Mormonism and Christianity/Grace and works/Mormon perspective

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Mormonism and the relationship between grace and works

Question: How do Mormons see the relationship between works and grace?

Differences in terminology

Two LDS authors insightfully described the LDS doctrine of grace and salvation, and compared it to the schema used by many Protestants, as follows:

(1) Latter-day Saints believe that our individual sins (not just the original sin introduced by Adam) are forgiven as a result of God's grace. (2) Latter-day Saints believe that salvation (in the Protestant sense of that term—salvation from death and hell, coupled with immortality in the presence of God) is graciously and unconditionally granted to all but sons of perdition; (3) For Latter-day Saints the real issue of salvation has to do with the individual's continued growth into God's likeness (sanctification) and exaltation, which are the synergistic outcome of divine grace and human striving. It is the Latter-day Saint degrees-of-glory eschatology that does not fit nicely with Protestant models of grace, grafted as they are to a heaven-or-hell eschatology...

Salvation is an all-or-nothing affair for most Protestants, making the distinction between "born again" and "unregenerate" correspond exactly to that between "saved" and "damned." For Latter-day Saints, though, most of the "unregenerate" receive a degree of glory—one which passes all earthly understanding (DC 76:89)—for having chosen to come to earth and for deciding not to deny the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Latter-day Saints hold that the life led by those receiving lower degrees of glory is substantially different than that supposedly enjoyed in Protestant heaven or hell. Those in the telestial kingdom for instance (and thus some of those that are "saved") do not enjoy the full presence of the Godhead as they would in Protestant versions of heaven. However, the absence of the Father and the Son (which in this respect would equate to Protestant notions of hell) is a far cry from the Protestant notion of eternal torment, as they still enjoy the presence of God, the Holy Spirit, and a glory beyond human comprehension. Similarly, the residents of the terrestrial kingdom are neither clearly "saved" nor clearly "damned" according to Protestant definitions: they have accepted the testimony of Jesus (corresponding to "saved") but have not been valiant therein and receive only the "glory" and not the "full presence" of the Father (corresponding in this sense to "damned"). Clearly, given these and other differences, the Latter-day Saint understanding of salvation cannot be directly correlated to Protestant soteriology and eschatology...

Latter-day Saints do not accept the Protestant assumption that faith/grace and human agency/actions/works constitute two separate grammars of discourse. To the contrary, we believe that it is false and that James and even Paul, as well as living prophets, make it clear that faith/grace and human agency/actions/works are actually inseparable.[1]


Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb: Joseph Smith does not reject the efficacy or necessity of grace

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[2]

Two corrections of common misrepresentations of Smith’s theology need to be made at this point. First, Mormons are often charged with denying the efficacy of grace and thus making salvation dependent upon the exercise of the individual’s free will. All theologians use the language of effort, reform, and growth, so this is not a fair charge.... In any case, Smith describes the process of sanctification as being “from grace to grace.” Rather than replicating Pelagianism, Smith is siding with that aspect of the Christian tradition best represented by Thomas Aquinas, which says we can and must cooperate with divine grace in order to permit it to actualize our potential for divinization. [3]:96–97


Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb: Mormons reject the legacy of Augustine: especially of humanity's corruption due to original sin

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[2]

Mormonism is not the return of Eutyches, but it just might be a form of Christianity deprived of the influence of Augustine. This is true in a variety of ways....First, Mormonism’s optimistic view of humanity puts it firmly on the side against Augustine’s doctrine of original sin. [3]:89


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

Notes

  1. David L. Paulsen and Cory G. Walker, "Work, Worship, and Grace: Review of The Mormon Culture of Salvation: Force, Grace and Glory by Douglas J. Davies," FARMS Review 18/2 (2006): 83–177. off-site wiki, italics in original, see footnote 11 for some of the quoted text.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Webb is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He is a graduate of Wabash College and earned his PhD at the University of Chicago before returning to his alma mater to teach. Born in 1961 he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church. He joined the Disciples of Christ during He was briefly a Lutheran, and on Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stephen H. Webb, "Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints (reprint from his book Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012)," Brigham Young University Studies 50 no. 3 (2011).
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