Mormons, a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, celebrate Easter as a very sacred day. Each Christmas, members are reminded that Christmas is a holiday because Easter is a holiday. Without the atonement of Jesus Christ, there would have been no Christmas and our eternal lives would be lost.
Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God and of Mary. They have no doctrine on how this parentage came to be and rumors concerning Mormon beliefs on this subject are not true. It is considered unimportant to our eternal salvation. What is important is that this duel mortal and divine heritage allowed Jesus Christ to do things we could not do for ourselves. While His mortality allowed Him to experience and understand the challenges and temptations we face, His divinity allowed him to overcome death to be resurrected. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus took on all the sins ever created, an extraordinarily selfless and painful act, one that required the ministering of angels to get through. Then he suffered on the cross, another painful experience. However, after three days, He rose from the dead and broke the bonds of death for all of us.
What do these events mean for us? Mormons believe that justice required that we live perfect, sinless lives here on earth. This, of course, would be impossible for anyone but Jesus Christ. Fortunately, God loves us so much He chose to balance justice with mercy. He authorized a proxy ordinance in the form of the atonement, which means that Jesus Christ would suffer for our sins and atone for them in a way we could not. His atonement, death, and resurrection made it possible for us to be saved.
To a Mormon, being saved means more than making a one-time statement of faith. It is an ongoing process. The idea that being saved is a way of living and not just an act derives in part from the following scriptures in the Bible and the Book of Mormon:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).
Book of Mormon:
24 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.
25 Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen (2 Nephi 10:24).
What this means is that Mormons believe we must accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and be baptized. But if we simply stopped there, going on to live any life we wanted without regard to the commandments, we would be demonstrating that our statement of faith was false and without commitment. Our lives must be an outward demonstration of our internal faith. God gave us commandments and like any good parent, He expects us to keep them, as shown in the Biblical scripture above. The greater our faith, the easier it is to keep the commandments. For those with perfect faith, obedience is not a burden.
We might remember that in the Bible a young man came and asked Jesus what he should do. Jesus mentioned several commandments and the man said he’d been doing all those things since he was a child. Jesus raised the bar—he challenged the man to give away all his possessions and to follow Jesus. This the young man was not able to do. His possessions were more important to him than Jesus Christ at that time. His choices and his acts demonstrated the validity and depth of his conversion.
Mormons understand that although we must keep the commandments, keeping them alone is not enough. A person cannot make a list of commandments and then work down the list without an inner commitment. The commandments must be kept for the proper reason—not to receive a reward but as a natural outgrowth of our deep faith in and love for Jesus Christ. Only when our hearts and motives are pure are we doing exactly what Jesus Christ asked of us when he said in John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Mormons believe that because of the atonement, everyone will rise from the dead and live forever. We each have the right and ability to repent, something not fully possible prior to the atonement. At baptism, we understand that we are saved, but that we must do our part and live a Christ-like life. Then, when we have done our part, the part Jesus Christ personally required of us during His mortal ministry, He will do His part—a part we cannot possibly do for ourselves. We are saved only through Jesus Christ because we could not have saved ourselves had He chosen not to come to Earth and atone for our sins. Our eternal salvation is a partnership of love between God, Jesus Christ, and ourselves.
Learn more about whether or not Mormons believe in being saved by grace.
Thomas S. Monson, the current Mormon prophet, has spoken often on Easter. Following is one testimony he shared of the very first Easter:
“Next week the Christian world will celebrate the most significant event in recorded history. The simple pronouncement, “He is not here, but is risen,” was the first confirmation of the literal Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The empty tomb that first Easter morning brought comforting assurance, an affirmative answer to Job’s question, “If a man die, shall he live again?”…
With all my heart and the fervency of my soul, I lift up my voice in testimony as a special witness and declare that God does live. Jesus is His Son, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Redeemer; He is our Mediator with the Father. He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again. “Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives!’” May the whole world know it and live by that knowledge, I humbly pray, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior, amen.” (See I Know That My Redeemer Lives!” Ensign, May 2007, 24, 25.)
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.