The March 2008 edition of the official LDS magazine, Ensign, was a very special issue. It focused entirely on Jesus. The LDS church said it spent two years producing it. They made many extra copies and it is now listed as one of its resources. It would be a good resource to have for those wanting to witness to Mormons.
It contains an article on the Atonement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of Mormonism’s 12 apostles. In it he repeats much of what Mormonism says about the Atonement. He talks a lot about Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and writes: “Through this suffering Jesus redeemed the souls of all men, women, and children.” He does bring in Jesus’ suffering on the cross, something that is being mentioned more and more in LDS writings. But the emphasis is still on Jesus’ anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane.
He also talks about how the Atonement provided both unconditional and conditional blessings. The unconditional blessings he list are ransom for Adam’s original transgression and bodily resurrection of all. He then writes: “Other aspects of Christ’s atoning gift are conditional. They depend on one’s diligence in keeping God’s commandments.” Again that is not new. But then he uses a couple of phrases that I can’t remember running across before. He writes: “Obviously the unconditional blessings of the Atonement are unearned, but the conditional ones are not fully merited either. By living faithfully and keeping the commandments of God, one can receive additional privileges; but they are still given freely, not technically earned.” (my emphasis) What does “not fully merited” and “not technically earned” mean? “Not fully merited” implies that they are partially merited. “Not technically earned” implies what? Often when that word is used it is used in contrast to reality. Technically you still have a job but in reality you better start looking.
Some Mormons say that Mormonism doesn’t teach salvation by faith and works. I think articles like this demonstrate otherwise. Maybe the word “works” is not used, but the idea is definitely there in phrases like “conditional blessings”, “not fully merited” and “not technically earned” and the repeated emphasis on keeping the commandments.