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This page contains comments form the following authors:
Colin B. Douglas
Elder Bruce R. McConkie
by Colin B. Douglas
Although the word "justify" has several meanings, its main meaning in the latter-day scriptures is inseparably intertwined with the concepts of grace (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16; 2 Ne. 2:5; Mosiah 14:11; D&C 20:30; Moses 6:60), faith, repentance, righteousness, and sanctification.
Justification is a scriptural metaphor drawn from the courts of law: a judge justifies an accused person by declaring or pronouncing that person innocent. Likewise, God may treat a person as being "not guilty" of sin. All mortals individually need to be justified because they fall short of perfect obedience to God, becoming "carnal, sensual, and devilish" through transgression (Moses 5:13; Mosiah 16:3), are "cut off" from God, and are in jeopardy of becoming "miserable forever" (2 Ne. 2:5). In this plight, they of themselves cannot be justified through subsequent obedience to the law and cannot change their own nature to become obedient. Furthermore, they are severed from the source of the divine power that can change, or sanctify, them (2 Ne. 9:5-9).
However, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, when men, women, or children have faith in Jesus, are truly penitent, call upon his name, and are baptized, they become eligible for the redeeming grace extended through Jesus Christ. In this sense they become justified. This is given as a gift by grace, since fallen man must rely "alone upon the merits of Christ" (1 Ne. 10:6; Moro. 6:4). The faith by which one receives this grace manifests itself in an active determination to follow Christ in all things. It is demonstrated by obedience to the commandments to repent and be baptized, followed by a life of submission, obedience, and service to God and others (2 Ne. 31:16-20; Moro. 8:25-26; see Gospel of Jesus Christ).
Justification directly opens the way to sanctification by establishing a "right" relationship of mortals with God. Thus, God, without denying justice, can bless them with the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost (Mosiah 5:1-2; 3 Ne. 27:20). Justification starts the believer on the path toward righteousness.
Because justified, and even sanctified, persons can fall from that state of grace, believers are admonished to "take heed and pray always" (D&C 20:30-33) and to meet together often to fast and partake of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, thereby renewing and personally reviewing their covenants with God, including baptism and its cleansing effect (Moro. 6:5-6), and to endure to the end (D&C 53:7).
The person whom God justifies has not yet necessarily received the promise of eternal life (see Holy Spirit of Promise; Jesus Christ: Second Comforter). To obtain that promise, the justified must continue in the path of faith, wherein nothing can separate the faithful from the love of God.
Anderson, Richard L. Understanding Paul. Salt Lake City, 1983.
Sperry, Sidney B. Paul's Life and Letters, pp. 171-78. Salt Lake City, 1955.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
by Elder Bruce R. McConkie
In summarizing the plan of salvation, Adam taught: "By the water ye keep the commandment"; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified." (Moses 6:60.) And on the day the Church was organized in this dispensation writing by way of revelation, the Prophet recorded: "We know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true." (D. & C. 20:30.) Compliance with this basic doctrine of the gospel, the law of justification is thus essential to salvation. Indeed, one of the great religious contentions among the sects of Christendom is whether men are justified by faith alone, without works, as some erroneously suppose Paul taught (Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 3:19-28; 4:5; 5:1-10; Gal. 2:15-21; 2 Ne. 2:5), or whether they are justified by works of righteousness as James explained. (Jas. 2:14-26.)
What then is the law of justification? It is simply this: "All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations" (D. & C. 132:7), in which men must abide to be saved and exalted, must be entered into and performed in righteousness so that the Holy Spirit can justify the candidate for salvation in what has been done. (1 Ne. 16:2; Jac. 2:13-14; Alma 41:15; D. & C. 98; 132:1, 62.) An act that is justified by the Spirit is one that is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, or in other words, ratified and approved by the Holy Ghost. This law of justification is the provision the Lord has placed in the gospel to assure that no unrighteous performance will be binding on earth and in heaven, and that no person will add to his position or glory in the hereafter by gaining an unearned blessing.
As with all other doctrines of salvation, justification is available because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, but it becomes operative in the life of an individual only on conditions of personal righteousness. As Paul taught, men are not justified by the works of the Mosaic law alone any more than men are saved by those works alone. The grace of God, manifest through the infinite and eternal atonement wrought by his Son, makes justification a living reality for those who seek righteousness. (Isa. 53:11; Mosiah 14:11.)
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