I served an LDS mission in Alabama. I was often asked the question by evangelical Christians if I had been “Saved”. At first, this question can puzzle many Mormons. We typically don’t view Salvation as a single, one moment in time event. You have to admit, the idea is appealing when our evangelical friends say you can “know for sure right now that you’re going to heaven.”
So can Mormons know right now if they are going to heaven? The answer is an unequivocal yes. How can a Mormon know? Mormon’s believe that it is through the grace of Jesus Christ that we are saved. We also believe that we have personal agency, and the power to make choices, both good and bad. We believe that in order to realize the blessings of the grace of Jesus, we have to be faithful to the end of our lives. Put another way, we have to repent when we sin in order to be reinstated to the grace of Jesus Christ.
We believe that there is the possibility that people can fall from the grace of Christ. Just like the apostle Paul said “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” Paul in this instance is talking about people who believe they can be saved by the law, but none-the-less he mentioned that they are actually fallen from grace – which shows that one can fall from grace.
Latter-day Saints would also say that when we willfully disobey God’s commandments we break the covenant of grace we made at baptism. When you are baptized, you promise to take upon yourself the name of Christ, and promise to keep His commandments. But when you break these commandments, you have broken your promise, and your covenants. This covenant can be restored and renewed through repentance and partaking of the sacrament, otherwise known as the Lord’s supper, or Eucharist.
So when this covenant is restored each week, a Mormon knows she or he is saved. They are what the apostle John calls “dwelling in Him.” (1st John 3:24)
An often quoted scripture in the Book of Mormon is 2 Nephi 25:23:
…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
Later in the book of Mormon we read of the people of Ammon who say in Alma 24:11:
11 And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—
In the end all we can do is repent, renew our covenants and try again.
Another way for a Mormon to know they are saved is even less complicated. It involves the Holy Ghost. When a person is baptized into the church, they are also given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. We are taught that the Holy Ghost doesn’t dwell in unclean tabernacles. So a great rule of thumb for any latter-day saint to know if they are saved is if they have the Spirit of The Lord with them. If you can truly say that the Spirit is with you, you can know for sure you’ve been forgiven of your sins, and you are clean. You are “dwelling in Him”. (1st John 3:24 –
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
Another important thing to understand is that there is a fundamental difference in what Mormons believe when it comes to the fall of Adam and Eve. Our article of faith says “We believe that man will be punished for his own sins and not for Adam’s transgression” I don’t think many Mormons even understand the significance of this statement.
Creedal Christianity teaches that because of the fall of Adam, everyone is born depraved and more specifically in Calvinism, we are so depraved that we are incapable of making any good choices. I think the confusion lies in the fall. Mormons would say that the fall did bring death, sickness, deformation, and weakness into the world. It did put us in a state where we could be tempted by various things. But temptation is not sin. The Lord himself was tempted in “all things.” (Hebrews 4:15) But He didn’t give into it. Mormons believe sin is WILLFUL disobedience to God. In other words we are not accountable for the urges, and temptations we experience in this life because we have no control over them. We are however accountable for what we do have control over, and that is giving in to those temptations. Having those urges and temptations doesn’t make us depraved, for we are eternal beings Sons and Daughters of the Living God, put into imperfect bodies that are imperfect because of the fall.
Someday, because of Christ, those bodies will be made perfect. Our test is to play the game with the cards we are dealt, and play by the rules. When we break the rules, and give in to temptation, we have a Savior who is ready to forgive and who has paid the price if we repent and renew our covenant with Him. The trick is to stay in the covenant. If you stay in the covenant, you have grace, if you have grace, you have heaven.
One last point. When a Mormon is talking salvation they are talking about the Celestial Kingdom. We would consider all three kingdoms of glory a sort of salvation or Heaven. But we are most interested in the highest where our Heavenly Father dwells.
So are you saved? Yes if you “dwelleth in Him.”