Here it will be explained the teaching and practices of LDS salvation by examining and clarifying the meaning of Mormonism's third and fourth Articles of Faith creedal statements: "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel" and "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."
It is very important to be aware that Mormonism's theology of salvation is understood as a two-way covenant made between God and man. In this sense, LDS salvation is a salvation partnership. Latter-day Saints state that God has fulfilled his part especially through the covenant grace in the atonement of Jesus Christ, and that humans must now fulfill their part by fully obeying the LDS covenant works and ordinances. In the LDS covenant plan of salvation, both God's grace and human works are absolutely necessary and required. In other words, although faith in God's covenant grace in the atonement of Jesus Christ is a prerequisite, the LDS Church also emphasizes very strongly that human covenant works and ordinances are also absolutely necessary for salvation. The LDS Church defines ordinances this way:
In the Church, an ordinance is a sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the priesthood. Some ordinances are essential to our exaltation. These ordinances are called saving ordinances. They include baptism, confirmation, ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men), the temple endowment, and the marriage sealing. With each of these ordinances, we enter into solemn covenants with the Lord.
This is why Dr. Robert Millet in his book Grace Works answers the question "Do Latter-day Saints believe in salvation by grace alone?" by saying, paradoxically, yes and no!
LDS Human Covenant Works
In Mormonism, the LDS requirement to experience eternal exaltation into godhood is best described as Jesus, plus much more. As we will see here, Mormonism requires much more than faith in Jesus Christ to receive and experience the biblical promises of eternal life and salvation, even though John 3:16 declares, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life," and the apostle Paul writes in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
According to the LDS two-way covenant of salvation, putting one's total faith and trust in Jesus Christ's atonement is not sufficient to experience eternal life and exaltation with Father God in the afterlife. If there is any question that Mormonism requires much more than Jesus Christ to receive and experience eternal life and exalted salvation, then the LDS Book of Mormon Student Manual settles the issue:
One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.
Bruce McConkie goes even further:
One of the untrue doctrines found in modern Christendom is the concept that man can gain salvation-meaning in the kingdom of God-by grace alone and without obedience. This soul-destroying doctrine has the obvious effect of lessening the determination of an individual to conform to all of the laws and ordinances of the Gospel, such conformity being essential if the sought for reward is in reality to be gained.
Mormons require numerous mandatory works of obedience in order to gain eternal life with God, and they have added several layers of LDS laws, conditions, and ordinances to the forgiving grace and redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints must accomplish and fulfill many things before the forgiveness and grace of Jesus is fully activated and effective in their lives. This is what the third LDS Articles of Faith statement means when it states that eternal life requires human "obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." Dr. Stephen Robinson provides commentary on this creed:
While there are no preconditions for entering into the covenant of faith in Christ to be justified by his grace through faith, there are covenant obligations incurred by so entering.
According to LDS teaching, the highest level of eternal reward and happiness is reserved only for those who entirely obey the so-called restored LDS covenant obligations. In order for Latter- day Saints to enter the highest Celestial heaven, they must place their trust in Jesus Christ and fully obey the Celestial law, which consists of all the covenant obligations and works. It is important to understand that Mormonism teaches that the acceptance of the LDS version of the fullness of the gospel, including faithfulness to all the LDS ordinances, is absolutely necessary for salvation.
The LDS requirement of faith in Jesus plus worthy Celestial obedience to inherit eternal life is a heavy burden for many Mormons. No matter how hard one tries to remain perfectly obedient and keep all the extrabiblical Mormon commandments, falling short is inevitable. In living with the resultant deep feelings of guilt and failure, many Mormons simply determine that they will never be good enough for Celestial exaltation into gods, and they internally give up and become resigned to the fact that they will be worthy of only a partial or lesser salvation contained in the lower Mormon kingdoms. Dr. Stephen Robinson presents numerous examples of Latterday Saints who are struggling with trying to be good enough for Celestial exaltation, including his wife, Janet, who openly confessed, "I'm never going to be perfect, and I just can't pretend anymore that I am."