Salvation – as taught by the Mormon Church – compared to Biblical doctrine of salvation –
(* on text refers to LDS documentation)
Commonality among various Christian groups, whether they are truly saved or not, is theology/doctrine – belief in Triune God, and that Jesus is God who became a man. Many pseudo-Christian religions only appear to be Christian, but when looking into their doctrine, are not! Doctrine is of utmost importance.
The Word of God, which is also a title of Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14; Rev. 19:13), was given to us so that we can know what doctrine is and can instruct and correct those who have been deceived. (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21.)
As we have already discussed in our previous papers, Mormonism has redefined Christian terms and given to them totally different meanings. We need to keep that in mind, otherwise we will not be able to have a meaningful discussion with a Mormon. Not understanding what they really mean and say is the main reason why so many Christians end up thinking or assuming that “they are on the same page with Mormons”, and that they talk about the same issues with the same definitions. This is also why so many nominal Christians join Mormonism, or end up thinking that Mormons just might be Christians too.They simply do not understand “Mormon-ese”, the “language” Mormons are using in explaining Christian terms in their way.
We have already established in our previous papers that when Mormons say “God the Father“ or “Father in Heaven“, or “Heavenly Father”, they think of Him as a resurrected, former mortal man with wives, and that we all were born to Him in a “pre-existence”, meaning that we have our Mother(s) in Heaven as well as the Father in Heaven. We have likewise established that when Mormons talk about “Jesus”, they mean the eldest one of the billions of sons of God, who was also physically, “naturally conceived” by this Father in Heaven, who visited Mary for this purpose.
“Salvation” or “being saved” to a Mormon does not mean at all what it means to a Biblical Christian. Salvation in Mormonism is a very complicated issue. We have met Mormons, even active Mormons, who are not quite sure what their Church means with these terms, but they trust that what the LDS Church teaches must be true anyhow. The Mormon Church acknowledges that Jesus’ sacrifice was important, because He paid “Adam’s transgression” and thus with His atonement provided a physical resurrection to all mankind, but as to forgiveness of our personal sins, it is taught to be “conditional”, based on repentance and obedience to the “laws and ordinances of LDS gospel” (3rd Article of Faith), and not on faith in Jesus alone. (Read again late LDS apostle McConkie’s address, “Our Relationship with the Lord” in connection to our lesson ,“Mormon Doctrine of Jesus”.)
An LDS pamphlet, titled, “What The Mormons Think Of Christ”, that was for years distributed by the LDS Church from the Visitors’ Center on the Temple Square in Salt Lake City, states, * “Christians often speak of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power. Much that is believed and taught on this subject, however, is such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one‘s salvation. For instance, many believe or pretend to believe that if we confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept him as our personal Savior, we are thereby saved. They say that his blood, without any other act than mere belief, makes us clean. What is the true doctrine of the blood of Christ? Salvation comes because of the atonement, and the atonement was wrought through shedding of the blood of Christ. In Gethsemane Christ sweat great drops of blood from every pore when he conditionally took upon himself the sins of the world, and then shedding of his blood was completed on the cross.“ (pp. 19-20 – copy in our possession, emphasis added.)
Note that the Mormon Church teaches that atonement took place in Gethsemane, not on the cross, even though they agree that shedding of His blood was completed on the cross. (The LDS church does not use the cross as a symbol of faith in what took place on that cross – nor do they preach the cross. Paul said, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18.) Paul reminds us that “the princes of this world”, meaning the demonic powers and those under the influence of these powers, did not know the saving power of the cross of Christ beforehand, “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.“ (2 Cor. 2:8.)
The word “salvation” itself has various meanings in Mormonism. There is,
1. “Unconditional or general salvation”.
2. “Conditional or individual salvation”.
3. “Salvation [in its true and full meaning] which is synonymous with exaltation and eternal life.”
Lets look at what they mean, as is taught by the leadership of the LDS Church. (* Quoted from Mormon Doctrine, pp. 669-671, 1966 ed.)
1. “Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected. In this sense salvation is synonymous with immortality…This kind of salvation eventually will come to all mankind, excepting only the sons of perdition… They are resurrected, but they are not redeemed from the devil…All others are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment. But this is not the salvation of righteousness, the salvation which the saints seek. Those who gain only this general or unconditional salvation… receive their places in a terrestrial or a telestial kingdom. They will, therefore, be damned; their eternal progression will be cut short; they will not fill the full measure of their creation, but in eternity will be ministering servants to more worthy persons.”
2. Conditional or individual salvation, that which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience, consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. This kind of salvation follows faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation. (D&C 20:29; 2 Nephi 9:23-24.) All others are damned…Even those in the celestial kingdom, however, who do not go on to exaltation, will have immortality only and not eternal life…they will be ‘ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.’ They will live ‘separately and singly’ in an unmarried state ‘without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity.’ (D&C 132:16-17.)”
3. “Salvation in its true and full meaning is synonymous with exaltation or eternal life and consists in gaining an inheritance in the highest of the three heavens within the celestial kingdom…this is the salvation of which the scriptures speak. It is the salvation which the saints seek. It is of this which the Lord says, ‘There is no greater gift than the gift of salvation’. (D&C 6:13.) This full salvation is obtained in and through the continuation of the family unit in eternity, and those who obtain it are gods. (D&C 131:1-4; 132.) Full salvation is attained by virtue of knowledge, truth, righteousness, and all true principles. Many conditions must exist in order to make such a salvation available to men. Without the atonement, the gospel, the priesthood, and the sealing power, there would be no salvation. Without continuous revelation, the ministering of angels, the working of miracles, the prevalence of gifts of the spirit, there would be no salvation. If it had not been for Joseph Smith and restoration, there would be no salvation. There is no salvation outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” * (Mormon Doctrine, pp. 669-671, emphasis added.)
Not only does the Mormon Church claim that without Joseph Smith there would be no salvation, they also claim that a current, living “President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds the keys of salvation for all men now living.” (* Mormon Doctrine, p. 411, emphasis added.)
The Mormon Church’s second president and prophet, Brigham Young elevated Joseph Smith into a position of “President of Resurrection”. Brigham Young said, “How are you going to get your resurrection? You will get it by the President of resurrection, and that is Joseph Smith, Jun. Hear it all ye ends of the earth; if you ever enter into the kingdom of God it is because Joseph Smith let you go there. This will apply to Jews and Gentiles, to the bond, and the free; to friends and foes; no man or woman in this generation will get a resurrection and be crowned without Joseph Smith saying so. The man who was martyred in Carthage Jail, State of Illinois, holds the keys of life and death to this dispensation…” (Quoted from “The Essential Brigham Young”, Eugene E. Campbell, p. 99, emphasis added.)
As we have already seen from Mormon Doctrine, Joseph Smith is claimed by the LDS church to be absolutely necessary for everyone’s salvation.
To focus on this matter again, in June 1994, LDS Church’s official magazine, Ensign,* had an article by BYU Religion professor Robert L. Millet, who quoted Brigham Young’s words, “From the day that the priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding up things of things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are – I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent.”
[Emphasis added.] (This quote is also found in the Journal of Discourses, vol. 7:289. The same is also repeated in the LDS Church’s 1984 manual, “Search These Commandments”, p. 133.)
* In March 17th, 2001, the LDS Church News had an article that stated, “Joseph Smith was a prophet, and all calumny and aspirations to the contrary cannot controvert that fact. Anyone who has concern for the welfare of his eternal soul should give attention to this message. Every man who has lived since the days of Joseph Smith is subject to accepting him as a prophet of God in order to enter into our Heavenly Father’s presence.” (Emphasis added.)
Joseph Smith boasted, “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.”
(*History of the Church, vol. 6:408-409. Emphasis added.)
Some Mormons may ask, “What if we are wrong? What if the Bible is all true after all, and there is eternal hell for those who did not believe or accept what it says? What will happen to us then?” Perhaps to ease their fears, the Mormon Church has “gotten rid of hell” altogether. They say that hell is only a temporary place, contrasting the Book of Mormon that speaks very strongly about hell that has no end. (See: 1 Ne. 14:3; 2 Ne. 28:19-25; Jacob 3:11; Alma 5:7.)
* Mormon Doctrine, pp. 349-350 [emphasis added], explains:
“1. That part of the spirit world inhabited by wicked spirits who are awaiting the eventual day of their resurrection is called hell. Between their death and resurrection, these souls of the wicked are cast out into outer darkness…into hell… Hell will have an end…After their resurrection, the great majority of those who have suffered in hell will pass into the telestial kingdom; the balance, cursed as sons of perdition, will be consigned to partake of endless wo with the devil and his angels. Speaking of the telestial kingdom the Lord says, ‘These are they who are thrust down to hell. These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection…until fullness of time.’ …Statements about an everlasting and endless hell are to be interpreted in the same sense as those about eternal and endless punishment. (D&C 19:4-12)” [What they mean is that it is only called ‘endless or eternal’ because it is God’s punishment – but that it will, nevertheless, end!] (Continuing from Mormon Doctrine, p 350):
“Who will go to hell?… Among them are sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers,… Such is also a fate of liars, of ‘all those who preach false doctrines’ (2 Ne. 28:15), of those who believe the damnable doctrine of infant baptism…’The sectarian world are going to hell by hundreds, by thousands and by millions’, the Prophet [Joseph Smith] said.‘ (History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 554.)
2. …Speaking of this hell…those going to telestial kingdom have come out of their hell…Thus, for those who are heirs of some salvation, which includes all except sons of perdition (D&C 76:44), hell has an end.”
To further comfort those who were still concerned about hell, Joseph Smith assured his followers with these words, “I see no faults in the Church, and therefore let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And IF we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it. Where this people are, there is good society. What do we care where we are, if the society is good?” (*History of the Church, vol. 5, p. 517. Emphasis added.)
The Patriarch of the LDS Church, Eldred G. Smith, gave a speech in BYU, March 10, 1964, where he said, “The Lord has told us of three degrees of glory. There are three ‘heavens’, as it is often referred to. We call them the telestial, terrestrial, and the celestial. I cannot for a minute conceive the telestial being hell either, because it is considered a heaven, a glory. The Prophet Joseph Smith told us that if we could get one little glimpse into the telestial glory even, the glory is so great that we would be tempted to commit suicide to get there.” (Listed under Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, as Speech on Exaltation given March 10, 1964, Provo, Utah, BYU Press, 1960-1966. Emphasis added.)
2 Cor. 12:2-4 is often used by the LDS Church to “prove” that “there must be three heavens”, for Paul said that he was “caught up to the third heaven”. [This incident is assumed to be the time mentioned in Acts 14:19, when Paul was stoned and left as dead.]
The Bible uses the word “heaven” to refer to three areas of space above, as do people even in our time when looking up to the sky. There is 1. an immediate atmosphere above us where the birds fly, then 2. above that is airless area, we also call space where sun, moon and stars are, and 3. the heaven, higher than that, where God’s throne is.
1. Cor. 15:40 is the only place in the entire Bible where the words “Celestial” and “terrestrial” appear. “Celestial”, is translated from a Greek word ‘epouranios’, which means “heavenly” or “abode of God”. “Terrestrial” is translated from a Greek word “epigeios”, which means “worldly”, “earthy” or what is “in earth”, nothing to do with heaven by any means. “Telestial” is not a known word at all. Joseph Smith coined a word “telestial” for his “lowest of three heavenly kingdoms”, but it is not a known word anywhere excepting in Mormonism. There are not three heavens for mankind’s future – only God’s heaven, and then there is hell, or “lake of fire” for all who have not accepted God’s gift of salvation. (Rev. 20:15.)
The Mormon Church and its leaders have refuted the biblical teaching of salvation by grace alone and said that it is “untrue” and a “soul–destroying doctrine”.
* In Mormon Doctrine, pp. 670-671, we read:“…one of the untrue doctrines found in modern Christendom is the concept that man can gain salvation (meaning in the kingdom of God) by grace alone andwithout obedience. This soul-destroying doctrine has the obvious effect of lessening the determination of an individual to conform to all of the laws and ordinances of the gospel … Immortality is a free gift and comes without works of righteousness of any sort; all men will come forth in the resurrection because atoning sacrifice of Christ. In and of itself the resurrection is a form of salvation meaning that men are saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment…In this sense, the mere fact of resurrection is called salvation by grace alone…Salvation in the celestial kingdom of God, however, is not salvation by grace alone… Rather, it is salvation by grace coupled with obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. (Third Article of Faith.)… Immortality comes by grace alone, but those who gain it may find themselves damned in eternity… Eternal life, the kind of life enjoyed by eternal beings in the celestial kingdom, comes by grace plus obedience…Thus Nephi wrote: ‘Be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Nephi 25:23.)” (Emphasis added.)
Here we see the ultimate impossibility offered to Mormons: Not only do they have a God who is not God at all, and Jesus who is not true Jesus of the Bible, but even the “grace” offered to them will not apply until they have done all they can do! This “grace” is null and void from the start! Think about it: Is there anyone who has ever done all they could have done even during one day of their lives? And then, if they have repented, asked and received forgiveness for their sins, but if they sin again, “shall former sins return” (D&C 82:7) according to Joseph Smith‘s revelation. Mormonism in its doctrinal teachings requires perfection, which is impossible for any human.
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, “Those who gain exaltation in the celestial kingdom are those who are members of the Church of the Firstborn; in other words, those who keep all the commandments of the Lord…The higher ordinances in the temple of God pertain to exaltation in the celestial kingdom…In order to receive this blessing, one must keep the full law, must abide the law by which that kingdom is governed…” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2:41-42. Emphasis added.)
Our Lord’s brother James wrote of impossibility of salvation by the law, when he said, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”(James 2:10.) We need God’s grace.[Late President Gordon B. Hinckley had said that there are teachings in the Mormon Church that can be learned only in their temples. After all, they are secret/sacred places where Mormons are prepared to become gods and goddesses. It is only in the temples that they can learn the secrets of Mormonism that, as they teach, prepare them for exaltation, which means godhood: i.e. men becoming gods.Those Mormons who are not “worthy” to enter a temple and have not received their temple-endowments, and who have not married in a temple, cannot even plan on exaltation. Mormon temples are only for their “worthy members.”]
The Bible is clear: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but the man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made curse for us.” (Gal. 3:10-13.)
In order to reason and witness – law vs. grace – we must know Paul‘s letter to Galatians well.]
Jesus came to save sinners. He said: “I Am not come to call righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matt. 9:13.) Who are these sinners that Jesus came to call? All of us, for all people are sinners! “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23.) We are saved by God’s gift of grace through faith so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9.) How do we come to the saving faith of God? Paul answered that in Romans 10:17,
“… faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”
There are no laws or ordinances in the gospel of God. What the Gospel is, is declared in 1 Cor. 15:1-4, where Paul said, “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you…For I also delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” That is the gospel. The Gospel is a message, good news that changes lives. (Eph. 2:8-10) Paul warned about those who bring “another gospel”. (2 Cor. 11:4, 13-15.) He warned that changing the gospel in any way makes it “another gospel” that brings God’s curse on those who preach it or accept it. (Gal. 1:6-9.) Paul wrote, “But though we, or an angel from heaven [Moroni?], preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8-9.) Paul continued, “A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified…I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God:for if righteousness come by law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Gal. 2:16, 20-21.)
Salvation is the gift of God to anyone who asks and puts their faith and trust in true Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Romans 10:9-10 says, “If thou shalt confess with thou mouththe Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
“My hearts desire and prayer to God for [Mormons] is that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” (Romans 10:1-4.)
When we come to KNOW God and Jesus, whom He has sent (John 17:3)
and when we receive Him (John 1:12-13) we become God’s children through a new birth. He gives us a new heart and our desires and motives change, and little by little, we are molded into His likeness. We do not have a desire to sin any longer – even though we still periodically make wrong choices. We, like Paul, have to remind ourselves Who is the One Who shall deliver us from all sin – and we with Paul can “thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord“. (Read Romans 7: 14-25; 1 John 1:7-9.)
(Edited Fall 2011.)