As a Mormon, I could never understand how anyone thought they could be “saved by faith” in Jesus alone. It seemed clear enough from the words of James that we had to have works as well as faith. Also it was plain to see the many Bible passages listing all the commands Heavenly Father had given us to follow. Looking back, I see I was lacking one very important detail that I didn’t realize at the time. Mormon Prophets actually lowered God’s stated entrance requirements for eternal life! They changed God’s Words and lessened His demands. In reality, they had to do this in order to support their false teaching that a person can gain eternal life by adding their own works to their faith.
From what I can tell it started with Nephi. We read “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”. Here we see the LDS teaching that what is required is our ‘best effort’. The determining factor to being “saved” is not the final product, it’s the effort expended. If you just try as hard as you can then Jesus will step in and His Atonement makes up the difference.
While this sounds comforting, it is false! You can search the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find one passage that backs up this false teaching. Not one single verse claims that eternal life can be gained by simply trying to follow God’s commands. Just look at every Judgment Day picture mentioned in the Bible and you will discover that any sin ends with the same exact outcome—living eternally in Outer Darkness with Satan and his demons. The Bible clearly states that God demands 100 percent compliance with his laws and commands. In fact it was James who testified that if you fail at even one point you are guilty of breaking all of God’s laws (2:10). James testimony is reinforced in the letter to the Galatians which clearly says that you are cursed if you don’t continue to do everything written in God’s law (3:10).
Jesus Himself told us the standard we must meet. The perfection required from us is to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). On Judgment Day we will not be graded on a curve or compared to our neighbor! The standard for perfection is God Himself!
But how can it possibly be bad to try and keep God’s commands? Let me explain the danger using an illustration. Imagine that you are at the Olympics swim meet with Michael Phelps. You know that he is the closest thing to a perfect swimmer in the history of the world. But, you want to help him win his gold medal so you offer to swim the first lap for him, or even just five feet. What do you think will be the outcome? Would your effort help or hurt Phelps’ performance?
The same is true with the perfection Jesus accomplished. On your behalf, Jesus spent His entire life living for you. In your place he kept every command perfectly. He is your substitute for the perfection demanded by God. Jesus alone meets the requirement to be as perfect as Heavenly Father. Adding your “best effort” to His perfect score only makes your score imperfect! This is why we can only be saved through faith alone. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
I know you are trying to do what you think is right. But believing that you can somehow add to the perfect works that Jesus did on your behalf actually angers God! Adding your works to His Son’s work and believing such works are mandatory only testifies one thing. It declares you do not believe that His Son’s immeasurable sacrifice was sufficient to gain you eternal life! God sees such works as an attempt to bring glory on yourself—to actually boast in yourself! When you have faith that His Son’s sacrifice has gained you eternal life this gives all the glory to His Son–where it belongs! Only then are you free to live a life of voluntary works, which brings even more glory to God.