Do Mormons Believe in Grace?

Matthew 27:26–50, Jesus on the crossNot only do Mormons believe in grace, Mormons are dependent upon grace, just like everyone who lives on this earth.  Mormons are Christians, and we believe that Jesus died to pay for our sins.

Some friends from other faiths have told me that we don’t believe in grace.  This couldn’t be further from the truth, but at the same time, it offers a fair criticism of Mormon culture.  Let me explain.  We’ll come back to the fair criticism at the end.  Let’s clear up the concept of grace first.

Some religions believe that we are saved by Jesus’s grace as soon as we accept Him as our personal Savior and Redeemer.  They believe grace cannot be earned, but is instead a gift for believers who keep their faith.  We Mormons bristle a bit about this, and assume that they don’t understand “works.”  Mormons run straight to Paul the Apostle’s statement, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”  James 2:17-18.  However, interpreting this to mean that our works can earn us some of the way back to Heaven is simply wrong.  Grace does all of that for us.

Are you puzzled yet?  Let’s look at it further.  Read now in the Joseph Smith Translation of that chapter of James, “Yea, a man may say, I will show thee I have faith without works; but I say, Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”  JST, James 2:15.  There is a subtle difference here.  Note that there are two examples given.  The first choice is to simply have faith, and then do nothing “churchy” or religious in your life because of that faith.  The second choice is to have faith which motivates you to learn to be more comfortable with heavenly things.  That’s right – we are learning to be more comfortable with heavenly things.  This is what is meant in the scriptures when it says that some will be able to abide His presence, and some not.  My wife shared this thought with me, “We need to be learning salvation, not earning salvation.”  I don’t know who said it originally, but I heard it from her, so I’ll credit it to her.

It’s just as wrong to sit back and say, “Save me,” as it is to say “I’m going to save myself.”

Rugby, Football, Sports, College, BallThink of it this way.  Imagine yourself on the goal line of a football field, with the length of the whole field, 100 yards, between you and the goal line you need to cross to win.  Comparing this to salvation, the question is, “How far can I make it on my own toward the goal, and how much must the Atonement cover for me?”  How far will you make it in your life – 35 yards, 2 yards, -2 yards?

Be careful, because this is a trick question.  The answer is that you won’t make it any of that distance on your own.  Without Christ you would not make a single step’s progress toward salvation.  He pays 100% of the price for your sins, which would otherwise keep you from advancing at all.  In fact, even if you only committed one sin in your entire life, and that sin was so minute that others would not even consider it at all, it would bar your entrance to Heaven without the atonement.  Have you considered that?  It is by grace that we are saved.

I have always had a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’ve always known that Jesus saved me, through grace, by atoning for my sins.  His expiation is the penultimate, crowning event of this world, eclipsing even the Creation, in my view.  One can hardly grasp the pain that quittance caused Him, and how He suffered.  I know He did it willingly because of His feelings for me, you, and everyone of Father’s children.

There have been times in my life when I have glimpsed, for a microsecond, the types of feelings which motivated His reparationless sacrifice for us.  When I have cared deeply about someone and watched as they exercised their agency poorly, it hurt me down in my soul.  That type of pain doesn’t just go away.  Exercising faith in the Atonement is the only cure for those heavy, sad feelings.  When I attend a Disciplinary Council (which, thankfully, is quite infrequent), we get to stand in with Christ and help coach someone in how to avail themselves of the mechanics of the Atonement, since they are at a point where they cannot see it.  Never would I claim to understand the Atonement, but there are times such as those, when I live my life in a manner worthy of the companionship of the Holy Spirit, when I can discern the pain in the aggrieved heart of the person we are serving, and can receive inspiration in how to guide them back to the iron rod.

I’ve been on the receiving end of similar help from a humble, inspired priesthood leader as I have repented of sins in my own life.  Never is the Atonement so poignant in magnificence as when you juxtapose the depth of anguish one feels when they cognize the gravity of their sin with the weightless, adrenalizing, exuberance of forgiveness.  Only when you experience that for yourself will you first begin to understand the Atonement.

This hymn seems to sum it all up:

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Now, I said this question offers a fair criticism of Mormon culture.  Here’s why – we don’t use the word often enough.  Sometimes we are so quick to distinguish ourselves from other religions that we miss the similarities.  Sometimes we are so quick to talk about works that we forget how impossible it would be to think we could work ourselves into Heaven.  Sometimes, we should include in our prayers our thanks for His grace.  I do.  If grace is the thing which makes the difference between Heaven and hell for me, I think I’m going to be talking about and appreciating and studying it more often.

5 thoughts on “Do Mormons Believe in Grace?”

    1. seanThe has a special place in my heart. I can’t quite exialpn it, but whenever I thoroughly study it, I feel lighter than air, like I’m somehow inflating. In short, the Holy Spirit can be felt so intimately when I read it’s words. In conjunction with the Holy Bible, it has brought me closer to Christ than anything else in my life. I highly recommend this sacred book to anyone who has not read it.

  1. This blog piece starts out “Some religions believe….” I want to make it clear from the onset that I am not religious and I hope I am never accused of being that way, nor do I embrace any religion. I am, however, a non-denominational Bible believing born again Christian as defined in John 3:3-6.

    I believe the church is a community of believers in Jesus Christ irrespective of their physical location and not limited to the confines of a brick and mortar facility. I believe that “church buildings” detract from the concept of church because it introduces pressures like tithing, building funds, missionary funds, etc. It saps the life and the will out of people and makes some resentful toward the institution that they naturally assume is what Christianity is. It was never intended to do that but it was predictable. Acts 20:29

    I submit to you that the very best and easiest way to understand the differences between grace, works, mercy and judgment and justification is as follows.

    Grace is GETTING SOMETHING YOU DON’T DESERVE.

    The Bible says that we are born with the sin nature and we all have this propensity to sin. Who do you know that has never sinned? If you know Jesus, then He is the only one, agree? The Bible also says that “The WAGES of sin is death”. Romans 6:23a. Sin must be paid for, either by you or by something or someone that is unspotted, unblemished and sin free. If you go on thinking that you can continue to sin with no consequences then it is questionable that you have been saved. You can fool me but you can’t fool Him. The Bible verse continues by stating “but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23b

    Notice that the Bible differentiates the two words WAGES and GIFT. Salvation can only be achieved as a GIFT and it can never be earned. Therefore GRACE is not getting the death you deserve because you are a sinner, but getting life because you are a believer.

    Mercy is NOT GETTING SOMETHING YOU DESERVE.

    Because you are a sinner you deserve death, but because Jesus Christ paid it all you are justified (made right and forgiven) by embracing Him as your Lord.

    Judgment is GETTING SOMETHING YOU DESERVE. (Never pray for judgment).

    As a lawyer I’m sure Ben can relate to this one. I’m quite confident in his daily work he seeks justice. God is a just God and He is the very definition of justice and there will be a white throne judgment. Those not written in the book of life shouldn’t be looking forward to that. At that judgment sin will be judged and so will death and hell and cast into the lake of fire. Rev 20:13-15

    Works is not what leads to salvation, but is what naturally follows as a result of salvation.

    President Reagan often quoted Matthew 5:14-16 “…Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

    Even though Ben credited the Apostle Paul for what James wrote in James 2:17-18 I will also appeal to Paul concerning the FAITH versus WORKS dispute. Paul indicated that if Abraham relied on his works he would have received glory all right, but not from God. So instead Abraham had faith in God and God acknowledged that faith and justified him. See Romans 4:2-3

    Paul then goes on to point out that works doesn’t lead to justification because works is its own reward. Only those who believe that faith in God will justify the ungodly will receive justification. The whole point is that works has NOTHING to do with justification and/or salvation.

    Think about that for a minute. If works had even one molecule of affect on justification then the death of Jesus on the cross was for naught!

    Paul talks about King David who describes the blessedness of a man who God imputes righteousness “without works”. see Romans 4:6

    Learning salvation versus earning salvation? Its actually much simpler than that. The head knowledge one receives by study has little bearing on our heart condition. God wants our stony heart replaced by a new heart. God wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth and He seeks those who do that. See John 4:23

    Mormons need to understand the words of Paul who wrote to the saved believers in Jesus Christ in Ephesus. “For by GRACE are ye saved through FAITH; and not of yourselves; it is the GIFT of God. Not of works, least any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works….” Ephesians 2:8-10

    So Ben, please pray for your fellow LDS friends who “bristle” at the thoughts of salvation by grace alone. I will be.

    1. The title of this blog is Do Mormons believe in Grace? I would say sure they do because what Mormon could dispute what Ben wrote above.

      The title of the blog could have been, Do Mormons believe in Salvation by Grace alone through Faith alone in Christ alone? Then the answer to that question is absolutely not.

      But why not?

  2. The homeless guy on the left kind of reminds me of what lots of people believe Jesus looks like, except this guy is good looking and has blue eyes. Interesting. Wondering if he’s from LA?

    Here’s what the Bible says say about what Jesus looked like…

    “…He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:2c-3 KJV

    And, since he was a Jew from Nazareth I’m guessing that He had brown eyes.

    (You may want to compare these passages with Mosiah 14 and take note that the words “there is” in verse 2, and “our” in verse 3 were words added by the King James Version translators to make the Latin translate smoothly into English. Joseph Smith, being the enterprising fellow he was, capitalized on this work of those translators in his version.)

    The “uncomeliness” of Jesus was quite evident after his resurrection because He was completely unrecognizable to those folks walking along the Emmaus Road. Luke 24:13-32 Was it because His beard had been ripped out of his face?

    That certainly doesn’t look like the guy on the left.

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