Many wonder and marvel at the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church). The name of the Church is simply “The Church of Jesus Christ.” The phrased affixed to the end, “of Latter-day Saints,” simply differentiates us from the early “Saints,” who were members of Christ’s Church in ancient times under the original apostles. All who were faithful members were called Saints. Saints are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. There is no need for beatification or ceremony. All disciples were Saints in ancient times, and they are all called Saints now.
Paul Teaches the Doctrine of Justification
In Romans 2–5 we see that Paul still needed to clarify that Christian converts need not rely on the Laws of Moses for their salvation. In some ways the Law of Moses was always dead. It was meant to lead the Israelites to the next step, Jesus Christ. In the Book of Mormon, these ideas are made very clear:
And it shall come to pass that ye shall be smitten for your iniquities, for ye have said that ye teach the law of Moses. And what know ye concerning the law of Moses? Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?
And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses.
And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.
And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;
Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him.
But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come.
And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God.
For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things?
Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?
Yea, and have they not said also that he should bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, and that he, himself, should be oppressed and afflicted?
In Romans Paul talks about “justification.” Justification is defined as follows:
“To be pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless. A person is justified by the Savior’s grace through faith in him. This faith is shown by repentance and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Jesus Christ’s atonement enables mankind to repent and be justified or pardoned from punishment they otherwise would receive” (Guide to the Scriptures).
The Law of Moses could not provide justification for the early Saints; only faith in and obedience to Christ could do that. Since no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God, we must achieve justification in order to be exalted into His very presence. Belief is not enough for justification, but neither is reliance on Law. Grace is important to justification; we cannot be justified without it. Christ’s grace is our help both here and in heaven.
Many people have interpreted Paul’s writings to mean that we can be justified through faith alone without good works. We can learn the relationship between our actions (or works) and justification through the grace of Christ. (See Romans 3:31; James 2:14–18, 24; 2 Nephi 25:23; D&C 88:38–39.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “To be justified before God we must love one another: we must overcome evil; we must visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and we must keep ourselves unspotted from the world: for such virtues flow from the great fountain of pure religion, strengthening our faith by adding every good quality that adorns the children of the blessed Jesus. We can pray in the season of prayer; we can love our neighbor as ourselves, and be faithful in tribulation, knowing that the reward of such is greater in the kingdom of heaven. What a consolation! What a joy!” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 76).
We Can Become Reborn and Become Co-heirs with Christ
Baptism by immersion is a symbol of our spiritual rebirth. When we go under the water, it is a symbol that we are burying our old self in a grave. When we come out of the water, we are symbolically washed clean. We have become a new person who has covenanted to follow Christ. Baptism by immersion is also symbolic of Christ’s death and resurrection. Jesus said that we must be “born again” in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. We cast off the old carnal person and become a “new creature in Christ.” (See Romans 6 and Romans 8.)
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said: “Consider the power of the idea taught in our beloved song ‘I Am a Child of God’ (Hymns, 301). … Here is the answer to one of life’s great questions, ‘Who am I?’ I am a child of God with a spirit lineage to heavenly parents. That parentage defines our eternal potential. That powerful idea is a potent antidepressant. It can strengthen each of us to make righteous choices and to seek the best that is within us. Establish in the mind of a young person the powerful idea that he or she is a child of God, and you have given self-respect and motivation to move against the problems of life” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 31; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 25).
What does it mean to be co-heirs with Christ? It means He will give us all that He has, and that we will be one with Him as He is one with God. The doctrine of theosis was known to the early Saints as it is known to Latter-day Saints. God the Father says we will be “gods” because we are co-heirs with Christ. This is not blasphemy, but the very center of God’s plan for us. None of us will usurp God, but we will be sealed to Him as part of His family.
They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
Therefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s (Doctrine and Covenants 76:55-59).
These blessings are available to all who will come unto Christ and do His will.
Paul exhorted the Roman Saints to present themselves as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1). As disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, Saints, we cannot rely on belief alone and then follow the world in our behavior. We must place our sins upon the altar and follow Him.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained, “To present [oneself] as a living sacrifice is to come forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit through obedience” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 2:292).
In Romans 13:8-9 Paul tells us how to behave like Saints:
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Here, isn’t Paul quoting the Old Testament? Are not we back in the Law of Moses again? Yes, but with the grace of Christ and the atonement to exalt us.