Recently, there was a question that came up as to whether we need faith or works or both for exaltation. There has been a bunch of debate on this topic. I wanted to weigh in on how I understand it.
First off, let’s see what the scriptures have to say about faith and works. Let’s turn to James 2:14-22, which tells us:
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
For me, this is one of the clearest passages in the scriptures on this topic. “Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” We need both faith and works, clearly. But why is that the case?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks informs us:
Many Bible and modern scriptures speak of a final judgment at which all persons will be rewarded according to their deeds or works or the desires of their hearts. But other scriptures enlarge upon this by referring to our being judged by the condition we have achieved.
It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.
Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” General Conference Report, 2000
I feel like Elder Oaks explains it rather well. Part of our judgment will be on what we have become. To become something, you have to practice being that thing. That means actions that are in harmony with that goal.
For example, if you want to become more like the Savior, one way you could do that is through charity. So, you do your best to practice having charity until it becomes part of you.
It feels to me personally like this is the main reason that works matter just as much as faith does.