith – Article 3: “ We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel .” LISTEN TO THE VOICES OF THE PAST
“ Salvation or redemption from our own sins is not by free grace alone. It requires work . All shall receive salvation save the sons of perdition, but the eternal life that brings exaltation depends on the individual. Grace and works unite to bring salvation. We believe that through the grace of Jesus Christ we are saved. He performed for us those things which we could not do for ourselves, but there are certain requirements in the Gospel of Jesus Christ which we must obey for ourselves which are essential to salvation.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Religious Truths Defined (Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1959), 270.
“ Since immortality and eternal life constitute the sole purpose of life, all other interests and activities are but incidental thereto. And since those objectives are the work and glory of God, they are the proper work of man also and are the major reason for his coming to earth. Of the two elements, the one great blessing – immortality – comes to man without his effort, as a gift from the Almighty. The other – eternal life – is a cooperative program to be developed by the Lord and his offspring on earth. It thus becomes the overall responsibility of man to cooperate fully with the Eternal God in accomplishing this objective.” Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969), 2.
“ But besides the universal application of the atonement, whereby all men are redeemed from the effects of Adam’s transgression both with respect to the death of the body and inherited sin, there is application of the same great sacrifice as a means of propitiation for individual sins through the faith and good works of the sinner. This twofold effect of the atonement is implied in the article of our faith now under consideration. The first effect is to secure to all mankind alike, exemption from the penalty of the fall, thus providing a plan of General Salvation . The second effect is to open a way for Individual Salvation whereby mankind may secure remission of personal sins.
“ As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements – ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.’” James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1984), 78-79. “ Immortality is a free gift and comes without works or righteousness of any sort; all men will come forth in the resurrection because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ (1 Cor.15:22)…Salvation in the celestial kingdom of God, however, is not salvation by grace alone.
“ Rather, it is salvation by grace coupled with obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. (Third Article of Faith.)…Eternal life, the kind of life enjoyed by eternal beings in the celestial kingdom, comes by grace plus obedience.” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1979), 671. GOSPEL PRINCIPLES says…
“ There are specific ordinances we must have received to be exalted: 1. We must be baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. 2. We must receive the Holy Ghost. 3. We must receive the temple endowment. 4. We must be married for time and all eternity. In addition to the required ordinances, there are also many laws we have to obey to qualify for exaltation. We must – 1. Love God and worship him 2. Have faith in Jesus Christ.
3. Live the law of chastity. 4. Repent of our wrong doings. 5. Pay honest tithes and offerings. 6. Be honest on our dealings with others and with the Lord. 7. Speak the truth always. 8. Obey the Word of Wisdom. 9. Search out our kindred dead and perform the saving ordinances of the gospel for them. 10. Keep the Sabbath day holy. 11. Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible to renew our baptismal covenants. This is done as we partake of the sacrament. 12. Love and strengthen our family members in the ways of the Lord.
13. Have family and individual prayers every day. 14. Honor our parents. 15. Teach the gospel to others by word and example. 16. Study the scriptures. 17. Listen to and obey the words of the prophets of the Lord. 18. Develop true charity in our lives. In other words, each person must endure in faithfulness, keeping all the Lord’s commandments until the end of his life on earth.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City Utah: Deseret Book, 1978), 291-292.
Are Millet and Robinson Moving Towards a Christian View of Salvation by Grace Alone? “ It is true that we cannot save ourselves by our works, but we can contribute something to the joint efforts of the partnership. To be in partnership, to be in a covenant relationship, we must do something. Even though our best efforts may be insufficient to save ourselves, they are sufficient as a token of good faith to establish a covenant with our Savior. Though that covenant relationship is then ‘sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify,’ God still requires our participation.
“ Without our assent and our participation, salvation would amount to nothing more than predestination, a happy accident that arbitrarily happens to some people and not to others. No, we must participate in our salvation to the extent that we are able.” Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1992), 71. ILLUSTRATIONS THAT DRIVE FALSE DOCTRINE
A Tandem Bicycle
The Parable of the Bicycle
If Millet and Robinson are not changing the face of Mormonism, then why are Evangelical scholars and pastors thinking that they are changing it? Why this seminar? Why the question? WHAT ARE MILLET AND ROBINSON DOING? 1. They are putting more emphasis upon grace than earlier Mormon leaders.
3. They are using language more familiar to Evangelicals and this causes people to think the LDS church is changing. 2. They use the N.T to teach that Paul was against justification by works alone and not justification by faith and works . 4. They desire to be included in broader Christianity, yet without the shedding of their LDS distinctives.
UNDERSTANDING FAITH & WORKS 1). WORKS = JUSTIFICATION FALSE LDS Scholars are reacting to those who say they are guilty of teaching works for salvation. They deny that works alone saves anyone. 2). FAITH + WORKS = JUSTIFICATION FALSE The LDS church fits into this category. LDS scholars are emphasizing more about the need to place faith in Christ, trust in Christ, and rely fully upon Christ and that all of this is through grace.
3). FAITH = JUSTIFICATION – WORKS FALSE This is a false view found within certain sectors of Evangelicalism. It is an unfortunate belief of some in antinomianism (no law) – the idea that we do not need to have any evidence of saving faith. 4). FAITH = JUSTIFICATION + WORKS TRUE (Resulting in works) We are saved by faith alone, but a faith that saves is never alone” Martin Luther
“ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Is Mormonism Moving Towards a Christian Orthodoxy? NO!