This is a phrase that is commonly heard in Mormonism. Many people in Provo countered with it as I talked about already being perfect in Christ. They could not conceive of perfection in Christ without our doing something also -without our also keeping the commandments.
This phrase also appears repeatedly in Chapter 15 of the Teachings of George Albert Smith, the manual currently being studied in the LDS Church. The chapter continues the discussion of mission work and is entitled, “Advancing the Work of the Lord”. The following quote from that chapter is especially telling.
“Zion will be redeemed and the world, which now misunderstands the work of ‘Mormonism’, will live to know that it is the power of God unto salvation to those who will keep the commandments of our Father.” (p.165)
Compare that to Romans 1:16. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” “It is the power of God unto salvation to” are identical in each quote. But then what a difference! Mormonism points to a person’s keeping of the commandments while the Bible points to a person’s belief.
This illustrates what I heard repeatedly on the streets of Provo. And not just there. This also illustrates what I have heard repeatedly from the LDS Church and its members over the years. The emphasis of Mormonism, even when the topic is salvation, is not on trusting and believing in what Jesus has done for us but rather on keeping the commandments.
Yes, it is the desire of every believer to try and keep God’s commandments. LDS members grossly misunderstand Christians when they think that we believe that we can run amuck in sin because we believe that we are saved freely. Nothing is further from the truth than that. The key difference, however, is our motivation. Believers try and keep the commandments not as something we need to do to be saved, but rather out of gratitude for already being saved through Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death.
That difference in motivation makes all the difference in the world. For any reliance on our works in the matter of salvation does nothing less than ruin that salvation. You can’t mix God’s grace and our works. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6)