What Do Mormons Teach about Salvation?


Dr. John Ankerberg: The Mormons’ Journal of Discourses is a conglomeration, and I am going to summarize here. The Mormon doctrine of salvation involves not only faith in Christ, they admit that, but “baptism by immersion, obedience to the teachings of the Mormon Church, good works and of keeping the commandments of God which will cleanse away the stain of sin.” And Brigham Young’s got more to say on this, but why did they include all those things? They’ve got faith, then you’ve got to do a few more things. What are they saying? 

Dr. Walter Martin: Well, it’s the error of the Galatians. You add to the gospel that which ends up destroying the gospel. Because if you get righteousness apart from the death of Christ, Paul says, then your faith is empty. You’re still in your sins. 

Dr. John Ankerberg: But some of the folks might not believe we are actually saying that this is true. If I can pick up right here, the Journal of Discourses, Brigham Young says, “Some of our old traditions teach us that a man guilty of atrocious and murderous acts may savingly repent on the scaffold and upon his execution will hear the expression, ‘Bless God he has gone to heaven to be crowned in glory through all the redeeming merits of Christ the Lord.’” Brigham said, “This is all nonsense. Such a character will never see heaven.” 

Dr. Walter Martin: Well, he went on to say that your own blood had to atone for your sins. And he said there were plenty of instances where people were righteously slain to atone for their sins. So, he taught the doctrine of blood atonement which the early Mormon Church practiced. If they decided that you had sinned beyond the power of the blood of Jesus to save you, they tried you and they shot you and your blood was the atonement. In fact, Brigham was so adamant on the subject he said, “This is loving your neighbor as yourself. If he wants help, help him. And if it’s necessary to spill his blood in order that he be saved, spill it.” 

Dr. John Ankerberg: Yes, and he says the blood of Christ will not take care of it. You’ve got to spill your own. And if people want to check it out, the Journal of Discourses, volume 3, page 247. But let’s comment. What is Christ offering that’s good news to our Mormon friends? 

Dr. Walter Martin: He’s offering forgiveness for sin totally. But sacrifice for sin forever that takes away our responsibility of judgment. And we have “passed out of death into life” [John 5:24; Rom. 8], when we accept the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “He that believes in me,” not he that believes and works and, and, and, and, but “he that believes in me has everlasting life.” [John 6:47] Mormonism does not know the Gospel of grace. And the Gospel of grace is clearly outlined in 1 Corinthians 15.

Dr. John Ankerberg: You know it sounds too good to them. They say, “You mean I can just believe and it’s all done for me? I mean, I feel I ought to do something.” 

Dr. Walter Martin: Well, that’s man’s sinful nature. We are always trying to improve on what God did. God came to us in the cross of Jesus Christ and he said, “This is life eternal.” And he presented His Son to us. We turn around and say, “Yes, but we are going to have to help you out, Lord,” and then start adding all the rest of these things. The cults all add works to salvation. Dr. John Ankerberg: And it’s such good news if they would just check it out.

Editor’s note: In 1983 we asked Dr. Walter Martin, author of The Kingdom of the Cults, to comment on what various groups believe about The Bible, God, Jesus, Salvation, and a number of other topics. This article is excerpted from that interview. Some groups mentioned may have changed names, disbanded, or modified their beliefs since this interview took place. 

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