When Christians hear the words “only way” connected with “eternal happiness” most will immediately think of Jesus’ words in John 14:6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Note how exclusively Jesus speaks. He doesn’t say he is “a” way; rather he says he is “the” way. And he doesn’t leave us wondering what that means when he continues by saying that the only way anybody can come to the Father is through him.
Further note that he doesn’t add anything to his being the way. No, it’s all about him. Whenever the Bible talks about coming into God’s presence it speaks exclusively of Jesus’ works – how his obedient life and sacrificial death is all that is needed for us to confidently come into God’s presence. As Paul wrote to Titus: “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3: 4-7)
Now compare that to this statement Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the LDS apostles, made at last April’s General Conference. “A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father. His goal is our eternal happiness and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy.” (Ensign, May, 2013, p. 88m my emphasis). That’s quite a bit different from what Jesus said. Jesus said he is the only way, Perry says the commandments are the only way. Even more striking is that in this talk Elder Perry mentions eternal happiness a few times. But not once in the talk is there any mention of what Jesus did for us!
Rather his entire talk is about our obedience and how that is what is important to our eternal happiness. That comes out already in the title of his address: “Obedience to the Law is Liberty”. Furthermore, he quotes LDS Scripture to make the point that there is no such thing as undeserved blessings: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21) Talk about something that is the furthest thing from being Christ – centered!
His talk is not only another in a long list of examples vividly demonstrating the vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but it also serves as a good reminder to Christians of why it is so important to emphasize with their LDS friends that eternal happiness does not depend on our obedience but rather on Christ’s obedience for us. Yes, out of love and gratitude to our gracious God we strive to keep the commandments. But our striving is not only terribly imperfect but it is also the result and not the cause of our eternal happiness. Jesus’ obedience, and only his obedience, is what makes us worthy to enter God’s presence. To him be all glory.