Q: I’m wondering what you believe you must do to be eternally saved.
I’m pretty sure the answer to this question far and away separates us from many other Christian churches (as if there’s not enough separating us from other Christian churches!), and it’s succinctly stated in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ:
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)
And also in our third Article of Faith:
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
So the short answer is:
We believe we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ’s Atonement;
To partake of that grace, we must have faith in Jesus Christ, keep His commandments, repent of our sins, and continue to do these things for the rest of our lives.
Ultimately, grace AND works are required for salvation.
(For an explanation of “salvation” in the Mormon faith, head down to the bottom of the post.)
Many (incorrectly) assume that because we believe compliance to God’s commandments is necessary for salvation, that we minimize or don’t believe in Grace.
Not the case.
On the contrary, we understand that no matter how hard we try, all are imperfect and all fall short of salvation if left to our own devices. Dieter F. Uchtdorf explains:
“Even if we were to serve God with our whole souls, it is not enough, for we would still be ‘unprofitable servants.’ We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stand as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own.”
“But all is not lost.
The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope.
Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the plan of mercy appeases the demands of justice and [brings] about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.'”
The Greek translation of “grace” is actually “goodwill,” “loving kindness” or “favor;” implicitly, undeserved goodwill, loving kindness, or favor.
I fully admit that I don’t understand how He did it, but Jesus Christ willingly took upon Himself the sins of all people and paid the demands of justice. While we continually make mistakes, sin, and transgress His laws, His grace makes it possible for us to repent, find forgiveness for sin, and be reconciled to God.
Brad Wilcox states:
“The truth is, Jesus paid our debt in full. He didn’t pay it all except for a few coins. He paid it all. It is finished…you have plenty to do, but it is not to pay that debt. We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence to be judged. What is left to be determined by our obedience is how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and what degree of glory we plan on receiving.”
In that light, Christ’s grace, while a gift, is not unconditional.
Throughout the New Testament, Christ Himself and His Apostles emphasized the importance and necessity of keeping His commandments:
- “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15
- “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.” Matthew 7:21
- “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:1-2
- “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20
- “See then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” James 2:24
- “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16
- “But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me. And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.” Matthew 3: 14-15
So then what exactly is required of us?
Our fourth Article of Faith says:
“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
These principles and ordinances lay the foundation for a life of discipleship. We must receive other saving ordinances, and continue to keep the commandments throughout our lives.
So are we totally screwed if we sin, which we will invariably do?
Not at all. That’s the amazing thing about Jesus’ Atonement.
Continual repentance makes it possible for us to find forgiveness, remove the guilt and burden we feel when we make poor choices, and to continue to improve.
True repentance, in addition to acknowledging and confessing mistakes (whether to God during prayer, or a Bishop in the case of more serious sin), requires that we also stop doing whatever it was we were doing.
Discipleship isn’t about being perfect in this life, however. It’s about progress, becoming a little better each day. I adore this quote by Russel M. Nelson:
“Let us do the best we can and try to improve each day. When our imperfections appear, we can keep trying to correct them. We can be more forgiving of flaws in ourselves and among those we love. We can be comforted and forbearing. The Lord taught, ‘Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now … ; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected.'”
What do you believe you must do to be saved? What does salvation mean in your faith?
What Does it Mean To Mormons To Be Saved?
To Be Saved isn’t a particularly common phrase amongst Mormons, and I don’t know that the meaning is even standard amongst all Christians. But in our faith, Salvation may refer to any of the following:
- Salvation from physical death
- Resurrection (the immortal reuniting of body and spirit) is a FREE gift given to ALL people, thanks to Jesus Christ’s Atonement and resurrection.
- Salvation from sin
- Through Christ’s Atonement, we can be cleansed from sin; however, this is CONDITIONAL upon on our willingness to make and keep covenants with God, and continued faithfulness and repentance.
- Salvation from spiritual death (aka “hell” aka “the second death”)
- To fully understand this concept, you have to have an understanding of Mormon beliefs on “heaven and hell,” which are quite different from most other Christian churches. I won’t go into an elaborate explanation of it, but you can read more about it here. As a simple explanation, “heaven” consists of three distinct kingdoms of glory (see John 14:2), and at the final judgment we will enter into a kingdom based upon our thoughts, actions, and obedience to God’s commandments. The “lowest” kingdom, designated for those who “received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:82) is still a kingdom of glory and not what many other faiths would term “hell.”
- Hell (or perdition) is a place reserved for the particularly evil and wicked, and there won’t be very many people that go there. In fact, as stated in the link above, “Almost every person who has ever lived on the earth is assured salvation from the second death.” Personally, this has always resonated well with me, because I’ve never understood how a loving God would save just a few of his children.
- To Mormons, this is probably the word most synonymous with “salvation.” While salvation from spiritual death is awesome, most of us aim a bit higher and place our hope in exaltation; to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the highest degree of glory forever. Again, this type of salvation is made possible through Jesus Christ and is conditional upon our obedience to His laws, covenants, and commandments.