One of the most striking passages in the Bible is Romans 4:5. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” What is so striking about this passage is that it describes God as “him that justifieth the ungodly.” Justifies is a courtroom term that means to acquit or declare not guilty. In other words, this passage startles us by describing God as acquitting the ungodly. That doesn’t seem right!
But it is. This is what makes the Bible unique. Where else do we hear about a God who acquits the ungodly? The common picture shared by other world religions is of a God who keeps a record of rights and wrongs and judges accordingly.
Only the Bible says this because only the Bible talks about a Savior who has taken all our sins on himself and paid their terrible price for us. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Interestingly this is a verse that Joseph Smith changed. The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of this verse is: “But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Note especially how he changed the description of God. “him who justifieth not the ungodly.” With the addition of not, he changed the meaning of this phrase completely and aligned it with the concept of God common to other world religions.
Here then is another striking difference between Christianity and Mormonism. Christianity’s God is the one who justifies the ungodly. Mormonism’s god doesn’t.