General Conference April 2015 – Sunday Morning Talk on Grace Review – by Bobby Gilpin

It’s that time of the year again. Our reviews of each session of General Conference are scheduled to start going live from this Friday. However there has been a lot of interest and excitement that has arisen on the back of a talk given on Sunday Morning by Dieter. F. Uchtdorf, second councillor to the first presidency. His talk focused on the subject of grace. This is a key issue that often comes up in Evangelical/LDS dialogue, and I thought I would jump right in with some thoughts on this.

I am going to assume people reading this have seen or heard the talk, if not I really recommend that you do, please check it out here. Or if it helps, you can listen to the audio here.

I think if I listened to this talk without much of a background knowledge of Mormonism I probably would not bat too much of an eyelid at this, in a lot of ways it sounds like a basic good talk on grace. I guess inevitably then I am going to have some bias, however I hope that bias is reasonable based on my past knowledge of Mormonism.

Firstly at about 3:50 Uchdtorf says this about grace

“….The grace of God, the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now, into exalted beings of truth and light….”

This is an immediate difference between the LDS and I would say the Biblical view of grace. I see the Biblical view as being that grace is the unmerited favour of God, placed upon us by faith. Instead Uchdtorf calls it the means by which we become something better, this from my understanding is the general LDS view on grace. We see this quote from an article on Grace on

No one can return to the presence of God without divine grace. Through the Atonement, we all can be forgiven of our sins; we can become clean before God. To receive this enabling power, we must obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes having faith in Him, repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and trying to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ for the rest of our lives.

Really this means that grace is what makes you do good enough, in order that you might gain or earn exaltation, this is a contradiction in terms if you are seeking to show that it’s not by works, as this is really how you become able to do the works, thus the works are still necessary.

The website says:

the word translated “grace” in the New Testament comes from the Greek word charis, which means “favor, blessing, or kindness. We can all extend grace to others; but when the wordgraceis used in connection with God, it takes on a more powerful meaning. Grace is God choosing to bless us rather than curse us as our sin deserves. It is His benevolence to the undeserving.”

True Biblical grace is the merit of God imputed to you, when you put your trust in Him, you become righteous by virtue of His saving work in you. Which absolutely should produce a changed life, resulting in good works. Without this there is no way of knowing that someone truly has accepted Christ. However Uchtdorf is putting the cart before the horse here, saying that grace is all about making you perform, in order that you might receive eternal blessings.

This is further reinforced at around 9:13 when he says:(bold added)

“His grace helps us become our best selves.”

This reminds me of a story that Thomas Monson told in the 2012 Priesthood session, he says this about a missionary who was asked why he was so successful.

Brother Tanner asked him what was different about his approach—why he had such phenomenal success when others didn’t. The young man said that he attempted to baptize every person whom he met. He said that if he knocked on the door and saw a man smoking a cigar and dressed in old clothes and seemingly uninterested in anything—particularly religion—the missionary would picture in his own mind what that man would look like under a different set of circumstances. In his mind he would look at him as clean-shaven and wearing a white shirt and white trousers. And the missionary could see himself leading that man into the waters of baptism. He said, “When I look at someone that way, I have the capacity to bear my testimony to him in a way that can touch his heart.”

This missionary looked at someone’s outward and focused on that, I think this is the essence of Mormonism, working to make people behave better outwardly, while leaving people lost inwardly.

In the Bible we see this in Romans 4:5

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness

Yet in Joseph Smith’s “inspired” translation

But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.

All of a sudden, God does not justify the ungodly. Because in Mormonism people need to make themselves Godly (with the help of grace), in order that they might become acceptable to God, As Alma 11:37 in the book of Mormon says: he cannot save them in their sins.

This is what Uchdtorf is really saying here, but he is dressing it up in a way that many uninformed evangelicals and LDS members alike will love.

At around 15:50 during the talk, Uchdtorf talks about how people have so often misunderstood 2 Nephi 25:23 saying how its not really saying we have to do all that we can, this is a misinterpretation.

In October 2010 Dallin Oaks said this:

Because of what He accomplished by His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power to prescribe the conditions we must fulfill to qualify for the blessings of His Atonement. That is why we have commandments and ordinances. That is why we make covenants. That is how we qualify for the promised blessings. They all come through the mercy and grace of the Holy One of Israel, ‘after all we can do’” (2 Nephi 25:23).

In 2009 JORGE F. ZEBALLOS said:

“Salvation and eternal life would not be possible if it were not for the Atonement, brought about by our Savior, to whom we owe everything. But in order for these supreme blessings to be effective in our lives, we should first do our part, ‘for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’”

Thomas Monson, “An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p.53 (bold added)

“It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in thepresence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which wewant membership. Such blessings must be earned” 

Lowell L. Bennion, Introduction to the Gospel (1955; LDS sunday school material), chapter 20, “The Way of Salvation”

“We believe in individual merit as a means of gaining salvation” – 

The reason people have been “misinterpreting” this for so long, is that their Leaders have been teaching it in that way.

To finish off, I think if the Mormon church really wants to prove to the world that they believe we do not become acceptable to God by our works, and its all of the merit of Christ, they need to ditch Temple recommend interviews, letting everyone in who professes Christ. They need to get rid of tithing settlement meetings where people have to show they have given a full 10% of their income, instead just telling people to give according to their conscience. Also get rid of Sunday dress, as we come to God as we are.

Also what about removing the “Requirements For Exaltation” part of the Gospel Principles manual that lists all of the things people need to do in order to be exalted.

They need to show by their actions as well as their words that this is a grace filled movement, otherwise they are simply saying that Jesus is full of grace, but the LDS church wants its piece of you.

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Categorised in: General Conference Reviews, Grace

7 Responses »

  1. Beautifully said Bobby. I would also the issue of Mormons claiming that the atonement took place in Gethsemane rather than on Golgotha as a reflection of this distorted view of grace. As I once pointed out in an article:

    “… though the difference between Gethsemane and Golgotha might appear to be a trivial technicality, it underscores the vast differences between orthodox Evangelical Christianity and Mormonism. By situating it at Golgotha, Evangelicals locate the atonement in the sacrifice of Christ; by situating it in Gethsemane, Mormons locate the atonement in the obedience of the believer.
    It’s the difference between grace and works. On the one hand, there is the truly finished work that the believer looks to in faith; and on the other there is the completed demonstration that the believer aspires to recreate (albeit metaphorically). In the latter, Christ might show the way, but he stops short of becoming the way, thus the believer is thrust back on his own efforts to secure the goal. As one recent commentator noted, Mormonism is more about attainment than atonement, but such a focus denies the redemption narrative that is so highly valued by Evangelicals.”

    On one hand I’m pleased to see the LdS Church reconsidering it’s unbiblical teachings on grace, but on the other hand I’m disappointed that they haven’t done more or gone further. Perhaps this is just the beginning. I sure hope so.

  2. Thank you Bobby. Once again you’ve nailed it. Plenty to sink our teeth into. Praising God for you and your Ministry, how He choses to work through you in such an astute manner so that He may be known, honoured, glorified, exhalted. Looking forward to reading many more posts.

  3. Bobby, luv ya Bud, but your critc role is in overdrive. As LDS, we don’t make ourselves Godly. God does that to us through His grace and the continual submission of our will to His. Jesus has sacrificed and devoted much to provide us with agency, teach us how to use that agency and then enable us to exercise our will to align with His. “Take upon my yoke”, he has instructed. “Learn of me”, He has said. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” He has declared. While the EV focus on Salvation (coming to Christ), LDS go way beyond in our focus to becoming, through Jesus Christ, as He has commanded, “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” We can’t earn that. The very possibility of that is a gift of grace. The way that is accomplished is a gift of grace. It’s a process of time and experience working shoulder to shoulder, in His yoke, with our Savior, learning of Him, mirroring what we learn and a little here and little there becoming more and more like Him as He enables us to Godliness. In this process, having works to do with Him is a gift of grace as we plough through all of the oppposition in the field of mortality yoked together with Him, learning of and through Him in a way that could not be accomplished any other way.

    • Thanks Michael, I appreciate your explanation, but my point stands that this is not biblical grace.

      All Uchtdorf has done here, is worded nicely the tired old message that Mormons need to work with God to become godly, not grace.

      Your explanation further makes my point

    • “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
      — Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)

      So Michael you can stopping “doing” and just “be” and still receive full salvation – as the thief on the cross did?

      – No Temple Recommend?
      – No Temple Endowment?
      – No baptism?
      – No Temple Marriage?
      – No Mission service?
      – etc., etc., etc.

      Christ says, “Believe and receive”; the Mormon Church says, “Believe and then work.”

      Christ says, “Just believe in faith and you will be fully saved”; the Mormon Church says, “Do! Do! Do! And you might be fully saved.”

      Christ says, “Believe and today you will be in paradise”; the Mormon Church says, “Believe and today you’ll be on probation for paradise.”

      There’s clearly a world of difference here!

  4. these comments are your interpretations. They are grossly misconstrued. Mormons do not believe the Atonement came in the ‘Garden and not on Gethsemane. The
    Atonement is the Acts of Christ and what his suffering did for all of us.
    If you prove you love Christ and strive to live what he teaches us, you are allowed in Temples. House of worship are the meeting houses you attend every Sunday where you learn the teachings of Christ.
    Christ taught us, Faith without works is dead. You have to live his teachings to be saved, not just profess you believe in him. Mormons strive to live the will of Christ and God the Father.
    That quote that Mormon Church said. “Believe and today you’ll be on probation for paradise” is a fallacy. I cannot find this quote or anything close to it in the Mormon doctrine, they are interpreting and stating what they see to be truth, not what was actually said. Only the author can state that
    To call yourself a religion, based on hate of another church, is not a divine Christ like behavior. There are many true churches, the ultimate is Christ teaching us to live his teachings. Some churches just chose to go further into the life and purpose of Christ’s teachings. and not to just skim the surface. Just to say you are “saved” is not good enough, you need to prove it by your actions. Slamming others who are religious is not a Christ like attribute. Remember, the 10 Commandments. The first being love your brother as yourself. You are going against this concept in slamming another religion that you do not have a full grasp or concept of other then criticism.
    Be careful what you say, you are driving more people into investigating the Mormon Church and they are walking out members now.

    • @Lynda, you wrote: “They are grossly misconstrued. Mormons do not believe the Atonement came in the ‘Garden”

      “On page fourteen of his book, “Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson,” the thirteenth president of the LDS Church stated it was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Christ “suffered as only as God would suffer, bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows, being wounded for our transgressions, voluntarily submitting Himself to the iniquity of us all, just as Isaiah prophesied.”

      He further stated on that same page: “It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg.15).

      In his book “The Promised Messiah,” Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “Forgiveness is available because Christ the Lord sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane as he bore the incalculable weight of the sins of all who ever had or ever would repent” (pg. 337). On page 552 of the same book McConkie continues by saying, “In a garden called Gethsemane, outside Jerusalem’s walls, in agony beyond compare, he took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance.”

      On pages 127-128 of McConkie’s “The Mortal Messiah,” he wrote, “And as he came out of the Garden, delivering himself voluntarily into the hands of wicked men, the victory had been won. There remained yet the shame and the pain of his attest, his trials, and his cross. But all these were overshadowed by the agonies and sufferings in Gethsemane. It was on the cross that he ‘suffered death in the flesh,’ even as many have suffered agonizing deaths, but it was in Gethsemane that “he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”

      It is true that recently Mormon Leaders have been adding “and the cross” (and in “gethsemane and the cross”) when they talk abut the atonement but it is clearly nothing more than spin that’s in reaction to criticism on Mormon atonement dogma, nothing more.

      YOU WROTE:
      “Christ taught us, Faith without works is dead. You have to live his teachings to be saved, not just profess you believe in him.”

      Actually that was the Apostle James and in context he was referring to how we as humans are to evaluate if someone is already saved or not:

      James 2 (NKJV)
      14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

      18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

      25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

      26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

      In a nutshell, from the divine perspective God already knows who has saving faith in Christ through grace and who doesn’t. We humans require something more to know who’s REALLY believed and who hasn’t: The evidence of works.

      YOU WROTE:
      That quote that Mormon Church said. “Believe and today you’ll be on probation for paradise” is a fallacy.

      Really? So do mean to tell us that the thief on the cross (the context and case study that I was arguing from) went immediately from the cross into “full salvation” – which in Mormon theology means the Celestial Kingdom/Celestial Exaltation?

      If so, you’re contradicting what your leaders teach. BEST case he was on probation for possibly achieving Celestial Exaltation later – assuming that he accepted the full Mormon gospel in the Telestial/Terrestrial Kingdom and some living Mormon got proxy baptized for him in a Mormon Temple.

      EVERY Mormon I have ever presented the case study of the thief on the cross has so argued the thief on the cross’s case,YOU are the exception. And I have verified that it is indeed consistent with what some Mormon Leaders have taught via my own study. Again, you’re the odd man out here, not I.

      YOU WROTE:
      “To call yourself a religion, based on hate of another church, is not a divine Christ like behavior…Slamming others who are religious is not a Christ like attribute.”

      First, who’s hating? Disagreement is disagreement it’s not hate.

      Second, if you want to start defining disagreement as hatred you’d better call all those “hating” Mormon Missionaries in from the field because here’s what they’re teaching investigators hatred from the LdS Missionary cirricullum “Preach My Gospel”:

      For example, on page 44 says:

      “Restoration: To restore means to return to a former condition, or to bring back.

      The Restoration, as used by Latter-day Saints, means that the true Church of Jesus Christ, which was lost through apostasy, was brought back as it originally existed when organized by Jesus Christ. Unlike the Reformation, the Restoration was accomplished by divine authority through revelation.”

      And turning to page 35 does it says:

      “Without the Apostles, over time the doctrines were corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost. Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      False ideas were taught as truth. Much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten. The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches.”

      Finally on page 37 it says:

      “In this vision God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. The Savior told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for they “were all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination.” He stated, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof”
      (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).”

      So as for the claim that, “We don’t attack other Churches!” I can only respond: “Yeah . . . right!”

      NOTE: For the readers unfamiliar with “Preach My Gospel” it is the training ciricullum for all LdS Missionaries. You can read the original here:

      YOU WROTE:
      “Be careful what you say, you are driving more people into investigating the Mormon Church and they are walking out members now.”

      Actually, the flat growth rate and the low activity rate in the LdS Church says quite the opposite. Critics aren’t the ones in trouble. Sorry.

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