Daniel, in the post “Do Mormons have more than one God?” (page 3 of the comments), asked a very important question pertaining to the mercy, the atonement of Christ, and the role of works in achieving exaltation.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions I encounter. He accurately notes that there are scriptures that tell us that it is by grace that we are saved, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9), and therefore asks about Mormonism’s apparent focus on works.
The answer to this is simple, and scriptural, but is hard for many accept because so many denominations have chosen to latch on to the scriptures about mercy, while disregarding those about works (which are actually greater in number).
Here are a couple passages that adequately encapsulate this doctrine:
Revelation 20:12-15 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works
James 2:14-26 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have no works? Can faith save him?… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
On my post “What do Mormons believe about works?“, I list over 20 of such scriptural (biblical) passages that teach the necessity of works in salvation, and on which we base our beliefs. (Please check it out, and see for yourself).
Indeed, there is an abundance of evidence supporting this doctrine as true (and Christian). But it requires that we consider all scripture, which is somehow something many denominations choose not to do. It’s a topic I cover in the post “The grand panorama of scripture“, discussing the importance of considering the whole of all scripture, and not basing beliefs off extractions of convenience.
It’d be simple to build a religion based on only those passages that create the most convenient to accept doctrines. The ones that require us to do the least.
Indeed, I think this is predominantly the reason why this notion of works has become so unorthodox, in spite of its clear biblical backing. It’s a doctrine that sells well. And for religions that have paid clergy, this is important. So over time, the natural focus of orthodox Christianity has shifted from those scriptures that teach about works, to those that focus on mercy. (which I cover in the post “the commercialization of religion“).
This “evolution” of doctrine is extremely important to understanding Mormonism, for it was precisely because of this apostasy, or “falling away” from Christ’s original doctrine, that necessitated the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith. Enough of the pure and simple principles of the gospel of Christ (such as this) have changed over time, that our ability to reach God based on Christianity’s teaching of scripture became impossible.
There came a time when the Lord had to step in and again call a prophet (a pattern also set forth in the Bible, but strangely absent from orthodox Christianity, which I cover and we discuss here).
So, you see, in truth, the notion of works, and the role they play in our salvation is not unique to Mormonism, but hails back to early Christianity… even the very teachings of Christ and his Prophets from ancient times, but is a doctrine that is disappointingly absent from orthodox Christianity today.
P.S. For additional study, see also the post and discussion on “The sufficiency paradox, understanding the atonement“, which covers the paradox created by Christianities current definition of “mercy” and sufficiency. Also “Picking the lock of salvation“, in which I cover, and then we discuss, the role of Mercy and the unavoidable doctrine of works.
Also, and most importantly, www.josephsmith.com, to learn more about the prophet Joseph Smith, and the pivotal role he played in the restoration of the gospel of Christ, and the organizing of His church on earth in these latter days.