LDS Articles of Faith, Part XIII

Article III-Atonement and Salvation

The third LDS Article of Faith says, “We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the (LDS) gospel.” LDS Apostle James Talmage said on page 85 of his book The Articles of Faith, “The extent of the atonement is universal, applying to all descendants of Adam. Even the unbeliever, the heathen, and the child who dies before reaching the age of discretion, all are redeemed by the Savior’s self-sacrifice from the individual consequences of the fall. It is proved by scripture that the resurrection of the body is one of the victories achieved by Christ through His atoning sacrifice.” Talmage went on to say on pages 86-87 “But besides this universal application of the atonement, whereby all men are redeemed from the effects of Adam’s transgression both in respect to the death of the body and inherited sin, there is application of the same great sacrifice as a means of propitiation for individual sins through faith and good works of the sinner. This twofold effect of the atonement is implied in the article of our (LDS) faith now under consideration. The first effect is to secure to all mankind alike, exemption from the penalty of the fall, thus providing a plan of General Salvation. The second effect is to open a way for Individual Salvation whereby mankind may secure remission of personal sins. As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements—‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the (LDS) Gospel.’”


Joseph Fielding Smith who was the tenth LDS Prophet said, “Through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Salvation is twofold: General—that which comes to all men irrespective of a belief (in this life) in Christ—and, Individual—that which man merits through his own acts through life and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. I pp. 133-134). LDS Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie also said, “Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law consists in the mere fact of being resurrected… Conditional or individual salvation (is) that which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience, consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. This kind of salvation follows faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued works of righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation” (Mormon Doctrine, pages 669-670).


In John 5:28-29 Jesus said everyone will be resurrected, but some to a resurrection of life and some to a resurrection of damnation. But “resurrection to damnation” is NOT “salvation!” The Bible never calls Resurrection “salvation” nor does it teach two kinds of salvation. Both the Old and New Testaments teach resurrection of the body in texts like Daniel 12:2 and Matt. 22:30. When Jesus raised people from the dead they still had a mortal body which died later, so Jesus was the first to be resurrected with an immortal body (I Cor. 15:20). Philip. 3:21 says believers will also have a resurrected body like Jesus and will spend eternity with Him (I Thess. 4:16-17). The Bible says unbelievers will be resurrected to damnation, punishment, hell, and eternal separation from the presence of the Lord (Matt. 5:22; 23:33; John 5:29; Philip. 3:18-19; II Thess. 1:7-9; Rev. 20:14-15). No Bible text promises unbelievers that they will ultimately enjoy the presence of the Lord eternally. The Bible lists “unbelievers” among those who suffer in “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone which is second death” (Revelation 21:8).


The word atonement often appears in the Old Testament and it is always in reference to p payment for sin, never to resurrection. But that word is not in the New Testament except in Romans 5:11 of the King James Version where it should be translated “reconciliation” as the margin note for that verse shows. All modern translations of Rom. 5:11 have the word “reconciliation” instead of atonement because that word is the same word as “reconciled” in the previous verse in the original Greek text. Even though the word “atonement” is not in the New Testament, the description of atonement is found in numerous verses. Following are a few of those verses: In Matt. 1:21 before Jesus was born the angel told Joseph, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him in John 1:29 and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In I Cor. 15:1-3 Paul was declaring the gospel when he said, “Christ died for our sins.” In Gal. 1:3-4 Paul said, “Our Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world.” Heb. 9:26 says that Christ “appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” I Peter 2:24 says Christ “His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree.” I John 3:5 says, “You know that He (Christ) was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him is no sin.” Jesus is the “propitiation for our sins” as I John 2:2 says.


Christ’s resurrection from the dead proved He was the Son of God (Matt. 11:27; Rom. 1:4). He also said those who trust Him as Savior would be resurrected to eternal life with Him (John 5:28-29; 14:1-3). Believers are saved by grace through faith from their sins because of Christ’s death on the cross (Eph. 2:8-9; I Cor. 15:3). Biblical salvation is not a reward for keeping laws and ordinances or by doing religious rituals! Paul said in Gal. 2:21 “If righteousness came by the law, then Christ died in vain.” He also said in Philip. 3:9 that he wanted to “be found in Him (Christ), not having a righteous of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (New American Standard Version). The same translation of Rom. 4:3-6 says, “What does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor (grace), but as what is due (wages). But to the one who does not work (for his salvation), but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works.” That is the righteousness of Christ God gives to redeemed sinners so they can enter His presence in eternity with a perfect righteousness. These texts say that men are justified by faith in Christ, not by their own good works. Good works have their place as a result of being justified by faith, but they don’t produce salvation (Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:5-8). II Cor. 5:21 says that Christ took our sins and gave us His righteousness and that is the only righteousness that will permit us to enter heaven. All of our own righteousness is like filthy rags Isaiah 64:6 says. Notice that it says “All of our righteousness” (not all of our sins) are like filthy rags. That is why we all need a Savior!


Next will discuss the 4th LDS Article on first principles and ordinances.