Mormonism demands perfection. Okay, maybe your Mormon friend won’t say that, but according to the Mormon scriptures (LDS have four scriptures: the King James Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), it’s required. The ultimate goal of every Mormon is exaltation, to become a god just like their Heavenly Father. But at minimum, exaltation is only available to those who have repented:
- “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence...” (Moses 6:57).
But what is repentance according to the LDS Scriptures?
- “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (Doctrine & Covenants 58:43).
- “...go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God” (Doctrine & Covenants 82:7).
According to LDS Scripture, true repentance is confessing sin and forsaking it or never returning to it again. As former LDS prophet Spencer Kimball has said, “The forsaking of sin must be a permanent one. True repentance does not permit making the same mistake again.” If you repeat a sin, all of your “former sins return.” Therefore, on the LDS view it is not enough to try your best. Rather, you must stop sinning. Period.
Given the clear teaching of the LDS scriptures, it’s very interesting to talk to Mormons who appeal to God’s grace in addition to their own works. And certainly we see this in their own Scriptures too:
- “...for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
But what does “after all we can do” mean?
- “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God” (Moroni 10:32).
So when does God’s grace kick in? Notice the “if/then” phrase. Grace comes only if you “deny yourselves of all ungodliness.” In other words, the LDS gospel is a gospel of perfection. But what are to make of grace on an LDS view? Either grace is redefined and looks nothing like the biblical view of grace exemplified in Ephesians 2:8–9 or the LDS scriptures are contradictory in their view of salvation. Either way, this is a very troublesome problem for LDS.
Thankfully, God does offer true grace:
- “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5–7).
- “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him’” (Romans 4:1–8).
And this is the message of hope we have to offer our LDS friends and family.