Blog Tal — 27 October 2011

Los Angeles LDS Temple

Recently a friend of mind wrote me this question:  Is there a group of Mormons that is evangelical, believing that Jesus Christ is only way of Salvation?

Here’s how I answered.

Good question. If you ask some Mormons if they believe salvation is only through Jesus Christ they would unequivocally say yes.  But what they mean is that, according to Mormonism, everyone who ever lived will be raised from the dead physically in the Millennium because Jesus’ atonement restored immortality (lost by Adam’s fall) to all people, whether they are Christians or Mormons or anything else.

The main problem, of course, is that the Mormon Jesus is ontologically different than the Jesus of orthodox Christianity. Nonetheless, the fullness of salvation in Mormonism, beyond physical resurrection, means whether one goes to one of three heavenly kingdoms: telestial, terrestrial, or celestial (lowest to highest).   That is entirely dependent on one’s obedience to the Mormon “gospel” which includes baptism (dead or alive), going to the temple for endowments, being married in the temple, not drinking alcohol, etc. These are all required good works. So Mormons may say salvation is only through Jesus, but not in the way evangelicals understand it.

I have heard tell of some small Mormon splinter movements that are theologically orthodox but still believe the Book of Mormon (but not Mormonism) is true. I have never met any of them but I don’t think they could actually be called Mormons of the Salt Lake City variety, as they deny essential Mormon doctrines and other Mormon scriptures.

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Tal Davis

(2) Readers Comments

  1. People who do not fully understand The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints often tend to think the Mormons are working their way to heaven. I will try to present Mormon salvation in an understandable way:

    First, you need to understand that Mormons make and keep covenants just like in the bible. The first covenant that is made is symbolized by baptism. It is a covenant to keep Gods commandments. It is a preparatory covenant. Remember that John the baptist preached the gospel of repentance and baptism to prepare for Christ.

    As members of the church mature, they may make sacred covenants in the temple. These covenants are designed to bring them into the presence of God. Remember that Moses strived to bring the Israelites into the presence of God but they lacked faith and were fearful. Instead they were left with only a preparatory gospel of works designed to bring them to a better place.

    Members of the church have a covenant relationship with Christ. The scriptures use marriage to symbolize this covenant. As imperfect members of the church (the bride) strive to be faithful and obedient to the groom (Christ), the husband (Christ) provides for, protects and saves his bride (the church). Just as a wife takes upon herself the name of her husband, so members of the church take upon themselves the name of Christ through baptism.

    Mormons do not have a letter of the law gospel. In keeping their covenants, they strive to be clean and virtuous, build strong and loving families, serve in the community follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost and leaders called of God, and basically live a life that Christ would if he were here. This is how they stay in the covenant. Over time as they strive to be worthy and repentant, all desire for evil goes away. They obtain the gift of charity and in essence become like Christ.

    • Peter:

      The problem you have is not that I don’t understand the LDS church, but that I do understand it. I have been studying Mormonism for more than 30 years and even co-wrote a book about it. The points you made only confirmed my statement. The processes you call covenants are absolute requirements for exaltation to the Celestial Kingdom in Mormon salvation. Whereas baptism is an important symbol in the Christian faith it is not a requirement for salvation. Complete and total salvation for all eternity is received by God’s grace (unmerited favor) through our faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross for our sins (Ephesians 2:8,9). There is nothing we can or could add to it. It was a completed work.. The LDS temple works you mentioned all are totally unbiblical.

      The bigger issues facing Mormonism however are not just its beliefs about salvation but its beliefs about the nature of God and Jesus Christ. Mormonism still teaches that God the Father is an exalted man with a body of flesh and bone. It also teached that Jesus was his “firstborn” son in the pre-existence and the “only-begotten” son of God in the flesh. These are absolutely unbiblical concepts and place LDS completely outside of historic Christian orthodoxy.