From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Douglas, Colin B.
Although the word "justify" has several meanings, its main meaning in the latter-day scriptures is inseparably intertwined with the concepts of grace (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16; 2 Ne. 2:5; Mosiah 14:11; D&C 20:30; Moses 6:60), faith, repentance, righteousness, and sanctification.
Justification is a scriptural metaphor drawn from the courts of law: a judge justifies an accused person by declaring or pronouncing that person innocent. Likewise, God may treat a person as being "not guilty" of sin. All mortals individually need to be justified because they fall short of perfect obedience to God, becoming "carnal, sensual, and devilish" through transgression (Moses 5:13; Mosiah 16:3), are "cut off" from God, and are in jeopardy of becoming "miserable forever" (2 Ne. 2:5). In this plight, they of themselves cannot be justified through subsequent obedience to the law and cannot change their own nature to become obedient. Furthermore, they are severed from the source of the divine power that can change, or sanctify, them (2 Ne. 9:5-9).
However, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, when men, women, or children have faith in Jesus, are truly penitent, call upon his name, and are baptized, they become eligible for the redeeming grace extended through Jesus Christ. In this sense they become justified. This is given as a gift by grace, since fallen man must rely "alone upon the merits of Christ" (1 Ne. 10:6; Moro. 6:4). The faith by which one receives this grace manifests itself in an active determination to follow Christ in all things. It is demonstrated by obedience to the commandments to repent and be baptized, followed by a life of submission, obedience, and service to God and others (2 Ne. 31:16-20; Moro. 8:25-26; see Gospel of Jesus Christ).
Justification directly opens the way to sanctification by establishing a "right" relationship of mortals with God. Thus, God, without denying justice, can bless them with the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost (Mosiah 5:1-2; 3 Ne. 27:20). Justification starts the believer on the path toward righteousness.
Because justified, and even sanctified, persons can fall from that state of grace, believers are admonished to "take heed and pray always" (D&C 20:30-33) and to meet together often to fast and partake of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, thereby renewing and personally reviewing their covenants with God, including baptism and its cleansing effect (Moro. 6:5-6), and to endure to the end (D&C 53:7).
The person whom God justifies has not yet necessarily received the promise of eternal life (see Holy Spirit of Promise; Jesus Christ, Second Comforter). To obtain that promise, the justified must continue in the path of faith, wherein nothing can separate the faithful from the love of God.
Anderson, Richard L. Understanding Paul. Salt Lake City, 1983.
Sperry, Sidney B. Paul's Life and Letters, pp. 171-78. Salt Lake City, 1955.
COLIN B. DOUGLAS