One of the things LDS members are studying and will continue to study for the next few months are the talks delivered at last October’s General Conference. One of those talks, entitled “What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?”, was given by Elder Robert C. Gay. In it he made the following statement:
“This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon us the image of God in our countenances.
Brothers and sisters, remember that this charge is more than just not doing bad things. With an engaged enemy we must also act and not sit in “thoughtless stupor.” Taking upon the countenance of God means serving each other. There are sins of commission and sins of omission, and we are to rise above both.”
Note how he explicitly says that eternal life is a reward – a reward for a person overcoming both sins of commission and sins of omission. In that he is accurately reflecting the teachings of Mormonism and its heavy emphasis on what people have to do. In fact, his words easily could convince many that, in order to have eternal life, they would have to become sinless.
How different this is from what the Bible says! It explicitly says that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Whereas Mormonism continually and repeatedly focuses people on their work, the Bible continually and repeatedly focuses on Jesus’ work for us. Eternal life is based entirely on what he did for us – his keeping the commandments perfectly as our Substitute and his bloody payment for each and every one of our sins. Because eternal life is based entirely on what Jesus has already accomplished for us, God can now give it as his gift to us.
There’s a huge difference between a reward and a gift. A reward puts the focus on the recipient and his or her accomplishments. A gift puts the focus on the giver and his generosity and love. A reward creates a lot stress for the recipient who has to struggle to earn it; who can easily worry wondering if they will do enough to earn it. A gift creates gratitude in the heart of the recipient and the joy and confidence of knowing that they possess it – because it doesn’t depend on them but on the giver. In short, a reward glorifies the recipient; a gift glorifies the giver.
I thank God daily that he doesn’t talk about eternal life as a reward but as his gift to me. Thank you, Jesus, for earning it for me. And may many more see this wonderful truth.