|In Christianity, there is a constant debate about whether salvation is given to man by grace or if it is earned through good works. The Mormon Church teaches that both grace and good works share a major role in our salvation. The Church teaches that Christ’s Atonement and Resurrection have made it possible for us to gain salvation. It is impossible to earn salvation, because all men and women sin; all fall short of the perfect purity necessary to enter the kingdom of God. The atonement of Christ is a gift from God. It provides men with the opportunity to repent and be forgiven of their sins. Eternal life through the resurrection is also a gift from God. All who have lived on the earth, whether good or evil, will have their spirits reunited with their bodies and gain immortality. Immortality, howeve, is not the same as exaltation. The degree of glory men attain in the afterlife depends on their good works, plus the grace of God that perfects them. Thus, the highest kingdoms of heaven are populated by “just men made perfect.”God does require action on our part. In the Book of Mormon it says, “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”1 This last part of the scripture refers to good works and obedience to God’s law.We must obey certain rules, and participate in certain ordinances, such as baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost to attain salvation. Even in the process of repentance work must be done, because it requires great faith and then control over desires to avoid the sin again. Repentance is like a conditional grace. Christ has already atoned for all the sins of the world, but to receive forgiveness, we must perform the act of repentance. After baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, God directs us to “endure to the end.”2 To endure to the end, a person must of their own free will and choice do good works and keep the commandments. As an individual continually chooses good over evil, God blesses him with knowledge and gifts of the spirit, enabling him to do even more good.Mormon doctrine clearly teaches that there is an interaction between grace and good works, and that both are needed to gain salvation and the opportunity to live with God again. A president of the Mormon Church, David O. McKay, presented an analogy that illustrates well how Mormons view grace. In this story he told about a group of boys who went swimming. One fell into a dangerous spot in the stream and nearly drowned, but a boy on the shore found a branch and helped pull him out. The drowning boy had to put forth some effort to grab hold of the branch.
“There are those who claim that no one will sink and be lost if he will look to Jesus on the shore and say, ‘I believe.’ There are others who declare that every one must by his own efforts swim to the shore or be lost forever. The real truth is that both of these extreme views are incorrect. Christ redeemed all men from death, which was brought upon them through no act of theirs, but He will not save men from their personal transgressions who will put forth no effort themselves, any more than the young rescuer on the river bank could have saved the drowning lad if the latter had not seized the means provided him. Neither can man save himself without accepting the means provided by Christ for man’s salvation.”3
1 2 Nephi 25:23. Book of Mormon
2 2 Nephi 31:20. Book of Mormon
3 “The Gospel of Work,” Instructor, Jan. 1955, 1; emphasis added.
Go to the next article in the Beliefs section: Belief Jesus Christ.