A Free Gift Or A Debt To Repay?
When I compare some LDS Church teachings with what I read
in the Bible and Book
of Mormon, I see things which do not agree. I even see contradictions in Book of
Mormon verses too.
It should be noted that one definition of salvation in LDS theology is eternal life - to
become a god or goddess in the highest of the three divisions in the Celestial
In the Mormon scriptures for instance, I found a few verses which specifically deal
with the gift of salvation or eternal life.
"If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in
the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift
greater than the gift of salvation" (D&C 6:13).
"And now my sons, behold I have somewhat more to desire of you, which desire
is, that ye may not do these things that ye may boast, but that ye may do these
things to lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and
which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life,
which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers" (Helaman 5:8).
Did you notice the common idea in both?
You must do something to earn a gift.
Let's briefly look at a verse very familiar to Latter-day Saints:
"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).
According to Nephi, you are not saved until after all you can do. If you have not
done the necessary works, then you are not saved.
This is what I believe Gospel Principles describes as the "Gospel
of Work" (chapter
27, p. 184).
Latter-day Saints are taught that they must repay the debt to the benefactor
"'Then,' said the benefactor, 'you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms.
It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to
prison.'" (Gospel Principles, chapter 12, p. 77, The Mediator, Ensign, May 1977,
pp. 54-55, online,
Now compare this with what the Bible has to say:
"Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt" (Rom.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus
Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the
gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).
Do you see the difference in the Mormon teaching versus the Biblical one?
How do you feel? In what way do you regard eternal life being a gift? And is
such a gift merited or unmerited?
Take the occasion of Christmas or your birthday. Do you try to gain a gift from
your friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse on these days?
I don't believe you do. I think you solely rely on their love to hope to have a
gift given to you without any merit on your part.
It is the same way with God and His gift of eternal life.
You cannot do something (apart from having faith) to receive this gift.
If you can earn a gift, then it is no longer a gift.
The Book of Mormon, in Helaman 5:8, does have a partial truth to it. We need
not boast in our abilities when a gift is given.
I also like another passage that I found in the Book of Mormon. "I say, if ye
should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable
servants" (Mosiah 2:21).
All Mormons need to consider this instead of thinking they are worthy enough
to approach God in their temples.
According to the Bible, God's grace is sufficient for us (2 Cor. 12:9). But this is
not so in the Mormon Church today, as shown in her training manuals.
"Grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal
life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts. Grace
cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient" (Religion 327 -
Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, p. 25).
Notice the word "after." Less than total effort means not being saved. Grace
cannot suffice where it is lacking.
"The faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be
obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things" (Religion 327 - Pearl of Great
Price Student Manual, p. 31).
Notice the word "never."
The Book of Mormon teaches grace is only sufficient after you "deny yourself of
all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength" (Moroni
10:32). You cannot inherit salvation without a sincere total effort and a sacrifice
Faith without works is dead ... we know this. But works are the evidence of
salvation, not the means to it.
We see a passage in the Bible that has Paul saying, "Wherefore, my beloved, as
ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my
absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).
What does he mean?
As the Barnes Commentary states, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; to break
off from sin, and to repent."
I believe that if we do anything to earn the gift of eternal life, then we cheapen
Christ's redemptive act.
Now we come to some verses in the Book of Mormon that contradicts some of
what we saw earlier.
"And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow
path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not
come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him,
relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save" (2 Nephi 31:19).
Your works count for nothing towards salvation when you trust wholly upon the
merits of Christ.
"And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all
understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they
understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through
the redemption of God" (Mosiah 13:32; Alma 25:15-16).
"It is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved" (2 Nephi 10:24).
"Only" means what you do counts for nothing.
But let's follow through with the premise of LDS theology to its conclusion
anyways. A frightening thing to consider is what happens to all those Mormons
who do not inherit eternal life (who do not become gods and goddesses).
When we look at other revelations believed to have come from God, the
wicked (those who don't become gods) are cursed with everlasting fire (D&C
29:27-28). The tares (those who don't inherit eternal life) will be burned (D&C
Only the saved will reside in a kingdom where God, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
are. If one is not in this place, then "they shall be cast out for they are the
children of the kingdom of the devil" ( Alma 5:24-25; 7:21, 25).
There are only two choices in the Book of Mormon: eternal life with God or
eternal death with the devil (2 Nephi 2:27-29).
Other destinations (the Telestial kingdom, Terrestrial kingdom, and two lower
sections of the Celestial Kingdom) have been formed in supposedly later
revelations to the Mormon Church.
This has abrogated the teachings of Nephi.
We find another teaching in Alma. "I know that he allotteth unto men, yea,
decreeth unto them decrees which are unalterable, according to their wills,
whether they be unto salvation or unto destruction" (Alma 29:4).
You are either saved to be with God in heaven or you are destroyed.
This is a scary prospect should one choose to remain in the Mormon Church.
Let's shift back to the Bible now.
What are the works of God?
"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of
God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye
believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:28-29).
Did you notice that? They asked with the plural tense and Jesus replied with
The work of God is to believe Him.