The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation. This principle can be comprehended by the faithful and diligent; and every one that does not obtain knowledge sufficient to be saved will be condemned. The principle of salvation is given us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 297).
The Savior in his great intercessory prayer at Gethsemane, said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). In order to “work out our own salvation,” we must first come to know our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ who He sent to save us all. Knowledge of divine and spiritual things is absolutely essential for our salvation.
Joseph Smith declared, “I want you all to know him, and to be familiar with him” (Teachings, p. 345). He taught that knowledge was one of the attributes of God and that it was a gift of the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:8). He taught that we could not be saved in ignorance (D&C 131:6) for we would not know who to look to for a remission of our sins. We can not worship someone we do not know in truth and obedience. By acknowledging Jesus Christ as our Savior, we humbly, “with fear and trembling,” come to know him and his sacrifice for each of us. With this knowledge comes responsibility, to “work out your own salvation” with the Lord.
President David O. McKay taught, “An outstanding doctrine of the Church is that each individual carries the responsibility to work out his own salvation, and salvation is a process of gradual development. The Church does not accept the doctrine that a mere murmured belief in Jesus Christ is all that is necessary. A man may say he believes, but if he does nothing to make that belief or faith a moving power to do, to accomplish, to produce soul growth, his professing will avail him nothing. ‘Work out your salvation’ is an exhortation to demonstrate by activity, by thoughtful, obedient effort the reality of faith. But this must be done with a consciousness that absolute dependence upon self may produce pride and weakness that will bring failure. With ‘fear and trembling’ we should seek the strength and grace of God for inspiration to obtain the final victory. To work out one’s salvation is not to sit idly by dreaming and yearning for God miraculously to thrust bounteous blessings into our laps. It is to perform daily, hourly, momentarily, if necessary, the immediate task or duty at hand, and to continue happily in such performance as the years come and go, leaving the fruits of such labors either for self or for others to be bestowed as a just and beneficent Father may determine” (Conference Report, April 1957, p. 7).
Moroni, the last great prophet of the Book of Mormon, added his testimony to “come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him. Be wise in the days of your probation” (Mormon 9:27-28). Joseph also taught that, “salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ” (Teachings, p. 323).
It is no wonder then that members of the Church declare to the world the divinity of Jesus Christ and strive to live according to his will and direction. As members we should, and do, heed the admonition of Moroni as he finished his record, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:32-33).
No wonder the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The great plan of salvation is a theme which ought to occupy our strict attention, and be regarded as one of heaven’s best gifts to mankind. No consideration whatever ought to deter us from showing ourselves approved in the sight of God” (Teachings, p. 68).
The Apostle Paul stated, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:9-12).