Written by Mark Cares
“The Just Shall Live by Faith” is the title of the First Presidency’s message in the current issue (April, 2017) of the Ensign. It immediately caught my eye considering the prominence Paul gives this phrase in Romans and Galatians and then also the great effect it had on Martin Luther. Adding to my curiosity is the fact that the First Presidency’s message is the most important article in each month’s Ensign. If Mormons read only one article, more than likely it would be this one. (Another sign of its prominence is that it is the first thing highlighted on lds.org.
So how did President Uchtdorf, the article’s author, handle it?
Before looking at his explanation, it would be good to review what the Bible says. In Galatians 3:11, Paul wrote: “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” The context clearly shows that the way a person tries to be “justified by the law” is by trying to keep the commandments. In direct opposition is the faith which trusts that Jesus has redeemed us through his death. The way people are just and thus “live” is by trusting not in what they do, but in what Jesus has done for them. It’s also obvious that when Paul talks about living, he is referring to eternal life. It’s no wonder this teaching has comforted countless people down through the centuries.
President Uchtdorf mentions none of this. There is no mention of Jesus’ death for us. The only time he mentions Jesus in the entire article is when he says men and women of faith “strive to follow the example of their beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.” Nothing about Jesus being our substitute.
Neither does he apply these words to eternal life as Paul does. Instead he focuses exclusively on earthly life (thus his emphasis on Jesus as their example). He emphasizes that people must live trusting in God’s wisdom – and then act on it. The example he cites of living by faith is that of LDS members helping people in a refugee camp. Instead of putting the spotlight on Jesus and his work for us, he puts it on people and their work – something Mormonism commonly does.
Think of the effect this has on LDS members. Instead of this verse comforting them, it challenges them. For example, consider how, on the next page, this article is explained to youth.
President Uchtdorf tells us that our faith in God must be “accompanied by action.” When our faith is “yoked with consistent action,” he explains, it “fills … the soul with peace and love.” With the promise of this blessing, we can make a difference, and we can see this in our lives if we take the time to do faith-filled service. You could pray each morning to ask the Lord for help in serving others. For instance, ask Him to show you when a sibling needs help with a chore or when a friend needs a compliment. Then, when you receive a prompting, act on it! If you make these prayers and this service a habit, then your faithful, consistent action will bless your life and the lives of others. President Uchtdorf promises that you “can transform individuals, families, nations, and the world.”
The Bible does teach that faith will result in actions. This isn’t, however, what Paul talks about when he says the just shall live by faith. Our works and actions are not even in the picture. Everything is about Jesus and his saving work.
President’s Uchtdorf’s article, then, is just another example of how Mormonism twists Scripture and makes it man-centered. It also illustrates why we need to continue to emphasize with Mormons the wonderful things Jesus has done for them. If they don’t hear it from us, who will they hear it from?