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An Email From a Mormon


Part Two of Two




Donna, (Sister Morley - You're protests to the contrary, I still see you as a sister).


Tom, you are a very kind man. Thank you for your brotherly words.



Thank you so much for responding in such a detailed and thoughtful way.


I only do what Jesus would have me do. You deserve nothing less.



First of all I'd like to apologize, not for sending the email, but- after reading it again I'm afraid it was somewhat sharper than I really intended it to be. But like you I am very passionate about my beliefs.


I respect those who are passionate and want to think deeply about things.



Regardless of my bumbling initial contact, I'm blown away at the time and energy you put into your response and at your sincerity. I have no doubt that you are a wonderful Christian woman and that your motives are pure. And If it's alright I'd very much like to respond to your comments. But, I'll need a little time to respond comprehensively and appropriately.


I appreciate the fact that you would like to respond to my comments. I look forward to seeing what you have to say. Don't worry, I won't take offense.


In the mean time, I was wondering if you would explain to me your beliefs on the fundimental doctorines of - Salvation, Grace, Sin and Repentance.


I will be happy to share with you my beliefs about salvation, grace, sin and repentance. Because I do discuss some of these topics in my book, I will not discuss what I wrote in the book here, but I will expound upon my beliefs to give you a clear understanding of what I believe. I warn you though—sometimes I will be a bit redundant. It's only because I am driving home a few points, which I hope you will clearly see.


Rather than begin with my views on salvation, it might make more sense to begin with the doctrine of sin. I firmly believe that the doctrine of salvation is strongly influenced by our understanding of sin.


SIN:


I will first briefly discuss my belief in the doctrine of original sin. I know that we differ in this area. Let me try to help you understand why I believe this.


All of us, without exception, are sinners (Romans 3:23). By this I mean that we don't just merely sin, but that all of us have a nature which inclines us toward sin. Sin, then, becomes virtually inevitable. You may ask, how can this be? What is the basis for your belief original sin?


Paul tells us what original sin is: "Therefore as sin came into the world through ONE man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Romans 5:12). Here, Paul is speaking about Adam's sin in the garden of Eden. This thought is repeated in several different ways in the succeeding verses:


* "For if many died through ONE man's trespass" (Romans 5:15)


* "For the judgment following ONE trespass brought condemnation" (Romans 5:16)


* "If, because of ONE man's trespass, death reigned through that ONE man" (Romans 5:17)


* "Then as ONE man's trespass led to condemnation for all men" (Romans 5:18)


* "For by ONE man's disobedience many were made sinners" (Romans 5:19)


The apostle Paul is arguing that because of Adam's sin, we now have condemnation; we were made sinners and that death is the consequence of sin. It all started with "ONE man's trespass" (Romans 5:15).


My understanding then, is as follows: As the above verses show, we become guilty of original sin, and thus receive both the corrupted nature that was Adam's after the fall, and the guilt and condemnation that attach to his sin. If you are wondering about infants, I firmly believe there is no condemnation until one reaches the age of responsibility, as shown in the account of David's child who died as an infant. He knew that he would see his child again (2 Samuel 12:23; there are other ways to support the age of accountability).


I believe that many people do not want to grasp the concept of sin. The idea of SIN as an inner force, an inherent condition, a controlling power, is largely ignored. People today think more in terms of SINS, that is, individual wrong acts, where they are something that is external and concrete; they are logically separable from the person. On this basis, if one has not done anything wrong (again, generally conceived as an external act), he considers himself good; there is no thought of sin, or that he is a sinful person. The problem with this thinking, is that we don't need to look at the heart, the inner person, where our thoughts reveal who we really are.


So, despite appearing to be a good person outwardly, "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23). The Bible not only affirms we are all sinners, but it also abundantly illustrates this fact. I am not just speaking about the blatant sinners who appear in the pages of Scripture, such as the Samaritan woman in John 4 and the thieves on the cross. I am including "good" people.


It's quite remarkable that Scripture presents the "good" people, the "righteous" people, and even the heroes of Scriptures as sinners. There are several examples of sinners in the Old Testament--Noah, Abraham, Moses, David. In the New Testament we read of the shortcomings of Jesus' disciples. Peter's sins brought him several rebukes from Jesus, the most severe being "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men (Matthew 16:23). Selfish ambition and pride were revealed not only in the attempt of James and John to be named to the places of authority at Jesus' right and left hands, but also in the resentment and indignation of the other disciples (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 22:24-27). This incident is all the more amazing in that it came not long after they had disputed which of them was the greatest, and Jesus had responded with a speech on the necessity of servanthood (Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48).


What we can ask, how sinful is the sinner? How deep is our sin? Are we basically pure, with a positive inclination toward the good, or are we totally and absolutely corrupt? Jesus made the point of showing the inward nature of sin, in contrast to the Judaism of the Pharisees. Sin is very much a matter of inward thoughts and intentions. It's not enough that we don't commit murder---if we are angry with our brother we are liable to judgment (Matthew 5:21-22). It is not enough that we have abstained from committing adultery. If we lust after a person in our heart, we have committed adultery already (Matthew 5:27-28).


Jesus put it even more strongly in Matthew 12:33-35, where actions are regarded as coming from the heart. Our actions are what they are because we are what we are---sinners. It cannot be otherwise. Evil actions and words stem from the evil thoughts of the heart (Matthew 15:18-19).


Paul's own self-testimony also is a powerful argument that it is the corruption of human nature that produces individual sins. He recalls that "while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death" (Romans 7:5). He also says, "in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members (Romans 7:23).


The Bible shows us that there is such a thing as "total depravity." I use this term carefully. I do not mean by total depravity that the unregenerate person is completely unaware of their conscience, or that they do not know the difference between right and wrong. For Paul writes of the Gentiles that they have the law written on their hearts so that "their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them" (Romans 2:15)


Further, total depravity does not mean that the sinful man is as sinful as he can possibly be, nor does he involve himself in every possible form of sin. He does not continuously commit horrible sins. There are people who are genuinely altruistic, who show kindness, generosity, and love to others, who are good, devoted spouses and parents. There are some people that are completely irreligious, who have engaged in acts of heroism by either saving the life of a person, or through serving our country. These actions, insofar, as they are in conformity with God's will and law, are pleasing to God. But they are not in any way meritorious. They do not qualify a person for salvation, or contribute to it any way. For instance, I have a brother who lives in Vienna, Austria and being influenced by the society in Vienna, he has become a devout atheist. He refuses to hear anything about Jesus Christ. He gets upset if you even pray over the evening meal. Despite his verbal dislike for the things of God--you would never know it by his actions. Outwardly, he is a very "good" person. He does "good" things for others, and even follows the ten commandments. People who do not know he's an atheist, consider him to be a "Christian"---actually, a very good Christian man. Obviously then, good works or following God's commandments, cannot classify an individual as Christian--or as being saved. If that were the case, then even an atheist, who outwardly is a "good" person but inwardly opposes the will of God, and denies His existence---will be in Heaven.


While mankind looks at the outer appearance (such as people's good works), God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He knows the secrets of man's heart (Psalm 44:21) and says the intent of the heart is evil (Genesis 8:21) No amount of good will save my brother, nor save me, nor save you.


So, after the above synopsis, what do I mean by total depravity? First, that sin is a matter of the entire person----it involves the person's body (Romans 6:6; 12; 7:24; 8:10, 13), their mind and reasoning (Romans 1:21; 2 Corinthians 3:14-15; 4:4), their emotions (Romans 1:26-27; Galatians 5:24 and 2 Timothy 3:2-4) and their will (Romans 6:17; 2 Timothy 2:25-26).


Also, total depravity involves improper motives. No matter how hard we may try, our good acts are not done entirely or even primarily out of perfect love for God. In each case there is another factor; whether the preference of one's own self-interest or of some other object less than God. Thus, while there may appear to be good and desirable behavior, and we may be inclined to feel that it could not in any way be sinful, yet even the good is tainted such that there is no act or thought which God can 100 percent approve.


The Pharisees who so often dialogued with Jesus did many good things (Matthew 23:23), but they had no real love for God. Jesus said to them, "You search the scriptures (this of course was good), because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you" (John 5:39-42).


Sometimes sinfulness is covered by a genteel layer of charm and graciousness. Yet, as the doctrine of total depravity indicates, under that veneer is a heart not truly inclined to God. A man by the name of Langdon Gilkey tells how he discovered this truth in a Japanese prison camp. He had been raised in cultured circles. His father was dean of Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago, and Langdon had attended Yale University. He had known thoughtful generous people. But when in a prison camp with many of the same type of people, he saw a different side of human nature. Here, where there was a shortage of everything, the selfishness that is natural to humans manifested itself, sometimes in quite spectacular fashion. Space was at a premium, and so definite allotments were made, as equitably as possible for everyone. Gilkey was in charge of housing assignments. He encountered a number of people with elaborate explanations of why they should have more space than others. Some people moved their beds a fraction of an inch each night in order to gain just a bit more space. Among these offenders were even some Christian missionaries. Gilkey's story is a reminder of what happens in situations of exigency, and may be a better indication of the true condition of man's heart than are the normal circumstances of life.


All of us would like to think we would do the right thing, even under the most difficult circumstances....but, it's most likely we will fall short. I know that I fall short, and though I don't know you Layne, I know the Bible says you fall short too. No matter how "good" we try to be we all "sin and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment" (Isaiah 64:6).


So, Tom, no matter how many Mormon ordinances you perform; no matter how involved you are in the Mormon priesthood---no matter how many commandments you obey---no matter how GOOD you try to be---you will always fall short somehow.


Also, if you can lose your salvation based upon one small sin (all sin, even the smallest is an offense to God and separates us from Him), then you can never have assurance of salvation. This is completely opposite Scriptural truth. We can have an assurance of our salvation. The doctrine of eternal security rests upon the proper concept of what God actually does when He saves a soul. First, Jesus loves His own who are in the world (John 13:1); Jesus promises to give eternal life to those who belong to Him, and He promises they shall NEVER perish; and NO ONE shall snatch them out of His hand (John 10:28-30). Jesus will have us stand in the presence of His glory blameless (Jude 24). Jesus saves us FOREVER, and if we sin, He is our Advocate with the Father, always making intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1). His Spirit has sealed us until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); His Word guarantees that nothing (including ourselves) can separate us from Christ (Romans 8:28-39). In order to lose one's salvation all of these works of God would have to be undone, and the Bible nowhere even hints that this is possible.


Total depravity means that the sinner is completely unable to extricate himself from his sinful conditionno amount of hard work and sincerity will do it; it takes God working on us from the outside. The goodness we do is tainted by less than perfect love for God, and therefore cannot serve to justify us in God's sight. But apart from that, good and lawful actions cannot be maintained consistently. The sinner cannot alter his life by a process of determination, will power, and reformation. SIN IS INESCAPABLE. This fact is depicted in Scripture's frequent references to sinners as "spiritually dead." Paul writes, "And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sin in which you once walked....When we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive" (Ephesians 2:1-5). the same expression is found in Colossians 2:13. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of "dead works" (Hebrews 6:1; 9:4). These various expressions do not mean that the sinners are absolutely insensitive and unresponsible to spiritual stimuli, but, rather, that they are unable to do what they ought.


Unless we have the Spirit of God dwelling within us, we are incapable of genuinely good, redeeming works---whatever we do---it is dead or ineffective in relationship to God. Salvation by works is absolutely impossible to satisfy our sin nature, or to get us to Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9). [So the point is that] Christ is the ONLY offering that satisfied God concerning our past, present and future sins (cf. Romans 3:25).


Tom, when I was a Catholic I tried to live a perfect life in my own strength. But, I became frustrated because no matter how hard I tried, I knew that I still fell short. I never had any guarantee of salvation. I just wasn't satisfied with my "good works" despite the fact I obeyed God's commandments, abided by the sacraments, went to confession...etc. Everyone who knew me, thought of me as a nice "Christian" girl. Yet, I knew what was going on in my heart. I didn't have pure motives for anything I did. I tried so hard to get to Heaven by those good deeds----but I discovered, "There is none that does good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:3b; 53:3b; Romans 3:12). Also, "They are all alike corrupt [depraved]" (Psalm 43:3a; 53:3a). The Bible was clearly describing me.


Again, we are totally unable to do genuinely meritorious works sufficient to qualify God's favor. This is why we need Jesus for our salvation. He became a ransom for us. Because the penalty of sin is death; Christ paid that penalty by dying in our place (Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6) that we may be saved.


If we rely upon our own goodness as a way to help us get saved, then Christ died needlessly (Galatians 2:21). He was tortured, He bled, He suffered in vain, if His death doesn't satisfy the penalty of sin. But, according to Jesus, His death does satisfy. It does complete our salvation. He Himself said, "It is finished!" (John 19:30). To those who embrace His grace, and believe by faith in Him alone (and nothing or no one else), then Christ's sacrifice makes His righteousness available to us (Philippians 3:9) and makes our salvation complete.


REPENTANCE:


There are forms of REGRET over one's wrongdoing which are based upon wrong motivations. One form of regret may be motivated by a little more than selfishness. If we have sinned and the consequences are unpleasant, we may well regret what we have done. But that is not true repentance.


REAL repentance is sorrow for one's sin because of the wrong done to God and the hurt inflicted upon Him. This godly sorrow is accompanied by a genuine desire to abandon that sin. In the case of true repentance, there is regret over the sin even if the sinner has not suffered any unfortunate personal effects because of it.


The Bible's repeated emphasis upon the necessity of repentance is an incontrovertible argument against what [some call] "cheap grace" or "easy believism." It is not enough simply to believe in Jesus and accept the offer of grace; there must be a real alteration of the inner person. The true born-again believer will not habitually sin (sin as a regular way of life).


It is important to note that good works do not CAUSE salvation, they are a RESULT of salvation. The difference is crucial. The Bible says we cannot get to heaven by trying to be good because we can never reach God's perfect standard. Yet a true believer will lead a righteous life, not because he is trying to earn heaven–which is impossible–but because He has been changed on the inside by God Himself.


True born-again Christians show it by living righteously in that sin is not the unbroken pattern of their lives. The Holy Ghost (Spirit) dwells in them the moment they surrender their life to Christ. The Spirit convicts them of even the smallest of sins....the believer is grieved and immediately goes to the Lord for forgiveness. As the Bible says, "No one who is born of God practices sin because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John 3:9). In Greek "practices sin" it is the present tense, indicating continual action: no believer sins as a pattern in his life.


Those who have repented and surrender their entire lives to Jesus Christ--becoming His disciple--become "one with Christ." Jesus says, "Abide in me and I in you....APART FROM ME, YOU CAN DO NOTHING " (John 15:4-5). This means, apart from Christ, we can't live in obedience to His will; we can't have Him living in us (Galatians 2:20); we can't do the works of God (John 14:12) NOTICE: I didn't say "we can't do our works." They aren't our works. We cannot do any works---because they are not our works----they are God's works (Philippians 2:13). This is another good reason as to why works can't save us—they simply are not works that we can take credit for. Again, they are God's works. Our righteousness isn't even our own----we have the righteousness of Christ in us. I would much prefer having Christ's righteousness than my own! As born-again Christians live with the righteousness of Christ, they share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death (Philippians 3:8b-11).


Those who have truly repented and lean wholeheartedly upon Christ and His righteousness (again, not our own righteousness), have a spiritual bond with Christ. Our union is effected by the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit...we believe the two are the same). There is a close relationship between Christ and the Spirit, closer than is often realized: "But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness (Romans 8:9-11, also see 1 Corinthians 12:13). NOTICE HERE: The born-again Christian has a dead body, because of sin. But, the Spirit within us is alive because of CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS.


Because of repentance, the born-again Christians' union with Christ is vital. His life actually flows into theirs, renewing their inner nature (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 4:16) and imparting spiritual strength. There is a literal truth in Jesus' metaphor of the vine and the branches. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit if it does not receive life from the vine, so the born-again Christian cannot bear spiritual fruit if Christ's life did not flow into them (John 15:4).


Because of repentance on the part of the born-again believer, their union with Christ has certain implications for their lives:


* The born-again believer is accounted righteous. Paul wrote, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Because of our union with Christ, we have a right standing in the face of the law and in the sight of God. We are as righteous as is God's own Son, Jesus Christ....but again, it's the Son's righteousness in us.


* The born-again Christian lives in Christ's strength. Paul affirmed, "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). He also claimed, "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20). When Paul struggled with his "thorn in the flesh" probably a physical ailment, he found that although it was not removed, God gave him the grace to bear it (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).


* The born-again Christian knows that being one with Christ means that we may have to suffer. We are glad to suffer if that would bring glory to Him. The bitter cup that Jesus drank, we shall drink (Mark 10:39). The persecution He received, we shall receive (John 15:20). Paul did not shrink from the prospect of suffering (Philippians 3:8-10). And, Peter urged his readers, "But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:13).


Because of repentance, born-again believers know they will reign with Christ---and we believe it's in the only one and TRUE heaven. We know that we will not become gods. We think of the mother who asked for high positions of authority and prestige for her two sons when they are in Heaven (Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-39). Jesus rebuked her and said, "You do not know what you are asking for" (Matthew 20:22). I honestly believe Mormons have no idea what they are truly asking for as they pursue exaltation.


Now, you may be thinking, are there any consequences to the born-again believer who does sin? Yes, God does discipline those whom He loves (see Hebrews 12:1-11). It is part of the educational process by which a believer is fitted to share God's holiness (Hebrews 12:10). It is proof of a genuine love relationship between our Heavenly Father and His children (Hebrews 12:6,8). It helps train us to be obedient (Hebrews 12:9). It produces the fruit of righteousness in our lives (Hebrews 12:11). This discipline is only for God's children.


So, as repentance is the negative aspect of conversion, turning from one's sin, so FAITH is the positive aspect, laying hold upon the promises and the work of Christ. Faith is the very heart of the gospel, for it is the vehicle by which we are enabled to receive the grace of God.


GOD'S GRACE:


We all are sinners---and deserve eternal death in hell---for the penalty of sin is death. But, through God's grace, (undeserved favor) we are justified------"just-as-if-I had never sinned." I also define GRACE with an acrostic: God's Riches At Christ's Expense. The back side of that is God rejects all carnal efforts. The penalty for our sin has been paid, and the requirements of the law have been fulfilled----and the righteousness of Christ has been credited to us.


Numerous passages of Scripture indicate God's grace (justification) is a gift of God. One of the best known is Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Another verse is: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).


God's grace is something completely undeserved. It is not an achievement. It is an obtainment, NOT an attainment. Even faith is not some good work which God must reward salvation. It is God's gift. It is not the cause of our salvation, but the means by which we receive it. And, contrary to the thinking of some, it has always been the means of salvation.


In his discussion of Abraham, Paul points out to his readers that Abraham was NOT justified by works, but by faith. He makes this point both positively and negatively. He affirms that "Abraham 'believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness'" (Galatians 3:6). Paul REJECTS the idea that we can be justified by works, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse....Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law" (Galatians 3:10-11). So God has not introduced a new means of salvation----HE HAS ALWAYS WORKED IN THE SAME WAY.


The principle of salvation by grace alone is something that is difficult for many people to accept. The Galatians had a hard time with it, and because of that, brought legalism into the church (something Paul confronted them on). Somehow it does not seem right to us that we should receive salvation without having to do anything for it or to suffer somewhat for our sins. Or if that does not seem to be the case with respect to ourselves, it certainly does seem to be the case with respect to others, especially those who have an evil character. If they should repent, ask forgiveness, and receive God's grace it seems somehow "unfair" that they should escape eternal punishment---especially in the case of the murderer.


But, those who receive God's grace and have truly repented, become "born-again." The Bible says, they are "a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). Being a new creature "in Christ" (1 Corinthians 5:17) God no longer considers the murderer--a murderer; the adulterer an adulterer, the sinner--a sinner. They have a new heart--and they no longer live but Christ lives in them (Galatians 2:20). Although we still sin (because we will always be imperfect), God only sees His Son's righteousness in us.


The outcome of God's grace is "For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10). Our life is God's workmanship—not by works. The Law says, "Do this and live" BUT as God's workmanship, he says, "Live and do this." And what are we to do? God's will. We are to love the Lord with our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37); have a TRUE knowledge of Jesus Christ–the One who created us (Colossians 3:10); to fix all hope on God–who supplies all our needs (1 Timothy 6:17); to be complete in Christ for every good work (Colossians 1:28-29); to let the word of Christ dwell richly in us (Colossians 3:16).


Yes, we are created for "good works," but not as a way to gain salvation. And, there is absolutely no tension between Paul saying that we are "saved by faith, not by works," and James saying "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2:17; also, 2:26). Both men are basically making the same point. That is, true living faith will produce true works. If we are one with Christ, we will not live according to the flesh, but rather by the Spirit (Romans 8:1-17). Living by the Spirit---we live in the righteousness of Christ---we do the works of God (again, not our works).


Again, the union with Christ, which brings justification (undeserving Grace), also brings the new life. We enter into a private and very personal relationship with Jesus Christ---we become a new person---and we are SAVED. We talk to Jesus, and we listen to what He has to say to us, "for in Him we live and move and exist" (Acts 17:28).


SALVATION:


Not everyone will be saved. I say this with great sadness. But Jesus makes it completely clear, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). The Bible also makes it clear: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).


Paul and Silas were asked by their jailer, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved." (Acts 16:30). Notice they didn't discuss works as a part of salvation. Why not? They knew that if the jailer were to give his life to Jesus Christ our Lord and God, then God, in him, would perform His works in the jailers life. Jesus Christ's own righteousness would become the jailers righteousness.


Those who are saved proclaim: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).


This above verses reveal to the TRUE born-again Christian that they cannot lose their salvation:


* Their salvation is incapable of being destroyed.


* Their salvation cannot be corrupted or spoiled by something impure.


* Their salvation is permanent---it endures.


Confident of God's continual working in our lives, we believe "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).


Christ does not simply give us eternal life and then abandon us to our human self-efforts. Rather, the work begun in us, is continued until it is completed: "And I am sure that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). To stress the point again---- it's the Lord doing the work in us...not we ourselves.


Far from easy "believism", the born-again believers pick up their cross and follows Jesus. BUT, THE CROSS THEY CARRY---ISN'T CARRIED ALONE. The Lord helps us---we are completely dependent upon Him for everything, especially since His life flows through us (John 15:1-11).


The born-again believer doesn't live life pursuing salvation---we know we have it. "I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may KNOW that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13, also John 10:27-28). How could one have this assurance if it were possible to lose salvation? This verse clearly shows, that regardless of our imperfections, the born-again believer can have assurance of salvation---their salvation is completely secure. Another point is that, because the Holy Spirit dwells within the born-again believer, it's impossible for them to loose their salvation. Think about this a moment: It's impossible for spiritual death to come to someone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.


You may wonder...well, what about when you sin? We of course repent, but here's the wonderful part---a part I've been talking about. Those of us who are "one with Christ" have help. Jesus Himself helps us deal with and overcome whatever obstacles and temptations that come our way. I can say for a fact He helps and as the Bible confirms: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape; that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13; Philippians 4:13).

As a Latter Day Saint I have a very clear understanding of these concepts as they relate to my personal beliefs. However, I'm unclear exactly how the act of being "Saved" relates to the principles of sin and repentance. If one has been Saved are sins automatically forgiven, or is there a process of repentance one still needs to go through?


I hope you can now see that those who are truly saved, are indeed forgiven for their past, present and future sins. By God's undeserved favor (grace) they are savedand not because of themselves. It's a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).


There is no continual process one needs to go through. Jesus helps us through temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), and gives us His righteousness (Philippians 3:9), since our righteousness is like a "filthy garment" ( Isaiah 64:6).


The works that are performed in us—are not our works–they are God's works (Philippians 2:13). This is why we can't get to Heaven based upon works—our works, again are nothing other than dirty rags.


And, just as I said above, Jesus has given us complete assurance of salvation (1 John 5:13, also John 10:27-28). Our salvation is incapable of being destroyed, of being corrupted, and it is permanent (1 Peter 1:3-5).


I understand that a person who's heart has really changed, or has been "Born Again", is in a real and profound way a different person and desires to do Gods will. Nevertheless we are all still prone to weakness and sin, I don't believe it is you doctrine to suggest that the act of being Saved makes us perfect from that time forward.


No—we can't be perfect. It's impossible. This is why Jesus Christ born-again believers need Jesus. Perfection comes from Him. He is the PERFECTER of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). It is very clear in Scripture that it's Jesus who does the perfecting of His followers (Hebrews 10:14).


Tom, born-again believers completely depend upon Jesus for EVERYTHING. He is our Lord, our Savior, our God. Born-again Christians know they can't even come close to God's holiness, and sinlessness. We trust in His love, His grace, His mercy, and His Word to see us into glory. And, there, we shall worship Him in complete humility forever, knowing that through Him alone, we got into His kingdom.


Be assured I'm not looking for an argument, merely clarity


I know you aren't looking for an argument.

You may be aware of an expression that is often quoted in the LDS Church that " It is by Grace we are saved, after all we can do."


Yes, the above is more than an expression, it's an important verse in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 25:23). It sure is in contradiction to Ephesians 2:8-9.


The inference being that we have a responsibility to keep Gods commandment and to live a Christ like life to the best of our individual
capability. But, regardless of how diligent we are it is only through the Atoning Blood of Christ and His Grace that we can be saved.


With respect, I say, Mormons do not give much credit to Christ. They are depending upon their own individual capability, as you say. But, no matter how hard you work at it, you will always come short (Romans 3:23). Nothing will satisfy God. This is why we need to place our complete trust in Christ for our salvation. True godliness is not only understanding who God is, but it's also ascribing to Him ALL power and wisdom. And, it is through His divine power, born again Christians have been granted "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3); we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).


Tom, if you firmly believe that salvation comes through the Atoning Blood of Christ and His grace (undeserved favor), then why are in you in the Mormon church?
Your prophet Brigham Young said, "I am the only person that can possibly save myself" (JD 1:312). He also said, "salvation is an individual work; it is every person for themselves" (JD 2:132).


Your own "Doctrines of Salvation" states, "NO SALVATION WITHOUT ACCEPTING JOSEPH SMITH...no man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Doctrines of Salvation, 1954, 1:189-90, upper case and italics in original quote).


Tom, if you were to deny Joseph Smith, you would be kicked out of the Mormon Church. And, you would be viewed of having lost your salvation, of being allowed in the Celestial Kingdom (a kingdom that does not exist).


The Mormon church rejects God's full pardon and the complete efficacy of His Atoning Blood for all people. For example, they don't believe the murderer has access to this incredible grace (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, page 92). This is contrary to what the Bible says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).


"All have sinned". I'm wondering if the diffence in your belief and mine on this one issue may be more a difference of emphasis. Latter Day Saints believing that striving for righteousness and sincere sorrow for sin makes us worthy of the Saviors Grace (to back this belief up we point to scriputes such as Matt 7:21 and the Epistle of James).


Again, born Again Christians do not strive for righteousness in order to make us worthy of God's grace. They know their righteousness is nothing other than a "dirty garment." When we commit our entire life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we are hidden in His righteousness (Philippians 3:9).


Since we sin all the day (through words, thoughts, feelings, emotions...) when does a Mormon feel worthy?


Born-Again Christians know they will never become "worthy" on their own. They need Jesus Christ. Again, He will have them stand in the presence of His glory blameless (Jude 24). He is their Advocate with the Father, always making intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1). His Spirit has sealed them until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30); His Word guarantees that nothing can separate them from Christ (Romans 8:28-39).


The Savior's grace is NOT given to us because we have made ourselves "worthy." It is because we are "unworthy" and undeserving of God's favor that we are given grace...and the free gift of eternal life (Ephesians 2:8-9)


Where as, the Protestant Christian is more inclined to believe the act of accepting Christ into your heart as a life changing event prompts one to seek rightouness.


Again, with Christ living in the born again believer (Galatians 2:20) we have true knowledge of Christ (Philippians 3:8); we have His righteousness (Philippians 3:9). We don't need to seek it. I would prefer having Christ's righteousness any day rather than my own! We have the power of Christ (Philippians 3:10), and fellowship with Him (Philippians 3:10b).


"Not that I have already obtained, it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus...I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13).


Rather than seek our own righteousness, born-again Christians seek after true godliness which understands who God really is, as well, ascribe to Him ALL power and wisdom. And, it is through His divine power, born again Christians have been granted "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3); we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).


Tom, isn't being a partaker of the divine nature better than seeking one's own righteousness?

Which brings me to my original question- How does being Saved" relate to the principles of sin and repentance? After being saved can one fall from grace? If you've been Saved does it matter what you do?


After a person repents of their sins and surrenders their life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, they become "a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is what the change in salvation bringsthey are a new creature that results in a changed style of life where they no longer live for themselves, but for Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:15) and because all the old things in one's life are gone, they have a new life in Christ.


Yes, it matters what we do----accepting Christ does not give us a license to sin (Romans 6:1-2). Our motive for the Christian life is loving Christ. For instance, I wouldn't do anything to intentionally hurt my husband, because of my love for him. LOVE is the motive for living the Christian life. And, just like I wouldn't want to hurt my husband, I certainly wouldn't want to sin intentionally because it would hurt Christ. Because of my love for Him and my appreciation for what He did on the cross for meI desire to show Him my love all the days of my life. With that said, my love isn't perfect...it never will be while living in this sinful and selfish world. No matter how hard I try, I will not be perfecteven in my love to Christ. This is another benefit to being born-again...I don't have to be perfect, I don't have strive towards righteousness......because....I rely upon the righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:9); I rely upon the works of God working in me (Philippians 2:13); I rely upon my Lord and my God to be my Advocate and Intercessor (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).


Again, to the born-again Christian, JESUS IS OUR ALL. We love Him and devote our entire life to Him. We will not allow any other human being to even take second place to Him.

I remember a number of years ago it was reported that the pornogropher Larry Flint claimed to have become a Christian and was Saved. Obviously, he's got some problems with sin and it's pretty safe to say whatever spiritual experience he may have had didn't change his heart in any significant way so maybe he's not a very good example. But even though this is a really extreme it illustrates the crux of the question. ????


Al Capone also said he became a born-again believer. As I mentioned in my first letter, just because someone says they are a Christian, or even a true Christian (born-again), that doesn't make it so.


When a person is truly saved, the Lord changes the heart....He gives the person His righteousness (rather than them relying upon their own)...and God performs His work in the individual. Best of all, Christ is living in the person (Galatians 2:20).


If Larry Flint truly called upon the Lord there would be an unmistakable change in Him. His heart, soul, and mind would be changed and He would live for Jesus Christ. So, we can ask, in determining if Larry Flint is born again: Does Larry Flint's life show Christ's righteousness; Christ's working in Him; and most of all, Christ living in Him? I don't need to answer this question, I believe Larry Flint can answer this question himself.


As long as mankind has breath, each and everyone of themfrom the "good" person, to the most evil person, has an opportunity to repent of their sins, and call upon the Lord to save them. Jesus loves everyone, even the worst of sinners. He said, "I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Matthew 9:13). He desires that NONE PERISH but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Before I close, I would like to comment on the Book of Mormon verses (2 Nephi 31:14-21) you gave below your name, as you signed off on this last letter to me:

2 NEPHI 31:14-----This verse has Jesus Christ saying that after having received the Holy Ghost, that one can still deny Him. I disagree with this, and don't believe Jesus truly said this.


Jesus promised that the Holy Ghost would indwell and illuminate the true believer (John 14:16-17). Because the Holy Ghost indwells in the born-again Christian, He controls one's thinking and emotions. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit (or Ghost) will lead the born-again Christian into all truth: "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever He hers, He will speak and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you." (John 16:13-14).


Now, certainly, we can recall Peter denying Christ (John 18:24-27), but this was before the Holy Ghost came onto the scene and began indwelling in Christ's followers, which was right after the resurrection (Acts 2:1-13). Peter was with the other believers on the day of Pentecost and preached about this event, reminding the believers about the prophet Joel's testimony of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:14-21). From that day forward, Peter never denied Jesus, but would actually die as a result of his belief in Him (John 21:18-19).


So again, 2 Nephi 31:14 is speaking of an impossibility. Those who truly have the Holy Ghost dwelling within them cannot deny Jesus Christ.


Also, in this verse 14, it has Jesus saying, "it would have been better for you that ye had not known me." This is an erroneous reference to losing one's salvation. NO TRUE BELIEVER can lose their salvation. Those who have the Holy Ghost truly in them, cannot lose their salvation. How can the Divine in us, go to hell with us? It's impossible. You cannot go to hell when you have the Holy Spirit in you.


Lastly, in this verse 14, it has Christ saying that after receiving the Holy Ghost you would speak "a new tongue." Paul the Apostle made it VERY CLEAR that not all would speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30). No where in Bible do we see Jesus speaking in tongues—NOR—making an issue of them.


2 NEPHI 31:15----This verse is talking about Jesus' words being "true and faithful." My question is...what words of Christ? The words in the Book of Mormon that contradict the Bible? This doesn't sound true and faithful. Or, are they the words of Jesus found in Doctrine and Covenants that teach the unscriptural doctrines of polygamy and godhood? These words completely contradict the Bible. Again, such wrong doctrines are not "true and faithful."


2 NEPHI 31:16-----This verse talks about enduring to the end by following the example of the Son. As I mentioned before, there are atheists and even New Agers and others who follow the example of the Son. Could they then be saved?


The BOM notes refer to Mark 13:13. The difference between these two verses is that in Mark 13:13 talks about the true believer being hated by others on the account of Christ's name...but if that person endures (remains loyal) while going through this persecution they shall be saved. The true believer, with the Holy Ghost (Spirit) dwelling in them, WILL endure through persecution. They can't help but do anything else.


2 NEPHI 31:17-----This verse shows baptism as a condition for one's salvation ("for the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water), as well as resulting in a remission your sins. Both views here contradict biblical truth. If you want to know my views on this see my book, pages 133-136.


2 NEPHI 31:18-----This verse continues on from verse 17. While we have been told that baptism helps us in entering the "gate," (vs. 17), we are told that after this we are in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life...yes, and even though we have entered the gate----more is ADDED. We are now told to do according to the commandments.....and "if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. NOW look at verse 19


2 NEPHI 31:19----Despite the fact you have now gotten into this strait and narrow path through repentance, through baptism, and now through the commandments, the question is asked, "I would ask if all is done?" The answer is "Nay." You now need to have "unshaken faith" in Christ.


While I agree that we should have unshaken faith in Christ, the Mormon church adds so many conditions upon one's salvation. How can an individual ever known if they've "done enough?" There are absolutely no guarantees of salvation....so many burdens are put upon you.


This verse also talks about "relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." If this is true, why the baptism? Remember the criminal on the cross? He certainly wasn't baptized, nor did he have anytime to make himself "worthy" by good works, by following the ten commandments....and yet, Jesus promised him, "Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).


2 NEPHI 31:20----"feasting upon the word of Christ"...again, which word is that? The word of Christ from the BOM that contradicts the Bible? The words of Christ in the Bible that contradict Mormon doctrine? The words of Christ in Doctrine and Covenants that contradict the Bible?


2 NEPHI 31:21This verse contradicts your own doctrine on the plurality of God's. It states that the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are "one God, without end." This verse is also in complete contradiction to the Mormon theology books which states, "Latter-Day Saints adhere to the tritheistic concept, proclaiming that the Father and Son are separate beings with perfected bodies of flesh and bones. Mankind is thus literally made in their image. The Holy Ghost is also a separate divine person with a spirit body in the image of God....however we maintain the belief that the members of the godhead are figuratively one" in love, doctrine, testimony, purpose, and power." (Principles and Practices of the Restored Gospel, p. 25).


I don't believe the above statement for a few reasons. First, I don't believe in the Mormon belief of tritheism. It not only contradicts your own BOM, but also the Bible. Your prophet Joseph also contradicts the Bible and the BOM (see History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 6:474). So too does The Articles of the Faith (pgs. 47-48) which discusses the fallacy of the Christian view of the Trinity. Recently, I even read an article from FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies) that upheld the Mormon tritheistic views.


So, whose right....Joseph Smith, the Mormon church, and Farms who say there are three Gods; or your BOM when it comes to the belief in "one God"? If you say the prophet, the church and FARMS, then you are clearly stating that the BOM is wrong. If you say the BOM is right, then you are clearly saying your prophet, the church and FARMS is wrong. Either way.....Mormonism is faced with a contradiction.


Also, I disagree with your theology book's view of the Father. Joseph Smith said the Father has flesh and bones, BUT Jesus says the Father is Spirit (John 4:24). Who would you prefer to believe—Joseph who is wrong in other areas as well, or Jesus who lived with the Father before coming here to earth?


Thank you again for your time and interest.


Tom
BoM 2 Nephi 31: 14-21


Thank you for your time and interest as well :-)


If I don't hear from you soon, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. May we focus upon God's mercy that led Jesus to the manger, and His love that nailed Christ on the Cross (John 3:16).


Blessings,


Donna Morley
Hebrews 13:8 and Malachi 3:6 [in contrast to these views, see the BOM, Mormon 9:9]



Final note from Donna to our Faith and Reason audience:


It is our hope that Tom's heart, soul and mind was pricked by the truth offered. Because I haven't heard back to him, he still may be struggling over the truth presented.

You may recall that Tom was to write back and give documentation that the things I quoted in A Christian Woman’s Guide to Understanding Mormonism, were not true. As well, that the Mormon doctrine I discussed was “not true,” and that, the Smith contemporaries I quoted in the book were, “murders, rapists and terrorists.” I challenged him by simply asking for an example.


At the beginning of this second email Tom wrote, “I'll need a little time to respond comprehensively and appropriately.” It’s now been over a year since Tom wrote those words, and he never got back to me to give me just one example of the quotes I gave in the book as being not true. Nor did I receive one example of where I was wrong in Mormon doctrine. Nor did he give me just one example of a Joseph Smith contemporary as being a murderer, a rapist, or even a terrorist.


I take it that Tom was not able to find even one example, because, as he probably found out, all information in “Understanding Mormonism” is taken from Mormon sources. If he argues with the information, I hope he is now arguing with his own Mormon beliefs.


Let us pray for Tom and his salvation!



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