I love March Madness – the NCAA basketball tournament. It is great seeing the players’ passion and the fans’ spirit. And inevitably, each year, there are exciting games won with someone making a basket at the buzzer. It’s a fun time.
But especially for the player who has to make that basket at the buzzer, it can be a time of tremendous pressure. Imagine the following scenario. Five seconds are left in the game. Your team is down by one point. If you lose, the season is over. Your coach calls time out, looks down the bench to where you are sitting, and motions you to check into the game. As you pass him, he pulls you aside and tells you to take the last shot. “We are counting on you. It’s all up to you.”
Talk about pressure. Especially if you have sat on the bench the entire game to that point. Few people would enjoy being in that situation. Fewer people would succeed in that situation.
But that is the position a lot of Mormons feel they are in. It is inaccurate to say that Mormonism teaches that people are saved by their works alone. Mormonism talks about God’s grace. But it doesn’t teach that people are saved by grace alone. “However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.” (LDS Bible Dictionary)
This puts a lot of pressure on many Mormons. I realize that some Mormons will respond to that statement with ridicule and disbelief –saying that I don’t know what I’m talking about. But those comments do not negate the many other comments made by Mormons over the years. Just last week a LDS woman commented on how the Mormon church’s expectations for women are “over the top” with the result that she has quit going. (And no, she’s not lazy or looking for the easy way out.)
Pause for a moment and think of the tremendous pressure that the Mormon teaching of “total effort” exerts on many Mormons. Imagine trying to live under that. Even if we think that we have to contribute only 1% to our salvation – that opens the door to a whole lot of worry. It’s like the sub coming off the bench and being told that he has to make only one basket – the winning basket. But with one big difference. The pressure Mormonism places on many of its adherents doesn’t last just for a few moments – it’s there for an entire lifetime.
How much better is the biblical message of Titus 3:4-7: “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The comforting biblical message is that Jesus took the pressure off by doing it all for us. This is a message more and more Mormons are hearing – and, through the work of the Holy Spirit, believing. Thanks be to God for that.