The Mormon View of Salvation: A Gospel That Is Truly Impossible

Salvation comes through Christ’s work on the cross; it’s about what He did for us. Mormonism places an oppressive burden squarely on what people must do.

Forgiveness of sins provides the Christian peace that passes all understanding. By using the approach we’ve presented here, you will be challenging the Mormon to explain why Christians should surrender their assurance of forgiveness for something that the Mormons only wish they had.


A doorstep encounter with missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) may allow only a brief moment to make a hopefully lasting impression, so we must weigh our words carefully. Too many Christians make the mistake of introducing peripheral topics that can sometimes move the discussion toward an agonizing dead end.

Many times Mormons are not familiar with their history or doctrines, allowing them sometimes to assume the Christian is either making something up or taking something out of context. But ask a Mormon, “If you were to die right now, do you have the assurance that all of your sins are forgiven?” The typical response is, inevitably, “I hope so,” “I think so,” or just plain, “No.” Why is this?

In Mormonism, salvation is defined in two unique ways. Tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith explained, “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.”General salvation, or resurrection from the dead, is known as salvation by grace and is provided to all people. It is synonymous with immortality since the resurrected person lives forever.

The goal of a faithful Latter-day Saint is to achieve individual salvation or “exaltation,” which does not come easily. Thomas S. Monson, Mormonism’s current prophet, taught, “It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned.”2 With this as a background, we can then proceed to remind them regarding what those requirements really entail.

The Impossible Gospel. Using just six verses from two of the Standard Works3 and by asking a few questions, it’s possible to show how futile Mormonism’s plan of salvation really is. Bear in mind that these questions are asked within a context that a Mormon will understand.

1 Nephi 3:7: “For I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

Ask: Does this passage say that it’s possible to keep all of God’s commandments? How are you doing at this?

Alma 11:37: “And I say unto you again that he [God] cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.”

Ask: Do you struggle with sin? If so, doesn’t this tend to prove that you, as a Mormon, are still “in your sins” and are “unclean”? If you are, doesn’t this mean you are not saved?

Moroni 10:32: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you.”

Ask: Have you denied yourself of all ungodliness? If not, doesn’t this verse tend to prove that you have yet to receive the grace that will cleanse you of your sins? If you have not denied yourself of all ungodliness, when do you think you will do so?

D and C 25:15: “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come.”

Ask: How many commandments must you keep continually? Some? Most? All?4 If all, how are you doing at this?

D and C 58:43: “By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.”

Ask: How many sins must you forsake?5 Have you forsaken all of your sins? If not, doesn’t that mean you have not truly repented?

D and C 1:31: “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”

Ask: In light of the answers you’ve given to the above questions, do you think God will overlook your sins?


  1. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:134 (Salt Lake City: Publishers Press, 1956). Emphasis in original.
  2. “An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign, May 1988, 56.
  3. The King James Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants comprise written scripture to Mormons.
  4. According to the 1997 church manual Teachings of Presidents of The Church: Brigham Young, “Joseph also told us that the Savior requires strict obedience to all the commandments, ordinances and laws pertaining to his kingdom, and that if we would do this we should be made partakers of all the blessings promised in his Gospel,” 37–38.
  5. Former president Harold B. Lee wrote, “In one sentence, repentance means turning from that which we have done wrong in the sight of the Lord and never repeating that mistake again. Then we can have the miracle of forgiveness.” Harold B. Lee, Ye Are the Light of the World: Selected Sermons and Writings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974), 321.

This article first appeared in the Effective Evangelism column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 34, number 04 (2011). The full text of this article in PDF format can be obtained by clicking here.

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