Does Jesus Get You to the Trial or through the Trial?
Over the years I have tried to find simple ways to illustrate the vast difference between biblical teachings and Mormonism. One way is reflected in the question above.
Mormonism teaches that Jesus gets everybody to the courtroom but then you are on your own. Everybody stands alone before the Judge.
The Bible teaches that Jesus gets everybody to the courtroom but he doesn’t leave believers at the door. Jesus serves as their defense attorney, presenting all his perfect works as evidence to acquit them!
But this distinction often is not clearly seen, either by Christians or Mormons. That’s because Mormonism speaks very subtly. For example, LDS missionaries like to give people a copy of a talk entitled “His Grace Is Sufficient”. They point to it as an example that Mormons too believe people are saved by grace. In fact, the author, Brad Wilcox, a BYU professor, says exactly that.
“I have born-again Christian friends who say to me, “You Mormons are trying to earn your way to heaven.”
I say, “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven. We are preparing for it (see D&C 78:7). We are practicing for it.”
They ask me, “Have you been saved by grace?”
I answer, “Yes. Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully—yes!”
This sounds so good. So good, in fact, it has confused many Christians into thinking Mormonism is following biblical teaching. But when Wilcox says he is saved by grace, he means something entirely different. It all comes down to definitions. Salvation, in Mormonism, often is equivalent to resurrection. That’s how Wilcox uses it here. Because of Jesus, all people will be resurrected!
That’s exactly what he says earlier in his talk.” We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”
When his talk was revised for the official LDS magazine, the Ensign, the phrase “to be judged” was added to make it read: “We will all go back to God’s presence to be judged.” In other words, he says grace is sufficient to get us back to God’s courtroom, but God’s verdict is based on our obedience! Thus my question above. (It’s interesting that most LDS missionaries don’t share the Ensign version of his talk. In fact, many don’t even know it exists.)
It’s also enlightening to see how, instead of God making the determination of where we are going to spend eternity, he lays quite a bit of stress on people choosing where they will stay. Note how he talks about the body we plan on being resurrecting with, how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence, how long we plan to stay there. He sure makes it sound as if we are the one making the decisions about our eternity!
That’s not how the Bible presents it. God is the one who is in control. It’s obvious the false prophets in Matthew 7:21-23 planned on staying in God’s presence forever. But what they planned wasn’t important. It was all about Jesus’ verdict.
And his verdict depends entirely on whether or not a person trusts in him. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).
Jesus doesn’t just get us to the courtroom, he gets us through the trial into God’s heavenly presence for all eternity! He is the defense attorney who had already paid for his clients’ crimes. “If anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). And because his defense is based on what he has already done, believers will be acquitted (See Romans 3:21-26).
This is a huge difference. This makes all the difference in the world to come. And this is a difference all Mormons need to hear. Let’s tell them.