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References: Mormon vs Biblical Teachings about Salvation

Bible quotations are from the New American Standard version. For information on sources of Mormon quotations, see the section titled "Mormon Documents".

1. Mormons teach that salvation (exaltation) comes through faith in Christ plus baptism plus works, i.e., we must add to the work of Christ. In the Bible 'salvation' means deliverance from the consequence (eternal separation from God) of our sin. Mormon leaders have redefined the word 'salvation' to have a two-fold meaning: a) forgiveness of sins and b) universal resurrection:

Thus, when a Mormon speaks of 'salvation by grace', he is usually referring to universal resurrection. Mormons use the term 'exaltation' to refer to attain a place in the highest level of heaven. The Mormon term 'exaltation' is more nearly equivalent to the Biblical term 'salvation'. What do Mormon leaders say about this?

What works do they mean? Here are some:

Because these ordinances can only be kept in the Mormon church, that church claims to be the only path to true salvation.


2. According to the Bible, our salvation comes only through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, apart from any work on our part. Mormons accuse Christians of teaching "cheap grace", whereby one can believe in Christ and then live however one pleases. But the Apostle Paul anticipates this response and shows why it is false in Romans chp. 6. Mormons have the same problem with Paul's concept as do many of the cults formed in the first century: it's too simple, too easy, and could be attained by anyone.

A serious problem with the Mormon argument that the 'Christian concept of grace can be easily abused' is that it denies the Biblical promise that anyone who comes to Christ will be transformed by God into a new creation with a new heart created to serve Him by the power of the Holy Spirit:

A second problem with the Mormon teaching on salvation is that it reveals a misunderstanding of the place of works in a Christian's life as described in the New Testament.

a. Works do not help us earn God's favor:

b. Rather, works that God does through us glorify Him and prove we are Christians:

What is more, salvation by works is not even possible. Why not? First, because even our best deeds are impure and ineffective:

Second, God's standard is too high for us to attain---absolute perfection:

If we are all guilty of breaking the whole law, how many good works will it take to redeem us? Therefore, the Bible can make the outrageous and wonderful promise that we can know for sure that we will go to heaven, because the work of redemption by Jesus is complete:

That there could be nothing left for us to do is incomprehensible to Mormons. Yet the Bible says we are to rest in the finished work of Christ:


3. The Mormon church teaches that the 'gospel' consists of Christ's redemptive work plus our obedience to laws, principles, ordinances, and rites.

Because these 'ordinances of the gospel' can only be kept in the LDS church, the Mormon church claims to be the only path to true salvation.


4. The Bible teaches that the 'gospel' (good news) is the message of Christ's complete redemptive work. As Paul explains to the church at Corinth, "the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, in which you also stand, by which you also are saved" (1 Cor. 15:1-2):

And to the church at Rome, Paul says:

Central to this message, as indicated by the highlighted words in the above passages, is the historical, verifiable fact that Christ was raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12-14):

Our part is not to perform works in order to gain acceptance, our part is that we believe and receive Jesus Christ, which means placing our total trust in Him for salvation. This is the meaning of the Greek word John used for 'believe' over 50 times in his gospel:


5. Mormons teach that the LDS Church is the only way to enter the highest heaven.

What is more, Mormon leaders have taught that Joseph Smith must give his consent before anyone can enter heaven:

Any true Christian should be appalled by these statements because they undermine the completed and accepted sacrifice of Christ.


6. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to God and heaven.


7. The Mormon church teaches there are three levels to heaven, and only those who are worthy LDS members will attain the highest level:

What will the celestial kingdom supposedly be like for a good Mormon? He will be a god and he will rule over a planet with his wives and spirit children.

Incidentally, the Mormon doctrine about the three levels of heaven is derived from two verses in the Bible, 2 Cor. 12:2 and 1 Cor. 15:40, where the Apostle Paul refers to different degrees of glory (see below) and to someone (presumably himself) as being caught up in the "third heaven". Mormon leaders have completely misinterpreted and misconstrued these verses to mean that there are three levels of heaven. The additional "revelation" from which they get the three levels supposedly came to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon on Feb. 16, 1832 as recorded in Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants.


8. The Bible describes only one heaven as a believer's reward. Heaven is the place where:

The Bible does use the term for 'heaven' in three ways, although it never distinguishes between 3 levels relevant to our eternal destiny:

There will be different degrees of reward in heaven, which are then cast at Jesus' feet (Rev. 4:4,10), but all who are there will be with Christ (Rev. 22:4-5).


9. Mormon leaders teach that there is no eternal hell. Although the Book of Mormon mentions a literal, everlasting hell (e.g. 2 Nephi 28), later 'revelations' to church leaders teach the concept of a "preparatory stage between death and a final judgement", similar to the Catholic concept of purgatory.

Mormons claim that the inhabitants of hell will receive a second chance at redemption:

Mormons also teach that a special place called perdition is reserved "for Satan, and the Sons of Perdition, angels who rebelled with him and also for men who commit the unpardonable sin" (Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith).


10. The Bible warns that a real and eternal hell awaits those who do not trust in Christ in this life. In fact, of the 24 times hell is referenced in the New Testament, 22 of those were made by Jesus (McElveen).

The Bible does not speak of any opportunity to obtain salvation after rejecting Christ in this life; rather it says:


11. Mormon leaders teach that 'salvation' is universal. This is in addition to, and distinct from, the biblical concept that "there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked" (Acts 24:15). To Mormons, salvation is equated with resurrection:


12. The Bible teaches that salvation is only for those who trust in Christ.

John uses the word "believe" at least 55 times in his gospel, including the following references to salvation:

In the sense that the apostle John used the Greek word for believe, he did not mean mere intellectual ascension, but placing our total trust in Jesus for salvation. That is why, in the same context, Jesus used other verbs to indicate a definite action on the believer's part:


13. The Mormon church teaches that the dead outside of Christ can get to heaven (albeit the terrestial kingdom) by proxy baptism. Mormons believe that there is a "paradise" or spirit world where all will go after death. In this spirit world, there are missionaries who give people one more chance to accept or reject the message of Mormonism. If one accepts, they are baptized by proxy into the church here on earth. This ceremony is performed in one of the LDS temples and is the primary reason why Mormons research and keep genealogical records (Doctrine and Covenants section 128).

This doctrine is derived from one verse in the Bible (1 Cor. 15:29) where Paul refers to a fringe group practicing baptism for the dead. Even the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (published by the LDS church) admits: "He [Paul] refers to a practice of vicarious baptism, a practice for which we have no other evidence in the Pauline or other New Testament or early Christian writings", and also agrees with the interpretation that it is not a doctrine Paul advocates: "Paul clearly refers to a distinct group within the Church, a group that he accuses of inconsistency between ritual and doctrine".


14. The Bible teaches that this life is our only chance to receive Christ.

Mormons may ask 'then what does 1 Cor. 15:29 mean?'

This verse must be understood in the context of the whole passage. Paul raises the subject of baptism in the context of expressing his concern about party factions among the Christians at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:14-17). Rather than endorsing baptism for the dead, Paul associates it with a group (perhaps the Marchionite sect) whom he has already identified (15:12) as being in deep error. He is saying that even this group, who deny the resurrection, are baptizing for the dead in anticipation of resurrection.

The impersonal manner in which Paul refers to practitioners of proxy baptism also indicates he is not endorsing the practice: "what will those do who are baptized for the dead...why then are they baptized for them?" The impersonal 'they' contrasts markedly with the way Paul addresses believers in the same chapter, as 'you' (v. 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 14, 17, 31, 34, 36, 51, 58), or 'we', or 'us' (15: 3, 15, 19, 30, 32, 49, 51, 52). In the context of 15:29, 'they' refers to the ones who are denying the resurrection, the ones the entire passage is written to refute (15:12).

This is exactly the understanding of the text held by the early Christian writer Tertullian. Writing about A.D. 180, he makes this comment on 1 Cor. 15:29 — "His [Paul’s] only aim in alluding to it was that he might all the more firmly insist upon the resurrection of the body, in proportion as they who were vainly baptized for the dead resorted to the practice from their belief of such a resurrection". The apostle Peter accurately predicted that Paul's words would be misinterpreted and misconstrued by some:


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