An LDS doctrine that greatly puzzles Christians is the idea that good resulted from Adam’s Fall. Mormonism’s view is based on 2 Nephi 2:22-25, which states, “Adam fell that men might be and men are, that they might have joy.” (Mormonism’s view of the Fall is explained in depth in chapter three of Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons.)
Romans 5:12-21 devastates Mormonism’s view while, at the same time, emphasizing salvation in Christ. Most Mormons aren’t familiar with this section, so reading it carefully and slowly with them will be important.
The words Paul uses in Romans 5 – especially condemnation and justification – picture a courtroom setting. They were the two words commonly used to describe a judge’s verdict: either someone was guilty (condemned), or someone was acquitted (justified). It will be extremely helpful to keep the courtroom picture in mind as you discuss this passage.
The first thing to focus on is that Adam’s sin resulted in sin and death entering the world and in condemnation for all (v. 16 and 18). Take the time to explore the full implications of being condemned. Talk about how you would feel if you were officially condemned. The picture of the courtroom naturally suggests the image of a condemned criminal.
This leads to the parallel Paul draws: through Christ, all receive justification or acquittal (v. 16 and 18). Use this parallel to declare the wonderful news of what Jesus has done. We were condemned criminals because the Fall had made us spiritually dead. In this condition, we committed many crimes or sins (see the “many offences” in v. 16). Through Jesus’ righteousness (v. 18) and obedience (v.19), however, God now has justified us (i.e., acquitted us). Instead of condemnation, through Christ, we are acquitted!
Especially point out how Paul emphasizes this happens because of the work of “one” (v. 15, 17, 18, 19). It doesn’t result from a combination of what Jesus did and our actions. (Here is an opportunity to talk about how Jesus served as our substitute and not as our example in the matter of salvation.) It is all about what the “one” did. This is why our acquittal can be described as a “gift” (v.15, 16, 17, 18).
This is in direct contrast to the LDS teaching that we must contribute to our salvation. 2 Nephi 25:23 in the Book of Mormon says: “for we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.” It is further explained: “The phrase, ‘after all we can do’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fulness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him” (True to the Faith, p. 77).