Where You Start Plays a Big Role in Where You End Up.
Recently a LDS member explained to me why he doesn’t view free salvation as an act of love on God’s part. He drew a comparison with earthly fathers. The goal of fathers is to have their children become more and more independent as they mature. He talked about how it isn’t loving for a father to give his children everything. That results in spoiled brats, not healthy, well-rounded individuals.
At first glance, that comes off as sound reasoning. That is, if the child is reasonably healthy. But if the child is born with severe handicaps, it would be the height of cruelty to expect and demand that he work on becoming independent.
That is where the rub is. Mormonism pictures people as being born basically good. In fact, it views them in even more exalted terms. It sees them as the literal spirit children of Heavenly Father. In the past, it was not uncommon to see LDS authors describe humans as “gods in embryo”. Today LDS authors often talk about the “divine potential” people have. Whatever terminology is used, the fact is that Mormonism has a high view of humanity.
The biblical view of humanity is so much different. The Bible does not teach that we pre-existed as spirit children of Heavenly Father and Mother. And even though Adam and Eve were created perfectly, their fall into sin wreaked havoc not only on them but on the entire human race. Paul accurately describes the terrible number sin did on the human race when he wrote: As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12) “No one – not even one. No one. No one. All –together. No one – not even one.” That’s pretty emphatic. That doesn’t leave any wiggle room. Sin did not just taint the human race. It didn’t just corrupt a portion of it. It totally corrupted every single person. So much so that taken all together the spiritual value of the human race by itself is “worthless”.
That has a lot of ramifications. One is that this emphasizes that humans don’t have the capability, in any way, to help along with their salvation. Or to use the analogy above, we were born not just severely spiritually handicapped, we were born spiritually dead! ”As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Ephesians 2:1) It would have been the height of stupidity for God to expect us in that condition to contribute anything positive to our salvation.
In fact, the Bible goes further and says that it is deadly to try to contribute to our salvation. “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6) Adding our works to God’s grace not only is foolish, it is deadly. It ruins salvation.
That is why we are so concerned about Mormonism. For that is exactly what it does. “For we know that it is by grace we are saved after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23). One reason Mormonism teaches this is because it sees people with a lot of potential – divine potential. Where you start plays a big part in where you end up.
The rule that where you start plays a big part in where you end up also applies to Christianity. Starting with a view that humans are spiritually dead emphasizes God’s great love for us. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:5) There was absolutely nothing attractive about us. There was absolutely no reason for God to love us. But incredibly he did love us. He loved us so deeply that he saved us and made us heirs of heaven solely through Jesus’ work.
In the last couple of weeks I have had numerous conversations with people who struggled to see the difference between Mormonism and Christianity. Talking about the different starting points and the ramifications of each clarified it for many. Like in so many things, where you start plays a big role in where you end up.
Mormons and Christians start in different places. And sadly, that means that they will end up in different places. Unless we take the time to share with them the wonderful truth that salvation is by God’s grace alone.