Four Reasons to Reject Mormon Salvation

Joseph SmithHere are notes from a recent apologetics workshop I was privileged to lead in Oklahoma. Our love of Mormons — and more importantly God’s love of members of the LDS Church — should compel us to share the following truths with those who sincerely, even passionately, defend the teachings of Joseph Smith.

Every Christian should reject the Mormon doctrine of salvation for four important reasons:

  1. It minimizes Christ’s work on the cross
  2. It is universal in scope
  3. It is works based
  4. It makes godhood the goal

1.  It minimizes Christ’s work on the cross.

What Mormons teach:

  • Mormonism emphasizes Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane rather than the cross; perhaps that is one reason Moroni, not a cross, stands atop Mormon temples.
  • “Forgiveness is available because Christ the Lord sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane as he bore the incalculable weight of the sins of all who ever had or ever would repent” (Apostle Bruce McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 337).
  • Mormon leaders have taught that Christ’s atoning sacrifice began in the Garden of Gethsemane. They have drawn this teaching from two passages: Mosiah 3:7 in the Book of Mormon, and D&C 19:15-19.
  • President Ezra Taft Benson: “It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 14).
  • “… it was in Gethsemane that ‘he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come to him’” (Bruce McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 127-28, 224).
  • “Where and under what circumstances was the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God made? Was it on the Cross of Calvary or in the Garden of Gethsemane? … In reality the pain and suffering, the triumph and grandeur, of the atonement took place primarily in Gethsemane” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 774).

What the Bible says:

  • The New Testament mentions Gethsemane only twice (Matt. 26:36; Mark 14:32) and never attaches  Christ’s anguish there as having anything to do with atonement.
  • Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson write in Mormonism 101: “By emphasizing the Garden of Gethsemane, LDS leaders miss a significant point regarding the atonement. The expiation of sin (making amends for wrongdoing) was not based on the substitute’s perspiration, it was based on his expiration” (p. 145).
  • See Rom. 5:8, 10; 1 Cor. 1:18; Heb. 9:22.

2.  It is universal is scope.

What Mormons teach:

  • Mormon leaders have taught that the atonement of Jesus Christ releases the “human family” from the consequences of Adam’s fall and allows a general resurrection from the dead. It also makes available the forgiveness of personal sins on the condition of repentance.
  • “Everyone, from the most righteous to the most wretched, will be resurrected and will live forever in the next life…. By breaking the bands of death, Jesus Christ overcame death, and all will live again. In this respect, we are saved by grace unconditionally” (What do Mormons Believe, 38).
  • Bruce McConkie explains: “Salvation in its true and full meaning is synonymous with exaltation or eternal life and consists in gaining an inheritance in the highest of the three heavens within the celestial kingdom…. Salvation in the celestial kingdom of God, however, is not salvation by grace alone. Rather, it is salvation by grace coupled with obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Mormon Doctrine, 670-71).

What the Bible says:

  • The Bible teaches that not all will be saved (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23; Rev. 20:11-15), although all will be resurrected and stand in judgment (John 5:28-9; Rom. 14:10; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:11-15).

3.  It is works based.

What Mormons teach:

  • “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (President Spencer Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 206).
  • “Resurrection” is how the LDS Church defines “general salvation.”
  • Bruce McConkie said that salvation by grace alone is the second greatest heresy on Christianity … a “soul-destroying doctrine [that] has the obvious effect of lessening the determination of an individual to conform to all of the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Mormon Doctrine, 670-71).
  • Apostle James Talmage said “redemption from personal sins can only be obtained through obedience to the requirements of the gospel, and a life of good works….The sectarian dogma of justification by faith alone has exercised an influence for evil” and is a “pernicious doctrine” (The Articles of Faith, 478-80).
  • Brigham Young: “Who will be saved in the celestial kingdom, and go into the presence of the Father and Son? Those only who observe the whole law, who keep the commandments of God – those who walk in the newness of life, observe all his precepts and do his will” (Journal of Discourses, 14:133).

What the Bible says:

  • The Bible clearly teaches that forgiveness of sins and everlasting life are gifts of God, given by grace and received by faith (John 5:24; Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

4.  It makes godhood the goal.

What Mormons teach:

  • “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become” (Lorenzo Snow, 5th LDS president).
  • Every person is destined for one of six places: 1) outer darkness – for those who did not receive mortal bodies, and for apostate Mormons and other extremely wicked people; 2) telestial kingdom, where the wicked will spend eternity; 3) terrestrial kingdom, where honorable people go, including “lukewarm” Mormons; 4-6) celestial kingdom, consisting of three separate levels, with the top level reserved for Mormon exaltation.
  • Scripture passages misused to prove this point: 1 Cor. 15:40; 2 Cor. 12:2-4).
  • Doctrine & Covenants 131:1, 4 makes reference to the highest level of celestial glory, where Mormon progress may continue. Faithful Mormons reside here eternally with their families, and Mormon males become gods of their newly inherited worlds.
  • The highest level of the celestial kingdom is known as the Church of the Firstborn. Here a Mormon may experience exaltation or godhood.
  • Those in the celestial kingdom not found worthy of godhood will become angels and serve in a subservient role.
  • “Eternal increase” includes the ability to procreate throughout eternity. Just as the Mormon god continually populates his earth, so it is taught that Mormon males and their goddess wives will have the ability to populate the worlds they will inherit.

What the Bible says:

  • Heaven and hell are the only two destinations that await humanity (Matt. 25:46; John 14:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 14:9-11; 19:11-16; 20:10-15; 21-22).
  • In heaven the family of God spends eternity praising Him and dwelling in His glory (not ours).
  • Those who reject God’s gift of salvation are condemned (John 3:18; Rev. 20:15).


The Mormon doctrine of salvation:

  • Minimizes Christ’s work on the cross and emphasizes His suffering in the garden.
  • Is universal in that “general salvation” means resurrection.
  • Is works-based, meaning the level of heaven one achieves is based on his or her works as judged by Mormonism.
  • Has godhood as its goal.

The Biblical doctrine of salvation:

  • Emphasizes Christ’s work on the cross. The “One who did not know sin” became sin for us  (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • Involves the “whole man” (body, soul, spirit) but not all men.
  • Is granted by God’s grace through faith, apart from human effort.
  • Has Christlikeness – not godhood – as its goal.

Copyright 2009 by Rob Phillips


  1. Steve

    So did taking upon himself our sins in the garden mean nothing? It was just his death that was his mission? Come on. I think the Mormons got it right. And there is no as you call it Mormon salvation. It’s called Gods salvation. Many kingdoms sounds only right and fair to me. .

  2. Shawn

    Nevermind, my wife found the quote, if anyone else is looking it is in the Appendix for Ch 4 (pg 430-431 in my edition) under the heading “The Atonement Inaugurated by Christ”. He is actually quoting from another mormon book called Compendium by F.D. Richards and J.A. Little.

  3. Shawn

    Question: I have to teach a lesson on this next Sunday and bought the book “Articles of Faith” off of eBay looking for the quote:

    “redemption from personal sins can only be obtained through obedience to the requirements of the gospel, and a life of good works….The sectarian dogma of justification by faith alone has exercised an influence for evil” and is a “pernicious doctrine” (The Articles of Faith, 478-80).

    and cannot find it. I think my copy is different from yours as it does not even have 480 pages. Could you send me more about this reference? What chapter is it in and whereabouts in the chapter? (Or is it in the appendix? The closest I found was the appendix to Ch 5 but that quote eluded me). This quote is an amazingly clear statement of fallacy.

    I appreciate your help.

  4. ethan

    Mormons do believe Christ was divine. Also, Don’t confuse the LDS doctrines of salvation vs. exaltation.

    Actually, Mormons believe all mankind is SAVED by the GRACE of God, even Hitler will end up in a degree of glory (for Mormons hell is a lesser glory relative to the higher state where God dwells and family units are eternal). Conversely, Evangelicals believe a person must perform the WORK of physically “accepting Jesus” vocally to be saved. For them, not all will be “saved.”

    Therefore, mormons believe in being saved by grace and Evangelicals believe in salvation by works (act of being born again).