Lately whenever I’ve visited out in SLC I’ve had a meetup with my evangelical Christian buddy, Aaron — the one who is known for standing out on Temple Square with a sign on Thursday evenings. Every time I return from an evening of bandying scripture about, I am prone to much reflection on the nature of salvation. And because I’m more disposed to connection than disassociation, I like to ponder the points of contact between traditional Christianity and modern Mormonism.
The fathers of the early Christian church and their successors believed that salvation began at one’s baptism. When someone was baptized the sins which s/he had committed until that point in life (plus his or her share of original sin) were forgiven. But since everyone continues to be plagued with sin after baptism (1 John 1:8, 10), a plan whereby post-baptismal sins could be atoned for was necessary.
Would you say I was simplifying wildly to suggest that until the Reformation only one view of salvific repentance was dominant?  This held that at baptism prior sins were forgiven and that subsequent sins could only be forgiven by confessing one’s sins to a priest and then carefully carrying out the acts of penance which this spiritual counselor prescribed.
The Reformation introduced two new views. Calvin taught that Christ’s death completely atoned for all the sins that one had in the past or would in the future commit. At conversion all sins were forgiven, and confessing to a priest and performing acts of penance to maintain salvation were not needed. Luther held an intermediate position between that of Calvin and the Roman Catholic Church. While he rejected acts of confession and penance formally, he continued to believe that one could fail to obtain final salvation by choosing to indulge in a life of sin.
The student of religion may recognize that a Calvinistic approach is more likely to give the believer a license to sin. Since the Reformation six Protestant views have emerged, each approaching the problem a bit differently.
- turn from sins and keep on doing so to obtain and keep a salvation which can be lost (example)
- turn from sins to obtain an eternally secure salvation (example)
- be willing to turn from sins and then, after conversion, actually turn from sins as a manner of life to gain and keep one’s salvation (example)
- be willing to turn from sins to obtain an eternally secure salvation (example)
- change your mind about yourself and Christ to gain initial salvation and then turn from your sins with the help of Christ to keep that salvation (example)
- change your mind about yourself and Christ to gain an inviolable salvation (example) 
Despite protestations to the contrary, many Christian groups place at least some works-based conditions on salvation. I would say that the Mormon view of salvation is most often like #1 (if we are talking about exaltation, which we are) (Bruce R. McConkie). We sometimes find it explained in terms that sound like #3 (Blake Ostler, sort of), or #5 (Stephen E. Robinson). Yeah, I know they don’t exactly line up… but I think we favor these views over the secure salvation of #2, #4, and #6 because we are deathly afraid of giving people a license to sin.
The general Mormon reaction to a couple of scriptural texts will illustrate this. First, in the story of the Prodigal Son, Mormons have a great deal of difficulty relating to the younger son. He is the one who has thrown away his inheritance and is forgiven by his father. Latter-day Saints are always wanting to identify with the older son. In fact, there is a great deal of exegesis in LDS thought to the point that the younger son may be welcomed back with a party, but will never regain his portion in the estate. This will go to the older son who was faithful. We just can’t seem to let that younger son have a license to sin.
Next, there is the problem of King David, of Old Testament fame. I do not know of any of the other Christian churches who believe that David was not completely forgiven for the grave sins he committed of adultery and murder. D&C 132:39, however, states that David has fallen from his exaltation. The LDS Bible Dictionary explains that because of his transgressions, he “paid, and is paying, a heavy price for his disobedience to the commandments of God.” Though his soul will not be left in hell, he will not receive unmitigated forgiveness.
Let’s hear from some of you on your views of inviolable salvation. I’d actually love to just give myself over to it. I like the idea of pure grace and handing all of the hard work over to Jesus, whose yoke is easy and burden is light. Or do I just want a license to sin?
 “Dominant” is the salient word here. At first the early fathers debated whether major post-baptismal sins could be forgiven at all. It was generally decided that even “mortal” sins could be forgiven, but there was some disagreement as to how many times a person could repent and be forgiven. A few leaders, such as Hermas (Book of Mandates, Ch 3), held that there could be only one opportunity for repentance after baptism. That view did not prevail. Agreement was reached that one could repent and be forgiven on several occasions. At first it was not specified exactly how many times someone could repent for fear of giving penitents an implicit license to sin. Unsurprisingly, this led people to put off repentance until their deathbeds. By the fifth century Christian churches uniformly began to teach that a person might repent and be forgiven an unlimited number of times. (see Augustine, On the Creed 15-16)
 I want to find online examples of all of these approaches. I’ll be linking to them as I find them. If you know of any, provide a link in the comments!