This one goes into the “quick-and-easy-bible-bash tips” bin. While it may not be the most exhaustive or thorough way to understand the issues, this is a quick, honest, and effective way of dealing with a common anti-Mormon criticism. Part 1 is about Eph. 2:8, and Part 2 is about Eph. 2:9.
Ephesians 2:8 is the battle cry of sola fide Evangelicals everywhere. It reads:
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
This passage is used as a club against the Latter-day Saints because we believe that one must actually do something to maintain the covenant that God makes with us.
But too often our critics set up a false dilemma. They will demand that one is either saved completely by grace (and nothing else at all), or completely by our own works (and nothing else at all). Latter-day Saints recognize a third way, in which we are asked to do something and we are able to do it because of the grace of Christ.
So, without further ado, here it goes. If an Evangelical insists that this passage must be interpreted to say that it is only by grace that we are saved, remind them of these other passages:
Rom 8:24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 1
1 Cor 15:1-2
1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
Rom 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
These passages suggest three other things beside grace that save us. If a critic insists that Eph 2:8 must be interpreted to mean that we are saved only by grace, point out that these passages say that other things contribute to our salvation alongside grace. At the very least, it eliminates the cry for “grace only” because now we have hope, the gospel, and Jesus’ life as contributing factors to our salvation. Former LDS apologist Kevin Graham noted in Mormonism 201:
“Does hope, grace, the gospel or the life of Jesus save us? The way Ephesians 2:8 is commonly interpreted by our critics, only one would be required and only one could apply. If the strict understanding of only should be read into the verse referring to grace, and not the rest, then let our critics justify the clear case of special pleading. Until they do, the Bible itself clearly provides a diversity of instances of “saved by…” to nullify the false dilemma.”
Ephesians 2:9 reads:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
This passage is interpreted by some Evangelical critics to say that any amount of work we do is worthless and only leads to false boasting. The false dilemma they invent is that God doesn’t ask us to do works, because if we did works we would boast about them. Thus, it is a choice between doing works (and boasting) and not doing works at all (and not boasting). But, that isn’t the only way to understand this passage. It could be useful to show them this passage from the Book of Mormon, which offers a perfectly rational (and better) alternate way to understand it:
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?