The Source of Salvation

In the scriptures there are several tensions between doctrines. The most famous is the faith v. works discussion. Partisans will use the words of Paul or James as weapons against one another. 

But in reality both of these great men taught in harmony with one another. But the message they taught varied because their audiences were different. Paul taught groups that were being told that they needed to keep obeying the law of Moses. James taught groups who had likely perverted Paul’s teachings of Grace into a doctrine of permissiveness to sin. Both their messages are essential when taken in balance.

Mark E. Peterson in the April 1973 conference gave a talk called “Salvation Comes Through the Church.” That title at first made me uncomfortable. It also made me think of recent talks that have strongly emphasized that the Church is NOT the gospel and that it is only the Gosple of Christ that can save.

But as I thought about it more, these talks are like the Paul to Elder Peterson’s James. Both messages are vital. But both can be distorted if focused on alone.

Yes, it’s true that the it is Christ and Christ alone that brings salvation. Membership in a church cannot do that. But if taken to an extreme, this believe can lead one to reject the need for ordinances and for the authority that Christ placed on the earth. The same is true for taking Elder Peterson’s message to an extreme. That can lead to worshiping the Prophet rather than the savior and living a checklist life rather than a life of faith. We cannot believe that our church membership–however necessary– can save us. It is only if our membership is coupled with the grace and power of the atonement that has salvific force.

Different leaders may at times emphasize different facets of the Gospel, but all are necessary and all balance together into a perfect Gospel whole.


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