One topic where Christians and Mormons regularly find themselves talking past each other is Jesus’ atonement.
What did Jesus’ atonement actually achieve for us?
Because Mormonism defines words like repentance and grace so differently, Christians often hear their explanation and think it is biblical.
But it isn’t. Whenever I run across a Mormon explaining it, I take note. That is often when the differences between beliefs become more apparent.
One such example is contained in a talk given by Elder Lynn G. Robbins at the 2018 Spring General Conference. The following excerpt is a little lengthy, but it’s worth a careful read. He said:
“While we are grateful for second chances following mistakes, or failures of the mind, we stand all amazed at the Savior’s grace in giving us second chances in overcoming sin, or failures of the heart.
No one is more on our side than the Savior. He allows us to take and keep retaking His exams. To become like Him will require countless second chances in our day-to-day struggles with the natural man, such as controlling appetites, learning patience and forgiveness, overcoming slothfulness, and avoiding sins of omission, just to name a few. If to err is human nature, how many failures will it take us until our nature is no longer human but divine? Thousands? More likely a million.
Knowing that the strait and narrow path would be strewn with trials and that failures would be a daily occurrence for us, the Savior paid an infinite price to give us as many chances as it would take to successfully pass our mortal probation. The opposition which He allows can often seem insurmountable and almost impossible to bear, yet He doesn’t leave us without hope.
To keep our hope resilient as we face life’s trials, the Savior’s grace is ever ready and ever present. His grace is a “divine means of help or strength, … an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”
There are a number of things worth pointing out in these four paragraphs. His main point is that “the Savior paid an infinite price to give us as many chances as it would take to successfully pass our mortal probation.”
Mormonism teaches that the atonement is all about giving us second, third, fourth, etc. chances to pass the test of life!
Note also that his grace is activated only “after they have expended their own best efforts.” This is a quote from the LDS Bible dictionary. It reflects the Book of Mormon verse stating we are saved “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
So, what did Jesus’ atonement do for us? Mormonism teaches that He gave us more chances to overcome our sins and to change our nature from human to divine. He also will powerfully enable us to do this but only after we have expended our best efforts.
This greatly differs from the biblical message.
The Bible says Jesus’ atonement didn’t give us second chances. It gives us eternal life.
Biblical grace isn’t activated after we expend our best efforts but while we were still dead in sin we were saved by grace (Ephesians 2:4-5).
What did Jesus’ atonement do for us? Mormonism says he gave us more chances to pass the test but it is still up to us to do it. The Bible says he saved us while we were dead in sin—when we could do nothing—Jesus won for us eternal life. It is God’s gift to us (Romans 6:23).
This makes an eternal difference.