Opposition in all things

The concept of opposition in Mormonism is an important one. “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11), wrote the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi. This post is an exploration of the concept of opposition and the role it plays within Mormon beliefs.


Whom do we worship?

Related Posts: Who is Jesus?—to a Mormon; The Nature of Christ; The Trinity ; Godhead: God or Gods?

See also "Worship" in Encyclopedia of Mormonism
In the mind of most Mormons the objects of worship are God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.[1] The Holy Ghost is necessary for the true worship of the Father and the Son; it is through the Holy Ghost that we worship in spirit and in truth, for “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 5:5).

Since worship can mean many things, the concept in Mormonism is not well defined. Those in heaven “sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost” (Mormon 7:7); the ordinance of baptism is performed “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 20:73); our prayers are directed to God the Father and are done in the name of Jesus Christ; and the first words every newly confirmed church member hears are, “Receive the Holy Ghost” (D&C 49:13-14).

In addition to the worship of the Father and the Son (as individuals), we also worship the Godhead, consisting of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. A statement issued by the First Presidency in 1886, titled “Epistle to Saints scattered abroad” reads, “The God of heaven, whom we worship, is represented as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”[2] It should be pointed out that God should be taken as meaning Godhead, not one God in the traditional Trinitarian sense. As Apostle George Q. Cannon said, “We worship them as one God.”[3] Apostle M. Russell Ballard said, “Much misunderstanding would be avoided if [others] understood that we worship only one Godhead, consisting of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost” (“Building bridges of understanding,” Ensign, June 1998). As far as I can tell, there is no statement from a General Authority or verse of scripture indicating we worship the individual person of the Holy Ghost.

Because the Mormon concept of Godhead differs from the traditional Christian one, the objects of Mormon worship (at least in concept) are different from that of conventional Christian worship. Most Christians worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in Trinity and Unity: “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance,” reads the Athanasian Creed. Different denominations define acts of worship in their own unique way. For some denominations this involves liturgy: for Catholics this includes mass; for many Protestants some form of common prayer; for Mormons, partaking of the sacrament and temple ceremony are part of our worship.

Worship the Father and the Son
Just as we pray to the Father in the name of Christ, we also worship the Father in the name of Christ: “believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name” (2 Nephi 25:16). And we also worship Christ: “bow down before [Christ], and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul” (2 Nephi 25:29; Matt. 2:2; 28:9; 3 Nephi 17:10; Rev. 5:8). In the September Ensign President Hinckley wrote of the church’s respect and worship of Jesus Christ: “We love Him. We Honor Him. We thank Him. We worship Him. He has done for each of us and for all mankind that which none other could have done” (“Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, Sep. 2007).

We worship the Father because he is our Heavenly Father. We worship the Son because the Father has given all honor and glory to Him: “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand” (John 3:35). For that reason, “All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (John 5:23; compare Luke 10:16).

What worship is and isn’t
We are commanded to serve God with all our heart and soul, but we are not forbidden from giving honor to political or religious leaders, or to earthly kings. Anciently, and even recently, worship meant to give homage or honor. Hence Christ says to the saints at Philadelphia: “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan…to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Rev. 3:9). (The NASB reads “bow down at your feet” and the ALT reads “prostrate themselves in reverence.”) The tribe of Judah was told “thy father’s children shall bow down before thee” (Gen. 49:8). And Joseph saw in a dream that his brothers would bow down before him (Gen. 37:7, 9-10). Abraham bowed before three holy men (Gen. 18:2); Joab fell down before King David (2 Sam. 14:22); and “Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him” (Daniel 2:46)--Daniel did not refuse these honors.

People today tend not to think of worship as a form of general respect but rather as something reserved for God alone.

Different cultures have different ways of giving respect to presidents, leaders, and prophets.[4] In some situations giving honor to political or religious leaders is appropriate. In another context the same honor could imply disrespect to God. For example, in some cultures bowing is a form of greeting or a way of showing respect, and is not an act of worship. Though in a different context it might be. Whether or not a given act is true worship depends on (1) the act being appropriate to the worship of God and (2) the way, and the spirit in which, it is given.

With this in mind, singing a national anthem or saying the pledge of allegiance, taking an oath of public office, bowing to an earthly king, or giving respect according to one’s cultural traditions does not interfere with the true worship of God. However, just as it would be inappropriate to give obeisance to the servant of an earthly king, it would be inappropriate to give honor reserved for our Heavenly King to one of His servants. We never perform prostration before, or pray to, the prophet (1 Nephi 17:55; Acts 10:25-26), or angels (Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9); though we do give the prophet great respect. For example, by singing the hymn “We thank thee O God for a prophet and “Praise to the Man” (i.e. Joseph Smith).

How do we worship?
There are many things that could be classified as worship: song, prayer, reverence, ordinances, prostration, emulation, etc. One goal of worship is to arrange our priorities such that God is esteemed above all other things and persons. True worship is described very well by Nephi: it is with our “might, mind, and strength, and…[our] whole soul” (2 Nephi 25:29).

I suppose the highest act of worship we can give to God is to obey his commandments: “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” said Jesus (John 14:15). The greatest of all commandments, that is, the greatest act of worship, is to love God and to love one’s neighbors: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-39; italics mine).

Do people of other religions worship the true God?
To those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit prisoners, and administer to the sick and afflicted, Jesus said, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt. 25:34). The righteous did not know they were serving our Lord Jesus: “when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? (NASB, Matt. 25:37). Jesus’ reply is one of his most beautiful sayings: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Love for others is accepted by God and is a true form of worship. Though theological conceptions of God differ from religion to religion, every act of kindness is an act of worship--as Muhammad said, “even a smile can be charity.” According to the Book of Mormon, “every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God” (Moroni 7:13).[5] I believe that any Muslim, Catholic, Jew, Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, and Atheist can worship God.

End Notes----------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] Elder Bruce R. McConkie made this statement: “We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense-the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to Him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator” (Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p.60). 

In my database of LDS writings this is the only statement I have come across which says we do not worship the Son. However, in his book Mormon Doctrine Elder McConkie writes, “The Father and the Son are the objects of all true worship…No one can worship the Father without also worshiping the Son…‘He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.’ (John 5:23.) It is proper to worship the Father, in the name of the Son, and also to worship the Son” (“Worship,” Mormon Doctrine). 

The statement from Mormon Doctrine should be taken as the more authoritative one, as the book was reviewed by a Church committee--after the first edition was published. There are several ways that worship can be defined. When reading statements like the one from Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie one must be careful to put it into its proper context. Elder McConkie gives a more thorough statement in his book The Messiah Series: “in addition to worshiping the Father, our great and eternal Head, by whose word men are, there is a sense in which we worship the Son. We pay divine honor, reverence, and homage to him because of his atoning sacrifice, because immortality and eternal life come through him. He does not replace the Father in receiving reverence, honor, and respect, but he is worthy to receive all the praise and glory that our whole souls have power to possess” (p. 566).

[2] James R Clark, ed., Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. 3, p. 93.

[3] George Q. Cannon, at the General Conference, held in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, April 7, 1895. (See Collected Discourses, Vol. 4.)

[4] Paul’s advice to those who are invited to dinner at the home of a pagan is,

If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience--I do not mean your conscience, but his. (ESV, 1 Cor. 10:27-29).

[5] We are given a very strong warning by the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni: “take heed…that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil” (Moroni 7:14).

Growth of the Church

Related Posts: Is LDS (Mormon) Church Growth Decelerating? (2014)

One point of interest among Mormons and non-Mormons is the growth rate of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many Mormons are confidant in the “fact” that the church is the fastest growing church in the United States and expect to see enormous increases in membership. This notion is fed by predictions from a few sociologists. Rodney Stark made the following observation in 1984:

If growth during the next century is like that of the past, the Mormons will become a major world faith. If, for example, we assume they will grow by 30 percent per decade, then in 2080 there will be more than 60 million Mormons. But, since World War II, the Mormon growth rate has been far higher than 30 percent per decade. If we set the rate at 50 percent, then in 2080 there will be 250 million Mormons. (Rodney Stark, “The Rise of a New World Faith,” Review of Religious Research, Vol. 26, No. 1, pp. 18-27)

This number has been repeated often. One reporter wrote in US News & World Report: “If current trends hold, experts say Latter-day Saints could number 265 million worldwide by 2080, second only to Roman Catholics among Christian bodies. Mormonism, says Rodney Stark, professor of sociology and religion at the University of Washington, ‘stands on the threshold of becoming the first major faith to appear on Earth since the prophet Mohammed rode out of the desert’” (Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Mormon Moment). At one time the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the fastest growing denomination among those with more than a million members. It is now just barely the second.

In this post I will examine simple LDS growth statistics. I will also examine the scriptural predictions about the size of the church in the last days. The data is from the Church Almanac and church statistics reported every April General Conference.

Basic Stats
Figure 1 shows the church membership plotted against year. The red line is an exponential fit to the data. The data (black dots) clearly reveal the characteristic pattern of exponential growth.

As you can see the red line fits quite well. If the growth of the church remains exponential (as shown by the red line) then by 2050 the church will have 73 million members--not very different from Stark’s lower prediction.
The problem with such an analysis is that exponential growth is only realistic during the earliest stages; later on the dynamics become more complicated.From Figure 1 it is obvious that the rate of growth increased substantially after 1950. Plotting the membership from 1950 to 2006 and fitting an exponential curve to the data we get Figure 2. If church membership continues to grow according to the fit in Figure 2 then by 2050 the church will have 113 million members. But again, exponential growth is not realistic. And as you can see the red line is over predicting membership beyond the year 2000.

A second and third order polynomial was also fit to the data. (See Figure 3 for 2nd order.) Doing those fits and extrapolating to 2050 we get predictions of 39 and 36 million members respectively--much more realistic numbers.It can be seen from Figure 3 that the church has been growing at a relatively constant rate since 1990--shown in Figure 4. The red line is a fitted linear equation (y = ax + b): A very good fit. If this rate of growth is maintained then by 2050 the church will have about 27 million members. This is at a constant growth rate of 320,000 persons per year. (Note: this is not converts per year!) However, this does not take into account the accelerating rate of membership growth. So next I shall consider changes in the rate of growth.Accelerating growth
Plots of the first differences of the membership are given in Figures 5, 6, and 7.

[The first differences give the rate of change in membership during a given year. For example, if the membership at the beginning of 1950 was 800,000 and at the beginning of 1951 it was 830,000 then the rate of change is 30,000 persons per year for 1950.]

Figure 5 is the growth rate over the church’s history. Again, there is an obvious increase in the rate of change around 1950. The three red points in Figure 5 mark the rate of change during 1940, 1989, and 1990. These points were omitted from my analysis.

Pre 1950
First, a closer look at the pre 1950 data--shown in Figure 6. According to the fitted curve (2nd order polynomial), when the church was organized there were about 1,800 new persons per year coming into the church. By 1950 the rate had grown to 23,000 new persons per year.

Post 1950
Next, the rate of change from 1950 to 2006--shown in Figure 7. The data is approximated well by a straight line. According to the linear fit there were approximately 39,000 new persons per year coming into the church in 1951. By 2006 this had grown to 356,000 new persons per year.

Assuming this change of rate is maintained, then by 2050 the church membership will be increasing by 610,000 new persons per year, and overall church membership will be approximately 33 million. (Please note, this is not converts per year.)

But what about year to year variability? The residuals can be bootstrapped to get an idea of what that variability is like. These fits can be extrapolated to 2050 to get a distribution of the membership and new persons per year. Having done that I can say with 95% confidence--based on the extrapolations from the bootstrapped regressions--the growth rate of the church by 2050 will be between 584,000 to 661,000 new persons per year; and projecting church membership to 2050 we will have overall membership of between 32 million to 35 million. Though there are factors that might lower that number.

Initial Summary
The fit shown in Figure 4 (1990 - 2006) projected a church membership at 2050 of 26 million, this is assuming a constant growth rate of 320,000 persons per year. However, that treatment of the data did not take into account the accelerating rate of growth. A simple linear fit to the change in the growth rate (Figure 7) gave a growth rate at 2050 of 610,000 persons per year and a membership of 33 million. The bootstrap method gave nearly the same numbers: 623,000 persons per year and a membership of around 34 million.

Some other comments about the data
It's worth taking a look at the number of new convert baptisms since 1950--see Figure 8. A local polynomial fit (red line) to the data reveals the underlying structure. One thing that stands out is the large dip after 1997. However, if those last four points are omitted then the downturn from 1997 to 2002 is more congruent with natural variability; it is not necessarily a long term diminishment in the number of converts per year. The last four data points are low. The likely explanation is the “raising the bar” policy implemented in 2002. This policy increased the standards of worthiness for LDS missionaries (Elder L. Tom Perry, "Raising the Bar"); reducing their numbers by about 10,000 over a period of two years (Peggy Fletcher Stack, "Unintended consequence of church's 'raising the bar'," Salt Lake Tribune).

If we look at the number of baptisms per missionary in Figure 9 we can see there are three peaks in the early 60’s, 80’s, and 90’s when it was above 7 converts per missionary. After 1990 it dropped precipitously to lower than 5 converts per missionary. But after raising the bar in 2002 the number of converts per missionary increased over the next three years. In part this is likely due to diminishment in the number of missionaries: The number of baptisms remained relatively constant (about 300,000 per year) but the number of missionaries decreased--increasing conversions per missionary. The overall average of baptisms per missionary is 5.8 (σ = 1.3).

With the exception of the last four years, the number of missionaries has been increasing steadily: 43,000 in 1990 to 62,000 in 2002, while the conversion rate remained steady at about 300,554 converts per year (standard deviation of 17,000 converts). The long term decrease in baptisms per missionary is largely due to the relatively constant conversion rate and the increasing number of missionaries.

Looking again at the overall rate of change--with the last four data points removed--we get Figure 10. When the raising the bar downturn is removed, the dip after 1997 is more in line with natural changes in variability. I make this point because my extrapolations are based on the assumption that the increase in the rate of change will be linear up to 2050. But I also believe that the raising the bar downturn is limited in its duration; eventually the rate of growth will normalize.

Final thoughts

There are scriptural reasons to believe that in the last days the church will be comparatively small.

And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the whore of all the earth, and she sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw. (1 Nephi 14:11-12)

One verse of scripture that predicts remarkable growth is D&C 65:2: “the gospel [shall] roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.” That passage is referring to a prophecy in Daniel which reads,

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. (Daniel 2:44-45)

The mountain from which the stone is cut could be several things. I believe it is the Mountain of the Lord's House (Isa. 2:2; Mic. 4:1), which is commonly interpreted as being the church. The prophecy in D&C 65 says, “as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth.” That is, D&C 65:2 is a like/as type of comparison; it predicts remarkable growth but does not say when the gospel will fill the earth: Before or after the Second Coming? Whereas the passage in the Book of Mormon is in the context of the last days.

More conclusions
History has taught us that opposition to the church can be fierce. As the church grows opposition to it will also grow. For example, Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president has generated a great deal of interest in the church; but possibly greater resistance to a “Mormon in the White House.” (See Mitt Romney and Mormonism: A response to Damon Linker's article "The Big Test".) Or the recent movie about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, September Dawn, starring John Voight--which I haven’t seen because it’s rated R.

It’s easy to take a punch at a Mormon. Our early history has some strange aspects to it--Blood Atonement, polygamy, Adam-God Theory, the blacks and the priesthood issue, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, to name the biggies. I believe it’s a miracle that the church has even survived and continues to grow.

One challenge the church has is in preventing individual apostasy as well as inactivity. Retaining new converts is a challenge. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism reports that about 14 percent of US LDS remain “disengaged nonbelievers” and 22 percent remain active throughout their life. Weekly attendance in the US is about 40 to 50 percent; but lower in the rest of the world. (“Vital Statistics,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism)

It can be seen from the rapid increase of conversions after 1950 that missionary policy is an important factor in the growth of the church--It has been noted that the most reliable predictor of church growth is the number of missionaries. Recently there has been an emphasis on quality over quantity and a greater emphasis on retention. There is no reason to doubt these efforts will assist in maintaining the long term growth of the church.

I believe in the Mormon church. But some of the predictions about church size that have been posited (60 to 200 million) are rather unbelievable. I believe that until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ the church will remain small compared to other world religions, but influential.


Grace, Justification, and Election
Part III: Election

Related Posts: The Premortal Life ; Blacks and the Priesthood ; Grace ; Justification ; Why Covenants? ; The Fall of Man Part I ; Omniscience ; Faith and Charity ; Justification and Salvation

The elect are those whom God has chosen: “but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen” (
Mark 13:20). The LDS Bible Dictionary points out that election “is both on a national and an individual basis” (“Election,” Bible Dictionary).

National (group) election
The national basis is that God has elected his church to be holy, and that Israel will be his holy people. A good place to begin is Ephesians chapter 1:

PAUL, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Eph. 1:1-7)

We must understand that Paul is writing to the faithful in Christ, to the saints. So whenever we come across the word “we” and “us” we can replace it with “the Saints” and “the faithful.”

… Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us [the faithful] with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us [the faithful] in him before the foundation of the world, that we [the saints] should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us [the faithful] unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us [the faithful] accepted in the beloved. In whom we [the saints] have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Predestination does not mean that God predetermines individuals to heaven or hell, but that God predetermined to save those who love his Son and make every effort to be obedient. All the faithful are God’s elect and the body of the church has been chosen for salvation from the foundation of the world, to be made acceptable to the Father.

When Paul says, “from the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (HCSB, 2 Thes. 2:13), we must understand he was speaking to “the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (HCSB, 2 Thes. 1:1). So the passage can be read like this: “from the beginning God has chosen you [the church] for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

God has also elected the house of Israel to be his holy people: “For thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be a people for his own possession” (ASV, Deut. 7:6; 14:2). This election does not impute righteousness to Israel, for it was said to them: “Jehovah will establish thee for a holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee; if thou shalt keep the commandments of Jehovah thy God, and walk in his ways” (Deut. 28:9).

Premortal election
In Mormonism we believe that every person once lived as a spirit son or daughter of their Heavenly Parents. (See The Premortal Life.) It was during this premortal life (also called the preexistence) that God selected individuals to receive certain blessings, and ordained them to do certain things during mortality. It is in this sense that we understand this verse from Jeremiah: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5). In the premortal life Jeremiah was selected and ordained to be a prophet of God. In that sense he is one of the elect. And there are many people, from high station to low, rich and poor, famous and unknown, who are, like Jeremiah, God’s elect. Verses which mention “from the beginning,” “from the foundation of the world,” or “foreordained” often refer to our premortal existence--We are all “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).

God’s foreknowledge means he knows what will happen before it happens. But this does not mean he forces his will on others, or creates them to be obedient or disobedient; it does not preclude individual choice. It simply means that God knows “things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). God has prepared many things according to his foreknowledge: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Or as the ASV reads, “For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained…” Elder Neil A. Maxwell wrote,

Foreordination is like any other blessing-it is a conditional bestowal subject to the recipient’s faithfulness. Prophecies foreshadow events without determining the outcome, this being made possible by a divine foreseeing of outcomes. So foreordination is a conditional bestowal of a role, a responsibility, or a blessing which likewise foresees but does not fix the outcome. Remember John’s sequence-“called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). (But for a Small Moment, p. 97)

In the premortal world God brought together his most choice spirits and, according to his wisdom, ordained them to their future callings in mortality:

God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born (Abr. 3:23).

Though a calling and election can be received in the preexistence, they must happen again in mortality: “For many are called, but few are chosen [i.e. elect]” (Matt. 22:14). As the Doctrine and Covenants puts it: “many [are] called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men” (D&C 121:34-35).

Receiving election is not the same thing as being adopted as a son or daughter of God. Adoption follows election. “[God] having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (ASV, Eph 1:5; italics mine). It is then possible to make the calling and election secure.[1] This is emphasized by Peter, “give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet. 1:10).[2] The calling and election was received prior to this. Peter mentions that “diligence” is required, which emphasizes what he previously said:

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Through faith and diligence it is possible to be “sealed up unto eternal life” (D&C 131:5). This has also been called a more sure word of prophecy (2 Peter 1:19; D&C 131:5).

When Apostle Alonzo A. Hinckley learned he had a fatal illness, he wrote to the First Presidency, “As to the future, I have no misgivings. It is inviting and glorious, and I sense rather clearly what it means to be saved by the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ and to be exalted by his power and be with him ever more.”[3]

I have never personally known any Latter-day Saint who claimed his calling and election was sure.[4] Such a thing would be considered very sacred and should be kept private.

To foreknow
I do not believe that “foreknow” means God was acquainted with us at some previous time--I do not believe that is its meaning. But rather, that “the Lord knoweth all things which are to come” (W. of M. 1:7); “God knoweth all things” (Mormon 8:17); God knows “know the end from the beginning” (Abr. 2:8); and “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).

A passage from Acts
Acts 13:48 reads, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” In most other translations it reads, “all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (NIV, HCSB, ESV). Protestant theologian William MacDonald interpreted this as meaning “When the Gentiles heard this, they gloried in the Lord’s Word, and as many as were putting themselves in a position for eternal life believed.”[5] In Mormon beliefs it is possible to interpret this as meaning “as many as had been appointed during premortality to receive the gospel in mortality believed.” The Joseph Smith Translation switches the words ordained and believed: “as many as believed were ordained unto eternal life.”

Two Protestant views of election
The Calvinistic view: The following quotation is from the Westminster Confession (a standard for many Presbyterian churches). It is taken from New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished…The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will…to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice. ("Election")

Arminian view: The Arminian view has been called conditional predestination and conditional election. Election is does not imply guaranteed salvation--one must endure to the end. The Arminian view is held by many Methodist churches.

That God, by an eternal, unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son, before the foundation of the world, hath determined, out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who, through the grace of the Holy Ghost, shall believe on this his Son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath, and to condemn them as alienate from Christ, according to the word of the gospel in 1 John 3:36: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also. (Remonstrance, taken from Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom)

The LDS view of election is markedly different from both the Calvinist and the Arminian view. However, our doctrine is closer to the Arminian view of election.

End Notes_______________________
[1] Once a persons calling and election is made sure their salvation is guaranteed. This is also called a more sure word of prophecy (2 Pet. 1:19): “The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood” (D&C 131:5). Election alone is not a guarantee: “But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household, whose household we are if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope” (HCSB, Heb. 3:6; italics mine); “We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first” (NIV, Heb. 3:14; italics mine); “holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith” (ESV, 1 Titus 1:19; italics mine).

[2] This verse can be read differently. I read it in the sense of making a previously received election secure: “be diligent to make stedfast your calling and choice” (YLT); or “use diligence to make your calling and election sure” (Darby); or “be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (ESV). Other translations convey the idea of being certain about what has already happened: “the more zealous to confirm your call and election” (RSV); and “be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you” (NASB). Every translation has a degree of theological bias.

[3] The Deseret News Church Section, March 27, 1949, p. 24; taken from Roy W. Doxey, “Accepted of the Lord: The Doctrine of Making Your Calling and Election Sure,” Ensign, July 1976, p. 53.

[4] Joseph Smith said,

After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150)

[5] William G. MacDonald, “The Biblical Doctrine of Election,” in The Grace of God, the will of man; a case for Arminianism, p. 227.


Grace, Justification, and Election
Part II: Justification

Related Posts: Why Covenants? ; Grace ; Election ; Faith and Charity ; Justification and Salvation

The word justify can mean (1) innocence before the law, (2) reconciliation with God, and (3) to be shown to be correct (vindication). Unless otherwise stated the word justification is used in the sense of (1), innocence before the law.

The term justification generally can be thought of as the language of the courts. For example, if the outcome of a trial is decided in your favor you have been justified. This is the context which Isaiah uses:

All the nations have gathered together so that the peoples may be assembled. Who among them can declare this and proclaim to us the former things? Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified, Or let them hear and say, “It is true.” (NASB, Isa. 43:9)

The opposite of justification is condemnation: “by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37; See also Alma 41:15).

In the Mormon view works alone cannot justify us. The reason is partly due to our unsteadiness.

AND thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea…how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men,…how quick to boast, and do all manner of that which is iniquity; and how slow are they to remember the Lord their God, and to give ear unto his counsels, yea, how slow to walk in wisdom’s paths!
(Hel. 12:1-5)

At one moment we repent and obey, and in the next we sin. Consequently, “no man is justified by the law in the sight of God” (Gal. 3:11, compare 2 Nephi 2:5). Or in the words of Lehi, “by the law men are cut off…[and] perish from that which is good” (2 Nephi 2:5).

We know that obedience cannot remove the stain of sin. If we live our entire life righteously and commit only one sin we cannot be saved, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, if I do 50 bad things and 51 good things the scales of justice do not tip in my favor. Only repentance can free us from the law’s condemnation; and forgiveness is freely available to those who are willing to repent.

Repentance and justification
Another meaning of justification is reconciliation with God. Luke 18:11-14 reads,

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The publican was justified because he sought true repentance and desired to live according to God’s commandments. (Apparently the boasting which the Pharisee demonstrated was common.) Those who truly humble themselves before God naturally desire to be obedient. These are they who are justified with God--this has been described as a right relationship with God. “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God” (ESV, Rom. 4:2). Abraham was indeed obedient to God’s commandments, but his justification did not come by works alone. Just as the Pharisee who fasted twice a week, did not commit adultery, and paid tithes was not justified by his works. To be justified we must “acknowledge [our] unworthiness before God at all times” (Alma 38:14) and continually repent. The word for this effort is penitent.[1] “Thus, none but the truly penitent are saved” (Alma 42:24).[2] [3]

Justification as a “right relationship” (reconciliation) and justification as innocence before the law are inseparable. One describes humility before God; the other describes one’s standing in regard to his law.

Justice and mercy
Since justification is linked to our standing before God in relation to his law we must also consider the law of justice and mercy. Since mercy through the atonement of Christ brings freedom from eternal punishment, atonement is then part of justification.

And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence. And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also. (Alma 42:14-15)

This is consistent with what was said above: those who acknowledge their unworthiness before God and seek repentance are justified. Only in this way will the atonement satisfy the demands of justice, and only then will the penitent sinner be innocent before the law and be reconciled to God.

Works of the law
For some people obedience means nothing more than blindly following tradition. But righteous obedience is motivated by love: “this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3).

Paul poses then answers the question, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded.” He then asks, “By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.” That is, being proud of our obedience is excluded by the necessity of having faith. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:27-28). “The deeds of the law” is a phrase that expresses the deeds required by the law--the external forms of obedience. Those who are obedient only to the deeds of the law “are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matt. 23:27). Jesus condemns this hypocrisy:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (NIV, Matt. 23:23)

The crime of esteeming “the deeds of the law” more than the purpose of the law was so pervasive that it provoked Jesus’ emotive cry against the Pharisees and teachers of the law: “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (NIV, Matt. 23:33). As Jesus said, we must practice the latter without neglecting the former. Mercy and justice are not “deeds of the law.” But rather, attempts to be merciful and just are reflections of our love and respect for others, and for God; they are reflections of a good conscience.

The necessity of having faith-centered obedience and abandoning blind, and sometimes hypocritical, obedience is conveyed by Paul’s statement: “a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (NKJV, Rom. 3:28). That is, justification is something separate and apart from the external forms of worship. If we do not “[neglect] the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness,” then justification is through faith. Had Israel obeyed the law of Moses with the love of God, rather than list obedience, they could have been justified by their faith (Rom. 9:31-32).

More on justification
There are two good reasons justification is not through obedience to commandments. Firstly, it is impossible to be totally obedient, thus all are guilty. Secondly, our obedience is an obligation that cannot free us from condemnation--good deeds to not wipe out bad ones. But there is also a third: “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them,” said King Benjamin (Mosiah 4:29; compare Acts 13:39). The law doesn’t list every possible way to break a commandment, and therefore perfect obedience to a list of commandments is insufficient to be innocent before the law--just think of all the ways it is possible not to love thy neighbor. Innocence comes only through Christ’s atonement.

Obedience in faith is necessary
Since faith can be thought of as a principle of action it precedes righteous action and is always coupled to righteous obedience (James 2:26). Here are several examples. (All italics mine.) “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice…By faith Noah…prepared an ark… By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out…obeyed; and he went out…By faith he sojourned in the land of promise. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac…By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents” (Heb. 11). We know that Abraham “believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). We also know that “the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). So Abraham is not believing in God passively, but believing and keeping the commandments. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).

[For Abraham], contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.” (NKJV, Rom. 4:18-22)

Just as unbelief is coupled to disobedience, faith is coupled to a desire and an effort to be obedient--it does not say that Abraham believed God and spent his time in riotous living. Though he and his wife were too old to have children, Abraham believed that God could deliver what was promised to him and continued in obedience. Had this not been so, Abraham’s faith would not have been “accounted to him for righteousness” (Gal. 3:6; italics mine).

Divine approbation
There is another sense of the word justification. If one’s actions or decisions are shown to be wise we can say they were justified, or shown to be correct. This is the sense of “wisdom is justified of her children” (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:35). Or as it reads in the ALT: “wisdom was justified [or, vindicated] by her children” (brackets and italics original). It is also the sense of “justifying the righteous, by giving him according to his righteousness” (2 Chron. 6:23). (The ESV reads, “vindicating the righteous.”)

James taught that “Abraham our father [was] justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (James 2:21-22). Abraham was tested in that he was commanded to sacrifice his “only son.” In bringing his son to the sacrificial altar he demonstrated his willingness to be obedient to all God’s commandments. After which God said to Abraham:

because thou hast done this thing…I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Gen. 22:16-18)[4]

Abraham was justified in that his obedience was shown (through the blessing he received) to be righteous.

Final thoughts
We must first do all that we can do, then grace will be given: “Believe in Christ, and…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; italics mine). Doing “all we can do” is necessary to receiving forgiveness, and it is forgiveness in Christ Jesus that justifies us before the law. So works are necessary to justification through their necessity to forgiveness.[5] Repentance sometimes requires restitution.[6]

Exodus 23:7 reads, “for [God] will not justify the wicked.” And 2 Chronicles 6:23 says, “Then hear thou from heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, by [punishing] the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head.” This seems to be a direct contradiction of Romans 4:5 which reads, “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” This is clarified by the JST: “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” And finally, “ye are justified of faith and works, through grace” (JST, Rom. 4:16).

In LDS beliefs works are a necessary part of God’s plan of salvation. But understanding our obligations to God, that God is never indebted to us, that obedience does not wipe out sin, and that all blessings including salvation are a gift, clarifies the meaning of the phrase “by grace ye are saved.”

Statements from notable Protestants
regarding justification

What follows are some statements about justification. The following quotations were taken from A. W. Pink’s book, “The Doctrine of Justification,” chapter two.

“We simply explain justification to be an acceptance by which God receives us into His favour and esteems us as righteous persons; and we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ…Justification, therefore, is no other than an acquittal from guilt of him who was accused, as though his innocence has been proved. Since God, therefore, justifies us through the mediation of Christ, He acquits us, not by an admission of our personal innocence, but by an imputation of righteousness; so that we, who are unrighteous in ourselves, are considered as righteous in Christ” (John Calvin, 1559).

“What is justification? Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which He pardoneth all their sins, accepteth and accounteth their persons righteous in His sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone” (Westminster Catechism, 1643).

A. W. Pink wrote the following about justification: “It is not that God treats as righteous one who is not actually so (that would be fiction), but that He actually constitutes the believer so, not by infusing a holy nature in his heart, but by reckoning the obedience of Christ to his account. Christ’s obedience is legally transferred to him so that he is now rightly and justly regarded as righteous by the Diving Law” (A. W. Pink, “The Doctrine of Justification,” chapter 5; parenthesis original).

Those who believe in justification by faith alone use the following scriptures to support their view. Romans 4:5, God “justifieth the ungodly.” (Note, the JST reads “justifieth not the ungodly.”) And those who have accepted Christ are “now justified by his blood” (Rom. 5:9; italics mine) and “have been justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1; italics mine). And “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28). They also interpret James 2:24, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only,” to mean that works are an effect of faith. “[Paul] speaks of our persons being justified before God, [James] speaks of our faith being justified before men…Thus we see that our persons are justified before God by faith, but our faith is justified before men by works” (Matthew Henery’s Commentary on the Bible). It is true that James speaks of the effects of faith before men: “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” (Jas. 2:18; italics mine).

Theologian William Barclay writes,

“[Justification] means that God treats sinners as if they had not been sinners at all. Instead of treating them as criminals to be obliterated, God treats them as children to be loved. That is what justification means. It means that God treats us not as his enemies but as his friends…That is the very essence of the Gospel.

“That means that to be justified is to enter into a new relationship with God, a relationship of love and confidence and friendship…Justification (dikaiosune) is the right relationship between God and human beings. The person who is just (dikaios) is someone who is in this right relationship, and – here is the supreme point – who is in it not because of anything that he or she has done, but because of what God has done. Such people are in this right relationship not because they have meticulously performed the works of the law, but because in utter faith they have cast themselves on the amazing mercy and love of God. (William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, p. 27; italics original).

It is only fair to point out that not every Protestant writer would go so far as to say, “Christ’s obedience is legally transferred to [the sinners account].” Barclay’s statement is impresumptuous: justification comes “because in utter faith they have cast themselves on the amazing mercy and love of God.”

I must admit, I cannot find a scripture that says the righteousness of one person is reckoned to another. The following quote is taken from Vincent’s Word Studies, commentary on Romans 4:5. It is quoted exactly as given:

“Observe that the believer's own faith is reckoned as righteousness. ‘In no passage in Paul’s writings or in other parts of the New Testament, where the phrase to reckon for or the verb to reckon alone is used, is there a declaration that anything belonging to one person is imputed, accounted, or reckoned to another, or a formal statement that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers’ (President Dwight, ‘Notes on Meyer’).”

Our differences in belief can be made evident by comparing passages from the Joseph Smith Translation with the King James Version. The strikeouts indicate things removed and the brackets indicate things added.

Rom. 4:5 But to him that worketh not [seeketh not to be justified by the law of works], but believeth on him that justifieth [not] the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

Rom. 4:6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without [the law of] works,

Rom. 4:16 Therefore it is [ye are justified] of faith [and works], that it might be by [through] grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,

Rom. 8:8 So then they that are in [after] the flesh cannot please God.

Rom. 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified [sanctified]: and whom he justified [sanctified], them he also glorified.

End Notes____________________________
[1] Penitent: “Suffering pain or sorrow of heart on account of sins, crimes or offenses; contrite; sincerely affected by a sense of guilt and resolving on amendment of life” (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).

Contrite: “Literally, worn or bruised. Hence, broken-hearted for sin; deeply affected with grief and sorrow for having offended God; humble; penitent; as a contrite sinner” (Ibid.).

[2] We can imagine that Abraham’s humility was not unlike Nephi’s who said,

O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. (2 Nephi 4:17-19)

[3] Recall that after a woman of ill repute anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and washed them with her tears, the Pharisees complained saying, “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” Jesus answered by saying, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven…Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” The point is that we all need much repentance, and if we repent a lot we are forgiven a lot: “as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mosiah 26:30). But if we repent little we are forgiven little and our love and gratitude to God is equally small: “to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” But those who seek repentance are blessed of God. This woman had “wash his feet with [her] tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.” She had a testimony that Jesus could forgive sins and by her sorrow and actions sought true repentance. But only after she had performed those works did Jesus say, “Thy sins are forgiven.”

[4] This act was the final test for Abraham to receive a guarantee that he would inherit eternal life. Elder Bruce R. McConkie said,

“By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord,” was the language used by Deity in giving the promise of eternal life “unto Abraham.” (Gen. 22:15-16.) That is, God swore with an oath in his own name that Abraham would be saved, which divine assertion absolutely guaranteed the eventuality. Abraham’s calling and election was thus made sure. (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. 3, p. 164)

[This act of being sealed up unto eternal life is] when the ratifying seal of approval is placed upon someone whose calling and election is thereby made sure -- because there are no more conditions to be met by the obedient person. (Ibid. p. 336)

[5] Paul wrote to the Romans, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10). They key to understanding the meaning is found in two things. In the phrase “with the heart a man believeth unto righteousness.” Righteousness requires obedience with faith. And “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Paul is speaking to people who are already making an effort to be obedient to God, but were relying on “the deeds of the law” for their salvation. Faith needed to be added to their effort. As Paul put it, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (HCSB, Gal. 3:2).

[6] From the Book of Mormon we know that after many of the Lamanites were converted to the Gospel they buried their weapons of war. Their king explained it in this way: “since it has been all that we could do…to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain” (Alma 24:11; italics mine). Their justification (innocence before the law) necessitated faith that Christ can forgive sins and an effort to make restitution.