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The Biblical and Mormon Gospels

The Biblical and Mormon Gospels

Why Christianity Is True but Mormonism Is Not, Part 11
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Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1660s

Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1660s
Rembrandt, The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1660s

The heart of the biblical gospel is God’s love shown to us in Jesus Christ, his only eternal and divine Son, who by his death and resurrection frees from all sin those who trust in him alone for their salvation (John 3:16; Romans 3:21-26; 5:1-6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5; Hebrews 2:9-18; 1 Peter 2:21-25). This gospel steers a course between the two extremes of universalism (everyone or nearly everyone will be saved) and works-righteousness (only those who attain a certain level of personal goodness will be saved). The biblically balanced message teaches neither legalism (trying to earn God’s approval by following strict, external rules) nor licentiousness (claiming that grace means permission to sin with no consequences). The New Testament rejects both of these extremes; it teaches that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, received through humble, repentant faith alone, with good works as the result (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-8).

Salt Lake Temple Baptismal Font

Salt Lake Temple baptismal font, from James Talmage, The House of the Lord (1912)
Salt Lake Temple baptismal font, from James Talmage, The House of the Lord (1912)

Mormonism affirms some elements of the biblical gospel, such as that Jesus died and rose from the dead. However, it teaches a unique blend of near-universalism (practically everyone will be “saved” in some sense) and works-salvation (to be fully saved with eternal life in God’s presence requires meeting various religious obligations). On the one hand, Mormonism teaches that nearly everyone will enjoy immortality in one of three heavenly kingdoms—even most of the people who reject Jesus Christ in this life. There is a place of eternal punishment in Mormon theology, but it is reserved essentially for former Mormons who had a “testimony” that the LDS Church was true but then left it and became apostates. On the other hand, Mormonism claims that to live in the highest, celestial kingdom where God lives, all sorts of religious obligations must be met. These include baptism in the LDS Church (or by accepting after death a Mormon’s proxy baptism on one’s behalf), acceptance of Joseph Smith and the LDS Church, the Mormon priesthood, tithing to the LDS Church, and adherence to Mormon taboos—the “word of wisdom” that prohibits drinking coffee and tea, among other things. These teachings about salvation are a far cry from the gospel of salvation taught in the New Testament, according to which forgiveness, restored relationship with God, and eternal life are all freely given gifts of God’s grace, received by faith in Christ alone. In short, the Mormon gospel—salvation for nearly everyone, exaltation to godhood for the most faithful and hard-working Mormons—is a false gospel, contrary to the New Testament gospel of grace.

Our Salvation page provides links to a variety of resources on salvation, including some short articles on the Mormon view of salvation, faith and works, and heaven and hell. Gospel Principles and the Bible is a series of over fifty articles covering all aspects of Mormon belief, with articles on such salvation-related topics as faith, repentance, baptism, grace, works, the word of wisdom, judgment, the three heavenly kingdoms, and exaltation.

For a summary of the twelve reasons with links to articles on each, see the main article, “Why Christianity Is True but Mormonism Is Not: A Dozen Reasons.”