Yay! Nearly everybody is saved!

Most Church members make explaining Mormon doctrine on salvation and heaven much more complicated than it needs to be. By the mainstream Christian perception of salvation and heaven (by mainstream, I mean what most Christians actually believe, not what theological school graduates claim Christian doctrine is), Mormon doctrine is incredibly easy to understand.

To wit: “A loving God would not create human beings to send them to Hell. Only the worst people, those who repeatedly reject God even after they know Him, go to what Christians describe as Hell. The rest of us go to a kind of Heaven, a place that is much better than Earth and where you will feel joy.”

Here is how the Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains it:

Some degree of salvation will come to all of God’s children except for the sons of perdition.

Or we can look at D&C 76:43-45:

43Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.

44Wherefore, he saves all except them—they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—

45And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows;

So, to be clear, the only people who are going to Hell are the really, really bad folks. The rest are saved (by the common definition of salvation). D&C 76 says:

36These are they who shall go away into the lake of fire and brimstone, with the devil and his angels—

37And the only ones on whom the second death shall have any power;

38Yea, verily, the only ones who shall not be redeemed in the due time of the Lord, after the sufferings of his wrath.

39For all the rest shall be brought forth by the resurrection of the dead, through the triumph and the glory of the Lamb, who was slain, who was in the bosom of the Father before the worlds were made.

Why do I highlight the seemingly obvious? Because I repeatedly see and hear Mormons saying you are only saved if you are baptized in the Church. People saying this are getting themselves into the same logical dead-end that Calvinists were in for centuries, ie, why would a loving God create billions of people and save only a small number of them?

No, a loving God knows that it will take a lot of time for many people to accept Him. With endless patience, He gives them free will and allows them to consider the alternatives. He knows that, with patience, most of His children will want to follow Him.

Therefore, we are given this description of the telestial kingdom, the very lowest kingdom a soul can go to:

thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding.

So clearly the telestial glory is better than our current Earth and is a kind of heaven.

Now let me make it perfectly clear that I don’t think we should encourage people to settle for either the telestial or terrestial heavens. The point of accepting the Gospel is that you are ready to make a change. You are ready to put behind you the natural man and draw closer to God.

I see accepting the telestial or terrestial kingdoms kind of like accepting living on an oasis when you could really live in the marvelous city just over the hill. The oasis looks really good compared to the desert, but not so good compared to the alternative on the other side of the sand dune.

But in talking to the rest of the world, we must learn to use language they understand. Just as we learn Portuguese when performing a mission in Brazil and Romanian when going to Romania, we must learn the language that everyday people use when discussing “being saved.”

Most Christians believe you must accept Jesus Christ to be saved. Once you accept Jesus Christ you go to Heaven. But there is a wide variety of discussion in the mainstream Christian world on this issue. There is no central authority telling all Christians what to believe (although obviously about half of Christians are Catholics and look to the Catholic church for guidance — nevertheless the Catholic position on this is murky, see below).

Therefore, belief runs the gamut from “everybody is saved” to “only people who go to my church are saved.” Some churches say you must be baptized, others say you don’t need to. In addition, there has been pressure on mainstream Christians to define what happens to non-Christians. This is why you can have the Pope say that non-Christians can be saved. I personally have discussed this with Catholic priests in Latin America who have told me that they believe almost everybody is saved but that the Catholic church is the best vehicle for being saved.

I don’t think it behooves Mormons to say, “well, you must be baptized in our church to be saved.” Instead, the argument should be: “This is the way you continue your journey of drawing closer to God and feeling the Spirit on a more regular basis. This is only the beginning — there are marvelous things to come.”

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

56 thoughts on “Yay! Nearly everybody is saved!

  1. The way I’ve always understood salvation was explained by Alma in the Book of Mormon, when he talks about the resurrection, and that all who are born on the earth will be resurrected and recieve some degree of glory, like you stated. I once mentioned that in a Sunday school class, to shocked gafaws. I’ve been quite since then. However, I don’t think we truly understand salvation and all that it entails. That’s why I’m thankful that Heavenly Father knows what he’s doing. :)

  2. I saw a presentation by the head of church public affairs department and he stressed the importance of this explanation. Thought it was one of Mormonism’s magic sauces.

  3. On another list where we are currently discussing this, LDS salvation is suggested as a Hyper-Arminianism. You don’t even have to be Christian to be saved. You just have to meet the lowest common denominator to not be a son of perdition (re: not become an absolute and complete enemy of Christ, murdering innocents for the joy of it, and denying Jesus is the Christ after having a perfect witness of it).

    Of any people, we should be sharing our concept of Grace, for it is more inclusive than any other in Christianity. People will be punished for un-repented sins, but once paid for, they are saved in a glory of heaven. And there are levels of glory, because the wicked would not feel happy in God’s full glorified presence (Alma 12, Mormon 9:4).

  4. As is my habit whenever this subject comes up, I commend to you all Elder Oak’s talk from the April 1998 Conference, “Have You Been Saved?”

    http://lds.org/general-conference/1998/04/have-you-been-saved?lang=eng&query=oaks+saved

    To summarize, he identifies (in the below order) six different meanings of salvation:

    1. Salvation from physical death (i.e., resurrection);
    2. Salvation from the consequences of our sins (what most Mormons mean when they claim baptism to be a requirement);
    3. Born again, which he equates with baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost;
    4. Salvation from ignorance (not particularly interesting);
    5. Salvation from spiritual death (what the OP is talking about);
    6. Exaltation (which some Mormons have claimed is the only meaning that counts–anything less is hell).

    With that in mind, I think it is misleading to claim that Mormons believe that “Only the worst people, those who repeatedly reject God even after they know Him, go to what Christians describe as Hell.” On the contrary, we believe that anybody who is not saved under definition #2 goes to hell, but that most eventually get out under definition #5. Technically, you could fix that by modifying “Hell” with “eternal.” But that still strikes me as Clintonian parsing. I think most Christians would find little comfort in understanding that they will only go to hell for a finite time if they refuse to join the LDS church.

  5. But it doesn’t hold that all non-Mormons will burn in hell for any length of time. D&C 76 tells us that terrestrial people are honorable men who just were not valiant. There is no suggestion of any punishment of hell for any of them, only for the Telestial, who must be compelled to repent of their sins. Of course, they are compelled by their own guilt and pain (compare with Alma 36), and not necessarily anything God does to them.

    This is how Mark 16:16 fits in. The Telestial are those who do not believe, and are those who will be damned, or suffer in hell for their sins until they do believe.

  6. Just a reminder here. There are two separate but related issues.

    1)What does the rest of the world mean by “saved” and how do you explain this to them relating to Mormon theology using the broadest, most common and easy to understand language. This is the subject of this post.
    2)What does Mormon doctrine say about being saved.

    As for Mark 16:16, this is fine, but how do you explain the Pope saying most good people (non-Christians included) will be saved? Go to any mainstream Christian church in the U.S. this Sunday and ask the pastor what you need to do to be saved. If you go to a Congregational church (which I did before I was baptized), you will get the answer: “be a good person and try to do what’s right.” If you go to a Baptist church you will get a different answer.

  7. Great post, Geoff. I have to agree with Gdub, the last paragraph was great!

  8. Inheritors of Celestial glory will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection. They will be “…caught up to meet Him in the midst of the pillar of heaven”. After this event those who will inherit the terrestrial kingdom will rise from their graves; still the first day of the resurrection. The terrestrial kingdom will comprise both lds and non-lds so to say that all non-members of the church will go to hell is not true. Those of the telestial kingdom will remain in hell for 1000 years where they will pay for their sins until they are cleansed. No unclean thing can enter ANY degree of glory. All must be entirely cleansed of sin.

  9. Evagelicals want to be with Christ. Most of them will get their wish as they are assigned the Terrestial kingdom since Christ presides over that kingdom. One man said his idea of heaven is to be with his horses. I think he will get his wish. My wish is to live with God. I think that is what most LDS want. I think we will work and get what each of us really desires.

  10. “Of any people, we should be sharing our concept of Grace”

    I think it’s ironic, really. Mormons actually do believe everyone (save the Sons of Perdition) were saved by the grace of Christ and not of their own works from the moment they were born.

    Evangelicals and other Protestants have tried to work out how such a thing was possible for centuries. The problem is that they see salvation as coming exclusively (and without degrees) when you accept Jesus. But to accept Jesus is a work. Therefore (so goes the bad logic) haven’t you really partially merrited salvation?

    The two main formulas seem to be that either it must be that even accepting Jesus isn’t your work. (Calvanists.) Or maybe you do, but it’s still indirectly Jesus because He gave you free will. (Arminianist.)

    The Calvanists point out that the Arminianists must be wrong because it means that Jesus’ grace is weak. He means to save everyone but generally fails. Arminianists point out that the Calvanists must be wrong because it means God isn’t good. He doesn’t mean to save most and He likes it that way.

    Only the Mormon formula for salvation seems to avoid those two fates AND you end up with a true salvation solely by grace formula as they were hoping to find, with ‘obedience’ becoming a means of increased rewards. (And a meaningful one at that.)

    So does this put Mormons into the other (smaller) camp? Universalists. Sometimes I think so, yes. But there does seem to be a difference. Univeralists are accused of having life mean nothing and personal responsiblity mean nothing. Mormons seem to have avoided this problem as well due to the existence of hell, albeit one that you can eventually come out of if you so choose to accept Jesus Christ and repent.

  11. “On the contrary, we believe that anybody who is not saved under definition #2 goes to Hell”

    I don’t understand what you are saying here. Actually, people in the Terrestrial Kingdom avoid hell yet were never baptized in life. (Unsure of baptismal status post mortality.)

    Or maybe you meant ‘consequences of sin’ in the sense of ‘not being exalted.’

    Still, I question if that is properly called ‘hell’ under the normal usage of a place of suffering mentioned in D&C 76. Only the Telestial Kingdom goes to hell first in D&C 76.

  12. The main issue here for about fifty years now is whether the D&C 76 reference to the salvation of the telestial doesn’t refer to the ordinary scriptural sense of the term at all.

    Some authorities are well known for promoting the theory that it does not. I claim that is wrong, that the scriptures use the term ‘salvation’ in essentially the same sense throughout, namely the Mark 16:16 / 3 Ne 11:33 sense.

    The main support for that proposition (besides the implausibility of the claim that D&C 76 just invents a new sense of the term without explanation) is in D&C 138:35-36, which states that the dead “who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God…for they are heirs of salvation.”

    That happens to be the most recent formal revelation we have on the subject. It strongly suggests two things consonant with the rest of the scriptural record: (1) There is no salvation without repentance (2) Salvation requires participation in divine ordinances.

    In the light of Mark 16:16 and 3 Ne 13:33-34 then, we may reasonably conclude that no one will inherit telestial glory until they repent and are baptized.

    D&C 88:24 suggests much the same thing – namely that he who inherits a degree of glory must abide by the law pertaining to that glory, and if he does not he must abide a kingdom which is not a degree of glory.

    In short, you can’t sin your way to salvation. Not in the telestial kingdom or any other degree of glory. That doesn’t mean of course that most of humanity won’t be saved – it just suggests that most of humanity will eventually be persuaded of the merits of baptism and repentance, so that they can be.

  13. You don’t even have to be Christian to be saved.

    Strictly speaking, I don’t think that is true. Certainly you don’t have to be a Christian in this life, but you probably do need to repent and be baptized in the life to come.

  14. I love that we pretty much believe the only people going to hell are Mormons. Ironically the Evangelicals might have at least that right (in their Hell doctrine).

  15. chris, I think one has to make a careful distinction between “hell” and “outer darkness”. According to several passages of scripture, the unrepentant will indeed spend considerable time in hell. See 1 Pet 3:18-20 and D&C 76:104-106, for example.

    I suggest that this is not so much a punishment as the natural state of the soul without God. That’s a separate topic though.

  16. There was a time in my life when I clearly saw two choices. One was painful, more painful than I can describe. The other was still painful, but I could manage it. In that moment, I realized that many people will not choose to live in the Celestial kingdom because we will not choose to do what it takes. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

    I think that is one thing many LDS don’t realize. We go to the kingdom with the law we can tolerate. If we cannot tolerate a Celestial law, we will not live in that kingdom. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. For some it is not enough, but for others a lesser kingdom is sufficient.

  17. Pingback: The Ridiculous and the Sublime – March 29-30, 2011 « The Ridiculous and the Sublime

  18. The doctrine of our church is very misleading. On one hand it states that one must repent and be baptized to be saved from hell and on the other hand it states that one can achieve salvation without repentance and baptism as long as they suffer themselves for their sins.

    Therefore, I believe we as mormons have the most confusing doctrine regarding salvation that exists. If you throw in the temple endowment then it gets even more complicated.

    If we were however to start over and begin to correct some of the way we interpret our scriptures then it would not be so confusing and actually make sense. Simple word definitions are very helpful. For instance, the word “salvation” is a word that as recognized by Joseph Smith in his day was used in the general sense of “being saved from an eternal hell”. If we always use this interpretation in the scriptures most of our problems vanish. In reality the word salvation in the scriptures is used strictly in the sense of being saved from an eternal hell. It never really means anything else.

    More to follow

  19. Rob, B.R. McKonkie uses salvation synonymous with exaltation and eternal life. However, there are situations where it can mean saved from hell. For example, unconditional salvation is immortality, everyone gets it regardless of the way they live their lives. One simply needs to be born. Conditional salvation, on the other hand, is reserved for those who have faith unto repentance and baptism, receive and qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and endure to they end thru good works and making and keeping covenants. So when God says his work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality, unconditional salvation, and eternal life, conditional salvation, to man, he is talking about all of his children, except of course the sons of perdition.

  20. Rob, I claim that the exact opposite is the case, that the word salvation is never used in an unconditional no-repentance-required sense anywhere in the scriptures. It is always spoken of in a conditional sense, as in Mosiah:

    And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you. (Mosiah 4:8)

    Now it is true that the whole idea of salvation in ones sins has some currency in the church, mostly due to reading D&C 76 in vacuo I suggest, but the scriptures never use the term that way.

    The main problem here is the description of people who are headed to the various kingdoms in D&C 76 describes them the way they are now. There is not a good reason to believe they describe them the way they will be. Only someone who believes that no repentance takes place in the spirit world could jump to that conclusion, and D&C 138 rather explicitly contradicts it.

  21. Russ B,

    Yet I find it interesting that every instance of “salvation” as found in the scriptures is used in the sense of “being saved from hell”. BRM can state what he wants but the scriptures is what defines. I have gone through the scriptures and every reference to “salvation” when discussing the plan of salvation refers strictly to being saved from hell.

    “Exaltation” is only mentioned a few times in the scriptures and is used solely to denote either becoming a god or being sealed to a spouse in the celestial kingdom.

    The term “eternal life” is used in the scriptures to define the life and state of all the saved. In the end all souls will either reap eternal death or eternal life. All of the saved will have eternal life regardless of what glory they attain.

  22. Rob my friend, I don’t like to argue but I must strongly disagree with you here. Most references actually refer to the salvation that comes thru faith in Jesus Christ and that is not just salvation that saves from hell. The Plan of “Salvation” is the road back to our Father. It is Celestial glory. Mosiah 3:18 “..men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and thru the atoning blood of Christ..” Anything short of Celestial glory is damnation. Mosiah 4:8 “And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.” In the prior verses he is talking about how to obtain this salvation and it is nothing less than the kindgom of heaven.

  23. Rob, I definitely agree that everywhere and always salvation entails being saved from hell. My point is that so far as the scriptures are concerned salvation entails more than that, i.e. repentance, baptism, and a change of heart.

    That is why there is a much better case that heirs of telestial glory will be required to repent and be baptized than the opposite.

    I also agree that so far as the scriptures are concerned, “eternal life” is practically synonymous with salvation. “Exaltation” refers to something much more extensive.

  24. Eternal life doesn’t just mean to live forever. God is eternal and eternal life is to live as God lives, in the family unit. Those in the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms are not inheriting eternal life. In Mosiah 26:20 the Lord makes a covenant with Alma “Thou are my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name..” There are gazillions of references to eternal life. Again, it is God’s glory to bring to pass…eternal life to his children. This is not a reference to anything short of returning to him.

  25. Russ B, how do you know that the boundary you describe is at the the gateway to celestial glory rather than the gateway to the telestial?

    A fair reading of the scriptures is that telestial glory is exactly like what many members think the lowest level of celestial glory is like, and that telestial glory and terrestial glory as conceived of by many in the church doesn’t actually exist.

  26. Eternal life is the phrase used in scripture to define the quality of life that our Eternal Father lives. The Lord declared, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Immortality is to live forever as a resurrected being. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, everyone will receive this gift. Eternal life, or exaltation, is to live in God’s presence and to continue as families (see D&C 131:1–4). Like immortality, this gift is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. However, to inherit eternal life requires our “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3).

    I just cut and pasted this from lds.org. I looked up a definition for Exaltation and it simply said “See Eternal Life”.

    Here’s what it says about salvation.

    “In the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the terms “saved” and “salvation” have various meanings. As used in Romans 10:9-10, the words “saved” and “salvation” signify a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Through this covenant relationship, followers of Christ are assured salvation from the eternal consequences of sin if they are obedient. “Salvation” and “saved” are also used in the scriptures in other contexts with several different meanings.

    Additional Information
    If someone were to ask if another person had been saved, the answer would depend on the sense in which the word is used. The answer might be “Yes” or perhaps it might be “Yes, but with conditions.” The following explanations outline six different meanings of the word salvation.

    Salvation from Physical Death. All people eventually die. But through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected—saved from physical death. Paul testified, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). In this sense, everyone is saved, regardless of choices made during this life. This is a free gift from the Savior to all human beings.

    Salvation from Sin. To be cleansed from sin through the Savior’s Atonement, an individual must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37-38). Those who have been baptized and have received the Holy Ghost through the proper priesthood authority have been conditionally saved from sin. In this sense, salvation is conditional, depending on an individual’s continuing in faithfulness, or enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God (see 2 Peter 2:20-22).

    Individuals cannot be saved in their sins; they cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring a belief in Christ with the understanding that they will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of their lives (see Alma 11:36-37). However, through the grace of God, all can be saved from their sins (see 2 Nephi 25:23; Helaman 5:10-11) as they repent and follow Jesus Christ.

  27. Eternal life is the phrase used in scripture to define the quality of life that our Eternal Father lives.

    If you are going to use the Bible Dictionary as an authority, certainly. The scriptures do not use the term that way though. The scriptures use the term exaltation to refer to being raised to the level and glory of our Father in Heaven.

    D&C 88:4 defines eternal life in terms of celestial glory. D&C 131:1-4 states that in celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees, and only the highest corresponds to having an eternal increase.

    Therefore we might rightly conclude either that not all heirs of eternal life are exalted or that one of those passages is wrong. If they are correct, exaltation and eternal life are not the same thing.

    It certainly seems reasonable to claim that eternal life requires something more than faith, repentance, and baptism however. The latter justify, but certainly are not sufficient to sanctify. Eternal life presumably requires the latter.

  28. “besides the implausibility of the claim that D&C 76 just invents a new sense of the term without explanation”

    Um… actually, people ‘invent new senses’ of words all the time constantly without even being aware of it. That’s sort of how language works.

    So why is this so implausible? The word represents a brain state that connects to some concept. These are rarely so specific. It was the right ‘feeling’ for the situation. Getting too technical with words more often than not causes us to misunderstand the original thought.

  29. Salvation as used in the scriptures refers strictly to being saved from hell. One “must” repent and be baptized in order to be saved from hell. This means that salvation comes to “none” except they repent and are baptized. In other words- to be “saved” is synonymous with “salvation”. Our third article of faith states that-

    3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

    (Pearl of Great Price | Articles of Faith 1:3)

    The word “saved” here refers precisely to being saved from hell. Saved and salvation are one and the same.

    As to “eternal life”, this refers to spiritual life. Try inserting the word “spiritual” inbetween- So on one hand we have etrnal spiritual life and on the other we have eternal spiritual death. This is what it means. We speak of the sons of perdition as the only ones on whom the “second death” has any power. This is that eternal death- that eternal spiritual death spoken of. If they are the only ones who experience this spiritual death then everyone else recieves eternal life- eternal spiritual life.

    In the scriptures we read of only two states after resurrection and judgment- eternal life or eternal death-

    27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
    28 And now, my sons, I would that ye should look to the great Mediator, and hearken unto his great commandments; and be faithful unto his words, and choose eternal life, according to the will of his Holy Spirit;
    29 And not choose eternal death, according to the will of the flesh and the evil which is therein, which giveth the spirit of the devil power to captivate, to bring you down to hell, that he may reign over you in his own kingdom.

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 2:27 – 29)

    39 O, my beloved brethren, remember the awfulness in transgressing against that Holy God, and also the awfulness of yielding to the enticings of that cunning one. Remember, to be carnally–minded is death, and to be spiritually–minded is life eternal.

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 9:39)

    23 Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 10:23)

    27 And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father;
    28 Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 29:27 – 28)

    43 And thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation—that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe;
    44 And they that believe not unto eternal damnation; for they cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall, because they repent not;

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 29:43 – 44)

  30. So why is this so implausible? The word represents a brain state that connects to some concept

    It is implausible because salvation is one of the key concepts in scripture, present in thousands of passages. It would be one thing if the section were an exposition on what salvation was, and presented a different theory of what, why and wherefore.

    But no – the passage simply refers to the term without any indication that the writer intends to upend thousands of years of doctrinal commentary on the subject, not to mention hundreds of references which he was personally responsible for.

    Did he just get up one morning and decide to contradict himself without warning? This was no idle outburst – Joseph Smith carefully edited his revelations for publication. More than once in some cases.

    The idea that contradictory senses of the same term are used without warning is the sort of sophistry that could be used to prove any scriptural proposition. It begs to be demonstrated, and so far, no one has made a good case for it.

  31. Rob, I think we are on the same page. So my question for you is: do you think inheritors of telestial glory are saved from an eternal hell through repentance and obedience to ordinances of the house of God?

    That’s my position. I claim that salvation without justification is impossible.

  32. “We ask, then, where is the prototype? or where is the saved being? We conclude, as to the answer of this question, there will be no dispute among those who believe the Bible, that it is Christ: all will agree in this, that he is the prototype or standard of salvation; or, in other words, that he is a saved being. And if we should continue our interrogation and ask how it is that he is saved, the answer would be because he is a just and holy being; and if he were anything different from what he is, he would not be saved; for his salvation depends on his being precisely what he is and nothing else; for if it were possible for him to change, in the least degree, so sure he would fail of salvation and lose all his dominion, power, authority and glory, which constitute salvation; for salvation consists in the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him.

    “These teachings of the Savior most clearly show unto us the nature of salvation, and what he proposed unto the human family when he proposed to save them, that he proposed to make them like unto himself, and he was like the Father, the great prototype of all saved beings; and for any portion of the human family to be assimilated into their likeness is to be saved; and to be unlike them is to be destroyed; and on this hinge turns the door of salvation.”

    Lectures on Faith pp. 63-67

    “Eternal damnation is the opposite of eternal life, and all those who do not gain eternal life, or exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial kingdom, are partakers of eternal damnation. Their eternal condemnation is to have limitations imposed upon them so that they cannot progress to the state of godhood and gain a fulness of all things.”

    “Eternal damnation is also used to specify the punishment of those who come forth in the resurrection of damnation, meaning those who are destined to inherit the telestial kingdom and those who will be cast out to reign with the devil and his angels as sons of perdition.”

    BR McConkie- Mormon Doctrine

  33. Mark D,

    I personally believe it is impossible for anyone to be saved from hell without strict compliance to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Everyone who is redeemed from hell will have to have repented and been baptized.

    As for the “telestial glory” I have a slightly different opinion on heaven than most LDS. I believe that there are three degrees of glory within the celestial world I just do not believe in the traditional “three world” heaven. Too many scriptures alude to there only being one physical place for all the saved to dwell not three. The temple drama even shows that perhaps our views and interpretations of the three various worlds are not really what they are.

    I believe as the temple teaches that we are on a progression that will take us through the two lower kingdoms before we actually find salvation in the celestial kingdom. For instance- the temple teaches us that we now in the telestial kingdom. The temple also teaches us that we will progress from the telestial kingdom into the terrestrial kingdom before entrance into the celestial kingdom. If we interpret the scriptures in this light heaven makes a lot more sense. For instance- in Revelations we read that in the end there will only be two physical places for the souls of men- either in the Holy city (celestial kingdom on this world) or outside the gates in the lake of fire and brimstone. It also speaks that “all the saved” will walk in the light of the the city within it’s walls.

    Once one really starts breaking this all down and realizes that no saved individual will find escape from hell without strict obedience to the house of God (temple covenants and endowments) one will realize that the path of salvation is identical for everyone regardless of their personal situation. What does this mean? IT means literally that all the saved become the same type of godly individuals in the end- they are all washed clean through the atonement, they all become the sons and daughters of God, they all become members of the church of the firstborn, they all have their temple endowment, etc etc. Now have you ever heard of anyone being saved outside the celestial kingdom who was a son of god? Or, why save an individual who has showed obedience to the temple ordinances outside of the kingdom?

    And so, it becomes apparent that the typical LDS view of the plan of salvation has some kinks in it that need worked out- that need clarification.

  34. Russ B,

    I am going to have to disagree with BRM on his use of the term “eternal damnation”. Eternal damnation is used exclusively in the scriptures to denote the state of the condemned in hell. It doesn’t mean anything except precisely that. This is the point where I ask for scripture reference because I have searched this out many many times and know for a fact that every instance of the use of this term in the scriptures refers to the state of the condemned of those sentenced to hell.

  35. Rob,

    Actually BRM’s definition makes perfect sense to me. Damnation doesn’t necessarily mean hell. It means being stopped in our progress or advancement. So to be eternally damned simply means that once we are consigned to anything less than the highest glory of the celestial kingdom, we can’t progress any further, we are damned or stopped at that point “worlds without end.”

  36. Joseph Fielding Smith said: “What is damnation? It is being barred, or denied privileges of progression, because of failure to comply with law. All who fail to enter into the celestial kingdom are damned, or stopped in their progression, but they will enter into some other glory which they are entitled to receive.”

  37. Mark D,

    “The idea that contradictory senses of the same term are used without warning is the sort of sophistry that could be used to prove any scriptural proposition. It begs to be demonstrated, and so far, no one has made a good case for it”

    Um, I’m no longer sure if we are agreeing or disagreeing. Are you only favoring reading this to mean that one is saved from @#!*% ? Or are you favoring this as proof one needs to be baptized (vicariously) to go to the Telestial kingdom?

    If the first, I agree. If the second, I think you’re stretching. Though you might be right, this verse simply doesn’t prove it or even meaningfully hint at it.

    “And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be aministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation.”

    1. It’s not a contradiction to other senses. It’s a matter of degrees and relationships. ‘Salvation’ is a word used in many nuances both in real life and even in the scriptures (at times.)
    2. Sophistry? Hello!? The way Mormons interpret scriptures is based on both other scriptures (like you are doing) but also authority of current leaders and their interpretations.

    Deciding that all words must have a narrow meaning and never be used in varied but related nuances is unhuman and can’t possibly turn out to be right. You’re supposed to be catching a feeling or sense of the meaning intended at the time and by the context. Not look up every single use of the word ‘salvation’ and force them all to mean the same thing with no variance.

    It is easy to see how one might use the word ‘salvation’ to represent what we now call ‘exaltation.’ It’s also easy to see how one might use ‘salvation’ to refer to any degree glory. These are comparmentalized views or concepts as you are suggesting. (Or rather, as I perceived you suggesting…)

  38. Russ B,

    BRM and many others in the church have misused the words “damnation/ damned” to mean something contrary to what the scriptures teach. There are two words that need to be distinguished from each other that are not related in the least degree. Those two words are “dammed” and “damned”. Whereas they both sound the same, they have two different meanings. Somewhere in the past history of the church someone started using the definition of “dam” in place of the correct definition for “damned”. The definition of “dam” is to stop or slow progress such as that of a river. Somehow, that definition started being assigned to “damnation” in LDS doctrine and only LDS doctrine. The rest of christianity does not make this mistake. We still hear this incorrect definition all the time in church- someone will ask What does it mean to be “damned”. And, the answer will almost invariably be something like- “to be stopped in ones progress”. They may even add something like- “you know, kind of like damming a stream”.

    The folly of our past and not understanding proper grammer and the use of the english language! What we must do is go back to Joseph Smith’s day and get the correct use of the word as Joseph himself used it in translating the Book of Mormon. Joseph was raised in typical protestant fashion and the words he used in translating the BoM were those same words as used and understood by the protestant movement at that time. And how did Joseph use the word? He used it in the correct manner which meant to “condemn ones soul/spirit into hell”. It wasn’t until later that our religion started placing the incorrect definition of another similar word in it’s place. But that is incorrect.

    My appeal in this manner has to thus be the scriptures and not the commentary of folks who perhaps did not properly understand the use of the english language in the past.

    In the scriptures the word “damned” is used 21 times all of which refer to the condemnation of ones spirit/ soul into hell. The word “damnation” is used 24 times and every instance again refers to the sate of the condemned in hell. The other forms- “damnable” and “damning” are referenced 2 times. In all instances the scriptures support how Joseph Smith intended the word to be used in the normal protestant terms available to him in his day. What does the dictionary say-

    Damned:1. a. condemned to hell

    What does it say on the other word with similar spelling-

    Dammed:5. to stop up; block up.

    Now let’s look in the “Guide to the Scriptures” published by the church and you will note how BRM’ definition of “dammed” somehow stuck incorrectly-

    “DAMNATION. See also Death, Spiritual; Devil; Hell; Sons of Perdition
    The state of being stopped in one’s progress and denied access to the presence of God and his glory. Damnation exists in varying degrees. All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges, and they will be damned to that extent.”

    (Guide to the Scriptures | D Damnation.:Entry)

    Of note here is that this incorrect definition is not supported by the scriptures at all. We must interpret “damned” as it is correctly used in the english language and stop using other definitions from similar words. I am surprised this has not been addressed by the church because they are usually pretty good with using grammer correctly in their publications.

  39. Rob,

    I don’t know you, so please understand that any questions I ask about ‘where are you coming from?’ are quite sincere.

    First, I have my doubts that the reason Mormons define ‘damned’ as ‘stopping of progress’ is because somewhere in our past we made a gramatical mistake. To convince me of this you’d need a lot better evidence then what you are currently presenting.

    It seems far more likely that the change in meaning came because of further understanding. Back when the BoM was written (or even when it was translated) there were only certain doctrines revealed. So, yes, you’d expect BoM verses (or Bible verses) to use ‘salvation’ in a sort of black and white sort of way. Ditto for ‘damned.’

    But flash forward into a different level of doctrinal understanding by D&C 76 and it’s not hard to see that no one is ‘damned’ (save the sons of perdition) in the original sense. Therefore the word was reapplied with a more nuanced meaning. (Ditto for salvation.)

    Obviously I don’t have proof of what I just said (and proof of any position seems unlikely.) But what I just suggested certainly fits the facts well, explains the differences in scripture well, and — most importantly — fits current teachings by the proper authorities.

    How much emphasis, Rob, do you place on that last? Several things you said certainly make me feel like maybe you feel you can get more mileage out of comparing scripture texts like this more so than just listening to the current authorities and reading the scriptures in light of current teachings as well.

    I am not suggesting we should just assume BRM is all perfectly right, or anything like that. But if you look across a broad spectrum of authorities, the idea that ‘damnaation’ is often the same as ‘stopping of progress’ is pretty highly accepted. And I really have no reason to buy your argument (as of yet) that it was a gramatical mistake. Nor do I need such an explanation since we know the verses you point to DID come before certain doctrines were revealed. Line upon line, precept upon precept.

    A Church that believes in further revelation must always be prepared to reinterpret past scriptures in light of later ones. Theological realism isn’t that different then scientific realism in that sense. (i.e. we must always be ready to reinterpret our scientific theories…)

  40. Bruce,

    Perhaps you could give me a scripture reference to the word “damned” where it means something less than celestial exaltation. let’s let the scriptures be the ultimate judge.

    One would have to prove that Joseph Smith used the word “damned” in a different sense than his protestant upbringing. I am confident that every reference to “damnation” in the scriptures should be looked at in the sense of “condemning to hell”. But go ahead and point out any scripture that refutes this.

  41. Bruce, we are not talking about subtle nuances here, but rather a wholesale hijacking of the scriptural record. The claim that salvation without exaltation is damnation is positively ridiculous.

    The mildest sense of damnation is “condemnation”, i.e. censure for sin. There are dozens of scriptural passages that lay out what is required to escape divine condemnation – namely exercise faith unto repentance.

    That is the way we are “justified”, i.e. the way we receive the blessings of divine grace that we do not deserve on our own merits (and strictly speaking cannot, not in and of ourselves at any rate).

    D&C 138 lays out the same conditions (plus unspecified ordinances) for the dead to be redeemed and be heirs of salvation. The scriptures use the term consistently.

    And yet we are to suppose that a non-president-of-the-church is going to come along and establish, without the slightest hint of an argument, that the scriptures on the subject are all wrong, and that a non-publication of the church is the authoritative doctrinal reference on anything that crosses his mind. I don’t think so. It is not just wrong, it is stupid – the scriptures contradict it in every possible way.

  42. Mark D, I agree with you, but chill. No reason to insult the guy. We love you. It’s conference weekend. Watch the real prophets and be edified.

  43. Rob,

    I might have lost the thread of the conversation with both you and MarkD. Is your only point that ‘damnation’ or ‘being damned’ in the scriptures always refers to the pains of hell (even if they come to an end)? Or are you saying that damnation, in the scriptural sense, is only the sons of perdition? (i.e. those that have an eternal hell.)

    MarkD,

    This is obviously a topic that you feel very passionately over. However, whatever your point is, I seem to have missed it.

    For one thing, I thought we were talking about ‘salvation’ and now you are talking about ‘damnation.’ Yes, related, of course. But I do seem to have lost the thread of the conversation. Want to back up a bit and explain again? Sorry. It’s possible I was off base right from the outset due to reading to fast or something.

    My point was of pretty limited scope and I may have been off base even bring it up due to a (sincere) misunderstanding, perhaps.

    I only took exception to the idea that one could take the use of the word ‘salvation’ in “Mark 16:16 / 3 Ne 11:33″ and just assume that D&C 76:88 would only use the word in some scientifically precise way mathematically consistent with the first two verses.

    Don’t dismiss the fact that the doctrinal understandings of the people in each quote are on very different points on the ‘line upon line’ scale. Book of Mormon prophets and Bible authors did not seem to yet have a concept of degrees of glory when they wrote the first two verses. (Or it was a very nascent view anyhow, since Nephi does hint at it earlier.) So the idea that ‘salvation’ can refer to, at times, exaltation and at other times to ‘salvation from hell’ is not at all ridiculous. It would just require for the usage to pick up a new nuance in light of degrees of glory. (Which is what I suspect was intended in D&C 76:88)

    To both MarkD and Rob,

    I would like to see how both of you (within your points of view you are expressing) deal with the paradox between these verses:

    Doctrine and Covenants 19:6
    6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.

    Mosiah 2:39
    39 And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.

    1 Nephi 14:3
    …the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end.

    Also, within your frameworks, please explain how you interpret 1 Tim 5:9-12. Is Paul really saying that a young widow that is ‘taken into the number’ and then decides to remarry will go to hell (i.e. receive damnation)?

  44. Bruce,

    Being “damned” means being condemned to hell. It can mean this in a future tense such as what awaits the wicked after death, or in the present tense to define the state of those already in hell. It can also mean the state of the condemned in the present tense in mortality who will go on to suffer their condemnation in hell. On every account it is meant specifically to denote the state of the condemned to hell. Now there are also different degrees of damnation meaning shorter or longer durations in hell. Whenever the scriptures speak of “eternal damnation” it referes tot he specific punishment only coming to the sons of perdition after resurrection and judgment. Other uses of being damned may refer to only a temporary suffering in hell or a longer duration. Obviously, a “greater damnation” would mean a greater penalty of time spent in hell, similar to a longer prison sentence for mortals who commit more horendous crimes.

    As for your scriptures. D&C section 19 deals specifically with the suffering of the sons of perdition. Note that the timing of this is after satan and his works are destroyed and after judgment and resurrection. This suffering- “eternal damnation” happens to all those at that point who have not repented of their sins. Of special note here is that the Lord is telling us that even this suffering for the sons of perdition will not las forever.

    Mosiah 2:39 typifies the extent of how ancient BoM peoples understood the gospel. It is evident from reading the BoM that the BoM prophets were not aware of the work for the deat in the spirit world. they had the foundational gospel in which they knew that man must repent and be baptized in order to escape hell. What they obviously didn’t have was that after death it would still be possible to repent and reap salvation from hell.

    1 Nephi 14:3 deals with their understanding of hell- it having no end. Now we are told that it does have an end “potentially” By this we are not sure exactly what this entails. Perhaps it has no end for those who eternally never want to repent.

  45. Well, Rob, at least we agree that ‘damnation’ can have different nuances of meaning and that you have to read a scripture from the point of view of the person writing it. We’ll start with that as our common ground. I do agree that most scriptures refer to damnation as being linked to hell. What about 1 Tim 5:9-12? Is this verse saying that Paul believed that a woman that is ‘taken into the number’ (whatever that means, presumably a priesthood auxiliary of some sort) goes to hell if she remarries? I guess I’d have to either assume Paul is mistaken about this or else we do here have a reference to ‘damnation’ that isn’t related to the regular sense.

    The verse I quoted in D&C 19 was not about the sons of perdition. (Since it’s specifically about coming out of hell and not being tormented forever.) But I’m probably just losing your train of thought here.

  46. Bruce N, the Mosiah 2:38-28 scripture states:

    “Therefore if that man repenteth not…I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment.”

    That part is good doctrine. There is no salvation without repentance. D&C 19:6 does not conflict, but rather amplifies: namely that “endless” torment is not necessarily endless, holding out the possibility of future redemption (cf D&C 29:29).

    Clearly, however, the Book of Mormon prophets did not anticipate the doctrine of redemption of the dead, as laid out in 1 Pet 3:18-29 and D&C 138.

    These passages do not differ on the nature, character, or conditions of salvation. They do differ on the question of deadline and timing, and on that matter the later canonized revelations clarify the claims of the former.

    It is true I care a great deal about this question, because it concerns the fate of all mankind. In my opinion, the plan of salvation could hardly be a greater failure if only a minority of a minority were saved in any real sense of the term. It diminishes everything we do from missionary work to temple work.

    The scriptures are correct – we are saved by grace on condition of faith unto repentance, we are sanctified by sacrifice, and receive a reward according to our works.

    There is no good reason why nearly everyone one the planet shouldn’t eventually be able to repent and be saved. What number will eventually be able to meet the much more stringent requirements of exaltation (per D&C 132) or the various degrees of glory in between is a much more open question.

  47. I liked Last Lemming’s point. Other than for the sons-of-perdition, “Mormon Hell”, aka “Spirit Prison”, only lasts until the end of the Millennium.

    And in Revelation 20:13, it says that death and hell give up their dead at Judgement Day (the great white throne judgement) at the end of the Millennium.

    As I read Alma, I think around chapter 42, it gives the impression that Spirit Prison is a “temporary Hell”, or a temporary version of Outer Darkness. Both are hellish, and both are places where no degree of the light of Christ (and no degree of the Spirit penetrates.

    As we all are varying degrees of sinners, I would imagine there are some who will only need to spend a few minutes in Hell, and some will have been there for hundreds or thousands of years.

    The Book of Mormon and D&C talk about repenting of _all_ of our sins. But how many of us really have? Aren’t there sins that we commit that we don’t know about? Or what about those sins where we (er, I mean I) procrasted repentance to the point where we could no longer make restitution?

    Also, a point about Celestial and Terrestial people getting to avoid Spirit Prison/Hell entirely: I wouldn’t count on it being true in _all_ cases. In Section 132:26 those who have their calling and election made sure (ie, the Lord promises their exaltation as long as they don’t shed innocent blood) and then go on to commit intentional sin, they could still suffer “the buffetings of Satan” (ie, Spirit Prison or Hell) before their resurrection.

    So….. if there is a condition where even some people designated/sealed to be _exalted_ in the Celestial Kingdom may have to spend some time in Spirit Prison/Hell, then there may be other conditions (though presently unstated) where lesser beings of the CK and beings of the TrK may have to suffer for their sins in Spirit Prison/Hell too.

    And, one of the threads of the Book of Mormon and the D&C, is that the Lord does not reveal all the details to everybody. There are many things left unsaid. How the Lord is going to judge everybody is one of those things where we haven’t been given all the “sentencing guidelines.”

  48. I just got caught up on the comments. This is another typical bloggernacle thread where people keep talking past each other.

  49. Bruce,

    It appears in the context of the verses given (1 Timothy 5:9-12) that the widow was trading her priveledges under the covenant receiving help from the church to subside upon for desire of worldly things- had traded here hope in Christ for a man. It then speaks of this type as turning idle, becoming a gossiper and so on. This is probably not a big deal to an ordinary widow but in this sense she had pledged herself to a cause and then later traded it away. The “damnation” spoken of here is a “condemnation” which was reserved for speaking of those who could incur a penalty to be paid in hell. Later inthe chapter- a few verses later the speaker says it is better for them to remarry first rather than fall into seeking help and subsiding off that and turning idle and casting off her true faith in Christ.

    Of course that is my opinion on the matter from what I have gathered and read about on that particular set of verses.

  50. both are places where no degree of the light of Christ (and no degree of the Spirit penetrates.

    Bookslinger, D&C 138 makes clear that is not the case with respect to spirit prison. Otherwise no missionary work could be performed:

    But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead (D&C 138:30, emphasis added).

  51. I agree with Mark D. The D&C tells us that the Light of Christ penetrates all of space. This tells me that even in Outer Darkness they have this minimum of light, otherwise there could be no existence.

    However, it would be a place without the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

  52. I fully agree though that spirit prison is “hellish”, however. The issue is what makes it hell and for whom. I believe an internal sense of guilt and torment is the primary cause, followed by association with others in the same situation. See Mosiah 2:38. Joseph Smith mentioned the latter aspect as well.

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