When our friends ask whether Latter-day Saints are saved or born again, the answer is "yes."
Salvation and grace
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel" (Third Article of Faith).
Our fellow Christians may take issue with conditional salvation, saying, "There are no conditions on the grace of God." We agree. No matter how perfectly we follow God’s laws we can never repay the incomparable gift of Jesus Christ’s atonement for sin.
As one Book of Mormon prophet put it, "... for we know it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). In fact, the Book of Mormon expands our understanding of the reach of God’s grace to "all men everywhere" (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "All Men Everywhere," Ensign, May, 2006).
Salvation and exaltation
The word "salvation" can be confusing to some. Depending upon its context, salvation has several meanings ranging from the unconditional gift of resurrection to the conditional gift of eternal life or exaltation.
Two such meanings follow:
First, Jesus saved all mankind from the permanence of physical death through the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:22). In that sense, salvation is an unconditional gift. Second, we are saved from the effects of spiritual death (separation from God) by meeting the conditions that the Lord established. Salvation from spiritual death is exaltation and is conditional.
The Savior said, "Not everyone that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
Jesus taught that doing "the will of my Father" includes baptism by immersion (John 3:5); being converted and becoming "as little children" (Matthew 18:3) and "enduring to the end" to "be saved" (Matthew 10:22, Mark 13:13).
"And if ye keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life" (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7; see also Elder Russell M. Nelson, "Salvation and Exaltation," Ensign, May, 2008). We should obey the commandments and endure to the end for the right reason, as in with "the heart and a willing mind" (Doctrine and Covenants 64:34).
Believe and confess
If Latter-day Saints have any difficulty with the believe-and-confess view of salvation, it is that God’s grace does not suspend God’s laws. God’s grace does not reduce his commandments to a mere suggestion. Otherwise, there would be no reason to keep any commandments.
If faith without works is dead (James 2:26), then grace without obedience is ineffectual, for Christ "became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9).
Righteousness and reward
Because people differ in their faith, love and obedience to God, their heavenly reward will reflect these differences. Clearly, this is the reason Christ said, "In my Father’s house, are many mansions" (John 14:2).
God has promised to judge "every man according to (his) works" (Revelation 20:13; see also John 11:26).
The parable of the prodigal son is illustrative: Honored by his father with open arms and a feast, the returning prodigal received a princely welcome home. His older brother complained that he had kept his father’s commandments from his youth, while his returning sibling had wasted his father’s inheritance.
The father’s counsel to the obedient son is comforting: "Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine" (Luke 15:31). Both the righteous brother and the penitent prodigal received an appropriate but different reward, while a loving father rejoiced over both sons.
We are Christians8 comments on this story
As Christians, we embrace our brothers and sisters across the doctrinal aisle. We are fellow Christians. Jesus Christ is our Savior. His grace made salvation possible. Through faith, repentance and baptism, we are "born again" (John 3:3-5; Mosiah 27:25; see also Elder Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?" Ensign, May 1998).
We also humbly share our witness that the heavens are open. Christ established his church, men changed it, and we bear witness that God has re-established it once again through apostles and prophets.
William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU Law School. He practices law and teaches law and ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor for the Queen Creek Arizona Chandler Heights Stake, he is active in Interfaith and is a U.S. Air Force veteran.