I was giving somebody a ride recently when he volunteered that they had been to Temple Square in Salt Lake City where he learned about the Mormons. Then he said, “One thing I didn’t like is the idea that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and His Resurrection was not enough for salvation.”
My mind raced to memories of Temple Square. I couldn’t recall any exhibits with labels like, “Jesus: The Inadequate Messiah,” “Why Jesus Christ Doesn’t Cut It as Savior,” “Why You Don’t Need Jesus: How to Resurrect on Your Own,” or “Do-It-Yourself Eternal Life.” But could there be something new in the missionary discussions for visitors to Temple Square? “Hi, welcome to Temple Square. We’d like to tell you why Jesus really isn’t enough for salvation.”
Resisting the instinct to hit the passenger-side ejection button (a cool custom feature on my 1998 Toyota Camry), I asked where he got such a notion. Didn’t get much of an answer to that question, but I’m confident that this “Jesus is not enough” argument isn’t based on anything he learned at Temple Square, but from the spin of someone who is not trying to be fair and honest about the Church.
The real objection, it turns out, was the idea that we need to follow Jesus by doing what He said – i.e., the hideous concept of “keeping the commandments.” I took a few moments to explain that Jesus Christ is the only source of salvation, that His infinite Atonement truly is enough for all of us and is what we all truly need, etc., and that, yes, we feel that we need to follow Jesus in a covenant relationship to gain access to the full blessings of His Atonement – not that we can “earn” one iota of our salvation by anything we do. I also reminded him that the objection may be more an issue of semantics than a real divide in our thinking, since we both insist that man must believe in Jesus Christ to be saved, and we both agree that human behavior will change to comply with the teachings of God as a result of that belief.
Though time was limited and I didn’t want to press, I did remind my friend that there are several passages in the Gospels where Jesus was asked how one gains eternal life, and in response, he said things like, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). I asked if it would make sense to condemn a religion as non-Christian for accepting this basic teaching of Christ?
I hope he heard a few of these words.
188 thoughts on “Who Says that Jesus Christ is Not Enough?”
I wonder if some of the reticence to acknowledge Christ’s admonition to seek Eternal Life by obeying His commandments and following Him stems from the fact that it isn’t always easy.
As G. K. Chesterton put it, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Jeff, something I don’t understand about the Mormon faith is why extraneous things are necessary. For example, temple ordinances. According to some of the LDS prophets, they are necessary for exaltation. I thought Christ was all you need?
Can you clarify?
Ordinances that bring us into covenant relationships with Christ are not extraneous, but are part of following Him. Take baptism, for example. He set the example for all of us by being baptized, and then told us that no man can enter into heaven without that ordinance (John 3: 3-5). Baptism doesn’t save us per se – though Peter said “baptism doth also now save us” in 1 Peter 3:20-21 – but accepting the covenant of baptism is part of the process of coming unto Christ and accepting the blessings He offers. Thus, it should be no surprise that Christ sent his disciples into the world to teach and baptize.
Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is part of the process of following Him. Partaking of the bread and wine/water in memory of Him is part of renewing covenants to follow Him. And the Temple brings us higher covenants to follow Him and receive the fullness of His Gospel. Christ is all we need – but He has given us a variety of tools to help us come unto Him and receive of the fulness of His blessings. We don’t put on the divine nature in just one sudden step, but must progress and endure in the faith, as Peter teaches in 2 Peter 1.
Excellent question, Kathleen. I would say that ordinances that bring us into covenant relationships with Christ and that strengthen our relationship with Him are not extraneous, but are part of following Him. There is a strait and narrow path – not just one gate or one step, but a path that we are called to follow.
Take baptism, for example, which in my view occurs early on the path of following Christ. He set the example for all of us by being baptized, and then told us that no man can enter into heaven without that ordinance (John 3: 3-5). It’s essential for our salvation. Baptism doesn’t save us per se – though Peter said “baptism doth also now save us” in 1 Peter 3:20-21 – but accepting the covenant of baptism is part of the process of coming unto Christ and accepting the blessings He offers. Thus, it should be no surprise that Christ sent his disciples into the world to teach and baptize.
Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is part of the process of following Him. Partaking of the bread and wine/water in memory of Him is part of renewing covenants to follow Him. And the Temple brings us higher covenants to follow Him and receive the fullness of His Gospel. Christ is all we need – but He has given us a variety of tools to help us come unto Him and receive of the fullness of His blessings. We don’t put on the divine nature in just one sudden step, but must progress and endure in the faith, as Peter teaches in 2 Peter 1.
Hmm, I don’t think my last comment went through.
Jeff, I’m not sure I understand yet :). I don’t see why more covenants are necessary if Christ’s atonement covered us “once and for all”. Or are they just for obedience and have no bearing on one’s eternal destiny and state?
I am reminded of Naaman, in 2 Kings ch. 5, who goes to Elisha to be healed of leprosy. He is told to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman became angry at hearing this from a mere messenger; he was expecting Elisha himself to come to him and simply call on the name of the Lord and touch the spot of leprosy and he would be healed (which he certainly could have done). Heaven forbid that he should be commanded to do anything himself. Fortunately he was persuaded by his servant and went to wash in the Jordan and was healed.
In the final analysis, it is always by the grace of God that we receive any blessing, including salvation. However, we must demonstrate our faith by keeping his commandments and in our actions. We are always required to obey — can the grace of God save us without obedience? Consider the man who came to Jesus and asked what he must do to obtain eternal life. Jesus’ answer concluded with “go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (See Matt 19:16-26) This man had already been keeping the commandments but this was not enough, he failed (unless he repented later) to obtain eternal life because he would not obey in all things.
No, ordinances and observances do not save us, but we must show our faith by obeying the commandments of the Lord and by following Him. Part, if not all, of following Him is to do His will and we believe that it is His will that we observe all the ordinances He has given us to perform.
Kathleen, do you feel that the Atonement of Christ covers everybody without conditions – a universalist approach? Or are there conditions for accessing the blessings He offers?
From my perspective, there are absolutely conditions. For example, Acts 2:37-38 and other passages tells us that we must have faith, repent of our sin, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost. And then there are strict commandments from Paul and others against certain sins that can keep us out of the kingdom of God, if we do not repent. Christ also tells us that we must endure to the end to be saved (Matt. 24:13). Receiving salvation requires that we follow Jesus, and we do this by entering into a biblical covenant relationship with him. The covenants of baptism and the temple are tools to bring us more fully unto Christ, and are part of how we access the grace He has made available to us once and for all (meaning that no more sacrifice is needed, no other savior is needed – He has done everything for us, and now we just need to accept it and follow Him).
I’m definitely not a universalist! I guess I believe that it is those who have faith in Christ who will be saved, and true salvation results in obedience…which is simply a fruit of faith. When you talk about coming “fully unto Christ”, I presume that is conditional upon your obedience?
Are “the blessings He offers” separate from the grace and salvation He brings?
And would one who follows the ordinances have a greater reward/be more “exalted” than one who is simply “saved”?
Food for thought!
I had another thought on this subject of comparing grace and orinances to a refrigerator (or some similar object). A refrigerator will not work without electricity.
The purpose of a refrigerator is to preserve food by keeping it cold but without the electricity putting food in it will not preserve it, in fact it the results may be worse than not putting the food in there at all. Conversely, electricity may be available but without a refrigerator the food will not be preserved. It is only by the two working together that the food can be cooled.
Think of the electricity as Grace and the refrigerator as the ordinances of the Gospel. Electricity certainly provides the power to preserve the food but without the channel (the refrigerator) to make that power effective, it can do nothing. The ordinances of the Gospel are the means by which the Grace of God are make effective in our lives.
As a side note, even the Born Again christians require that you accept Jesus Christ through a prayer, doesn’t that qualify as an action (read ordinance) we must perform? My observation is that no matter the religion, there are certain things (however simple they may be) that one must perform in order to make that religion effective in their lives — and please disabuse me if I’m wrong.
Let me turn the question around a little – do you think all should receive the same reward? A rich young man, apparently a believer, asked the Savior what he should do to receive eternal life. When told that he should give his riches to the poor and follow Christ, he went away sorrowing. Should he receive the same reward as Peter, who did give up all and served Christ to the end of his life?
Bassooner gives an excellent analogy about the relationship of grace and works. I would add only two things.
The first is that Christ, having atoned for our sins and having fulfilled the demands of justice, is in a position to require of us anything he desires. He could ask nothing of us, which is precisely what he asks of us in regard to the physical redemption, which is the resurrection.
In terms of a spiritual reward, what he asks of us is that we participate in a seemingly-impossible project, that of changing our natures. Of course, it is impossible for us to change our natures unaided to any great degree (and even if we could it would not buy us salvation). Christ can change our natures, but he will not do it against our will or without our participation.
The second point, then, is that covenants are a formal commitment from us that we will endeavor to change our natures. His part of the covenant is that he will provide the means to actually effect the change in us. The blessing that accompanies the baptismal covenant, for example, is the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the continuous sanctifying companionship of a member of the Godhead.
If we do not make and keep those covenants, we will not benefit from those mechanisms that God has established to change our natures, it’s as simple as that. We can still be saved and enjoy a kingdom of glory. Christ, by virtue of his atonement, offers a greater reward to those who will make and keep specific covenants, and who thereby experience such a change in their natures that they are both worthy and capable of greater glory.
[A third point, which I will only mention, is that the specific covenants or saving ordinances must necessarily be administered by authorized agents of Christ – how could it be otherwise?]
In LDS teachings, it is very clear that “exaltation” includes, but goes far beyond mere “salvation.”
The missionaries teach this in their standardized presentations.
Investigators and recent converts are taught this in the “Gospel Essentials” Sunday school class.
The manual used in that Sunday school class is called “Gospel Principles, and can be read online here.
You can also buy a copy here.
Of, if you visit Sunday services at an LDS chapel, they’ll give you a free copy in the actual Sunday school class.
I’m impressed. You’re asking all the right questions! Keep going!
Thanks for the friendly dialogue, all :).
Bassooner, nice analogy! Do you believe this to be biblical? Would you share your references?
Pops, good point about rewards. The Bible does say that we will be rewarded according to our works (Rev. 1.6, 22.1), not saved though. Where do you get the idea that covenants are commitments from us? In Scripture, they are often unilateral, where it is done by God. Genesis 15 is a good example.
Bookslinger, your name is fitting ;). Somewhere I thought Jeff said that salvation and exaltation were basically the same. Would you define the difference for me, please? (And thanks for the GD link!)
I don’t think there is anything in the definition of the word “covenant” that makes it inherently unilateral.
God sometimes does make unilateral covenants, such as his promise to Noah that he would not again flood the earth, or the promise of the resurrection made unconditionally to everyone.
Other covenants require some action or commitment on our part. Do you suppose the promises would have been made to Abraham if he were not obedient to the commandments of God? Would they not have been revoked if he had later rejected God?
It is unreasonable to assume that God would be so careless as to open heaven’s gates to the unrighteous through the making of rash promises.
Kathleen: others have explained the difference between exaltation and salvation much better than I can. See chapters 45, 46, and 47, of the Gospel Principles manual.
Jeff Lindsay (Mormanity) also has
good explanations about Exaltation versus Salvation here and here. In the latter link, Jeff goes over 5 definitions for “salvation”, where one type of salvation is exaltation.
Jeff talks very plainly about humans become gods (exalted) here.
Surprisingly enough, the early christian fathers prior to the Nicene creed, also believed in exaltation. This was something that the early christian fathers plainly taught, that was later lost through what we call The Apostasy. Jeff gives quotes and links to some of those writings on the “theosis” page link.