A Tale of Two Gospels
“And he said unto me: Behold, there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.“1 Nephi 14:10
This is perhaps the truest statement in The Book of Mormon. There are only two churches: the church of God, and the church of the devil. But how do we differentiate between the two?
Doctrine and Covenants 18:5 sheds some light on this. It says: Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.
In other words, the gospel and the church are fundamentally connected. Thus, a true church cannot have a false gospel, and vice versa. By honing in on the gospel itself, we can determine whether a church is from God, or of the devil. It should come as no surprise that there are only two gospels: amputation and imputation.
The gospel of amputation says we cannot be saved in sin, so we must eradicate it from our lives to be worthy. Imputation is the opposite. Instead of taking something off, it’s about putting something on, namely the righteousness of Christ. This gospel teaches that we can be saved despite our sins, because Christ’s worthiness is accredited to us vicariously.
At their most basic definitions, one gospel says man participates in his salvation, the other says we do not. Thus, the truth cannot exist outside these dimensions, and it cannot be a combination of the two as that would be a contradiction.
The Amputation Heresy
A Latter-day Saint might argue that their covenants and ordinances place them outside the bounds of amputation theology. However, there are two types of sin. There are sins of omission and commission, so in order to amputate sin from our lives, not only must we stop doing bad things, we must stop not doing good things. Since LDS covenants are considered good things that are required to gain the presence of Heavenly Father, they fall directly in line with amputation.
Some Latter-day Saints have adopted the idea that imputation occurs at some point on their journey to exaltation, like at baptism. The problem with this is Jesus is an infinite being of infinite righteousness, and infinity can’t be divided. The moment Jesus gives us any percentage of His righteousness, He gives it all. So, if imputation occurs at baptism it negates the need for any ordinances afterward. To say otherwise is to deny the total worthiness of Christ.
Even if Latter-day Saints embrace imputation, they still fall under the dominion of amputation theology because imputation cannot occur until man does something first.
With amputation theology, your worthiness hinges on your obedience. So as long as you have sin in your life, you’re in trouble. With imputation, sin doesn’t harm salvation, because worthiness hinges on faith.
This puts a damper on LDS efforts to say we believe the same thing. In fact, the divide between these gospels is so great that Mormons have more in common with every religion on earth than with Biblical Christianity.
This is a major problem, because in Galatians 1:8 Paul says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” In Galatians 5:4 he says, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”
When Paul spoke about the law and grace, he was talking about amputation vs imputation. Even though Latter-day Saints don’t follow the law of Moses, Paul’s statements still condemn them on principle.
Romans 3:19-20 says: Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
The law reveals God’s standards, and is meant to stop our mouths and make us guilty before Him. Ironically, the covenants of the restored gospel do exactly the same thing. And assuming God doesn’t change, whether He reveals His standards through the law or LDS covenants, it still condemns us.
The gospel of amputation is an impossible gospel, because no matter how hard we try we can never eradicate the sin from our lives. 1 John 1:8 says: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Thus, a gospel that can’t save us despite our sins cannot save us at all.
The Gospel of Imputation
In Romans 3:23-25 Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
There are a number of doctrines being stated here. None of us are up to achieving God’s perfect standard, and as a result we are pronounced guilty. God’s grace is given as a gift to us, even though we don’t deserve it. And grace is received through faith. There is no mention of baptism, endowment, or temple sealings.
In Romans 4:4-5 Paul says, “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”
The message is simple. Faith is not an action word that includes LDS covenants or obedience. It is completely separate from anything we do. If we will just believe, we will be counted righteous.
Of course, the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible corrupts Romans 4:5, changing it to say that God does not justify the ungodly. Not only does this go against the context of Romans 4, it doesn’t make sense. Why would God need to justify the godly anyway?
During his ministry, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Matthew 9:12-13).”
The restored gospel is a doctrine of sacrifice. Latter-day Saints must abstain from tea, coffee, and alcohol. They must sacrifice 10% of their incomes to the church. They must sacrifice Sunday as a holy day to the Lord. In the temple, Latter-day Saints covenant to consecrate their time, talents, and anything else the Lord has blessed them with, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Joseph Smith said, “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation (Lectures on Faith 6:7).” This is not the gospel taught in the Bible. Jesus doesn’t require a gospel of sacrifice. He gave us a gospel of mercy.
Here’s the million-dollar question for Latter-day Saints. If there are only two churches, and only two gospels for these churches to be founded on, then where does that leave you? Either Christianity is true, and you believe in a false gospel, or you are right and so is every other religious group on earth that teaches man must do something. Either way, it’s a lose-lose proposition, because the gospel you claim was restored already existed long before Mormonism came on the scene.