Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Come Unto Christ , the Only Path to Salvation

"We trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe." - I Timothy 4:10

One commenter recently puzzled why I would invite pagans to come unto Christ, for he had heard that Mormons think everybody will be saved. OK, we believe that everyone will be resurrected, which is a form of salvation - salvation from physical death. But there is another death we need to be saved from: spiritual death, the death which is a consequence of sin, the death of being cut off from the presence of God and the gift of Eternal Life (not just immortal life, but the unimaginably full and abundant life that can be enjoyed in the presence of God, who shares all that He has with His sons and daughters). When we speak of being "saved," we normally refer to those who have been saved from spiritual and physical death, namely, those who have truly accepted Jesus Christ and the grace that He offers us through a covenant relationship, a "special" salvation that goes far beyond the "universal" salvation of Resurrection. All mankind needs to be saved from our sins and the spiritual death that sin brings, but that "special" salvation will only be offered to those who accept Jesus Christ by having faith in Him, repenting of their sins, entering into the covenant through baptism, and then receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:37-38; John 3:3-5; Heb. 6:1).

Here are a few relevant passages from the Book of Mormon. From Helaman 5:9:

O remember, remember, my sons, the words which king Benjamin spake unto his people; yea, remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come, yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world.
And from Mosiah 3:
[16] And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins.

[17] And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

[18] For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but 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 through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

[19] For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

[20] And moreover, I say unto you, that the time shall come when the knowledge of the Savior shall spread throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

[21] And behold, when that time cometh, none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children, only through repentance and faith on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent.
Now the really wonderful news, in addition to the salvation of infants, is the opportunity for all mankind to learn of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to accept it, if they wish. That's another topic, one that involves the preaching of the Gospel to the dead (1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6) and baptism for the dead. But let me just summarize by pointing out that God is consistent and remarkably fair in making salvation possible for all of us. We just need to look to Christ and accept His covenant of grace. And I truly hope that all of you will respond to this infinitely generous invitation from God, your Father in Heaven, who loves us and doesn't desire any of us to be cast out of His presence for our rebellion, but, as we read in 1 Timothy 2:4, "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." He has created the way for us to do that, but it is up to us to accept that invitation and "come to the knowledge of the truth" and act upon it (faith, repentance, and baptism).

20 comments:

NM said...

Thanks for this Jeff. I appreciate it =)

Latter-Day James said...

Somehow I knew that NM would be the first one to comment on this one :-).

Jayleen said...

I think it's important to point out though that as LDS we don't believe the vast majority of mankind will be burning up in flames for all eternity.

Sometimes I think other Christians beleive Satan got to make the rules and God was stuck coming up with a plan B that 90% of His children will not get, thus landing them in the lake of fire to suffer agony beyond understanding.

I believe God, our Heavenly FATHER, got to make the rules and He didn't make rules that would lose the vast majority of His children to hell. While many won't make the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom due to their own choices, most will at least have a pleasant existance in another level of glory.

Horebite said...

But it's more than just a physical death vs. spiritual death question. Don't we (Mormons) believe that everyone will eventually accept Christ, with the exception of some very few who will deny him against all evidence? If this is true, then the question can be legitimately asked--why bother telling people to come unto Christ? Why do we do missionary work? Everyone will find out anyway eventually and have the opportunity to accept him.

I think part of the answer is because coming unto Christ isn't just about your eternal destination, it's about the journey getting there. Coming unto Christ helps us to be happy and find meaning in this life as well as the next. See Alma 36:3.

I also find comfort in the LDS doctrine that everyone (almost) will inherit the degree of glory that they are most suited to. I find the doctrine of hell and heaven in other religions does not reconcile with the belief in a loving God.

Ayla said...

First I will not be speaking to the Bible passages because Joseph Smith said that as Mormons we believe the bible on in so far as it isaccurately translated and since he was assinated before he could translate it for us - I don't base large opinions or beliefs on the letter of the King James Bible.

As far as the Book of Mormon goes I think that before I dive into some of
the juicer quotes I want to get one concept out of the way first. The
Book of Mormon is history and metaphor woven together. Kevin
Christensen brilliantly described it this was:

"The Book of
Mormon sets the pattern for Mormonism by combining the physical and the
spiritual, the literal and the symbolic, the unique historic event and
the mythic recurrence.Nephi tells us that he is writing a history, but
that history is organized around the vision of the tree of life. We can
neither separate the history from the symbols of the vision, nor the
symbolic vision from the narrative history. The vision is a historic
event, and the symbols of the vision come from the physical landscape.
Yet the vision enacts current tensions and future events in the history
ofLehi’s family, just as it depicts eternal realities. Even when Nephi
refers to history, he does so, not to merely recite facts, but to
“liken” the history to his people, that is, to relive the patterns of
creation and Exodus, and make them actual in the lives of his people
and his readers… The literal and the symbolic illuminate and give
meaning to each other; attempts to separate them make no sense at all."

So let's now move on to som eof the more "damning" quotes (pun intended) from the B of M.

Mosiah 3:

[17]
And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given
nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the
children of men, only in and
through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.

[21] And behold, when that time cometh,
none shall be found blameless before God, except it be little children,
only through repentance and faith
on the name of the Lord God Omnipotent.


So here we are talking about Christ. Now we need to understand the Gnostic
version of Christ - and why? Because Joseph Smith was a gnostic which I
will show you in a bit.

From Wikipedia:

"The Gnostic's generally believed not in a Jesus who was a Divine Person with a human
form, but in a spiritual Christ who dwelt in Jesus. Through the
spiritual path of gnosticism, followers of these schools believed that
they could experience the same knowledge, orgnosis."

The Gnostic version of Christ is a consciousness that dwells within all of
us, a knowledge of our divine nature. Therefor to have salvation
through Christ is to have salvation through our ownconsciousness/knowledge and connection to God(dess).

Now as for Joseph Smith being a Gnostic, Dr. Quinn has a fabulous book
called, Early Mormonism and the
Magic World View in which he extensively documents Joseph Smith's magic, Kabalistic and Gnostic practices, aside from that 600 plus page book we also have these two quotes which I think sum it up nicely:

"The God of Joseph Smith is a daring revival of the God of some of the Kabbalists and Gnostics, prophetic sages who, like Smith himself, asserted that they had
returned to the true religion....Mormonism is a purely American Gnosis" - Harold Bloom

"Near the beginning of his ministry in 1833, Smith declared "the glory of God
is intelligence", eternal and uncreated. Those who wish to find in him
a Gnostic have pointed out that Smith used the word "intelligence"
interchangeably with "knowledge" in his prophetic writings during this
period. Indeed, they suggest, his words might be read poetically to
proclaim God's glory is Gnosis--a Gnosis that saves woman and man by
leading them together to a single uncreated and intrinsically divine
Self." - Joseph Smith: America's Hermetic Prophet by Lance S. Owens

More to that point here is a blog that I wrote a while back regarding the Gnostic Revelations given to Joseph Smith:


"On April 3, 1836 Joseph Smith received a vision along with Oliver Cowdery. The message of that vision was set down as Doctrine and Covenants 110. I am concerned primarily with sections 3-4.

In section 3 we see Christ personified as nature.

3
His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like
the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun;
and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the
voice of Jehovah, saying:

The manner of his body, his eyes and
hair described as snow and fire. His body being both ice and flame. The
yin and the yang, the feminine and the masculine, light and dark. A
paradox of balance. Christ embodies winter and summer at the same time.

His countenance and voice are given the aspects of sun and water. Again, a balance in nature. Sun God, Water Goddess. Yemaya and Ra.

Section 4 goes on to to quote:

4 I am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.

This might not mean much to anyone who hasn't read the Gnostic gospel,
Thunder; Perfect Mind but those who have, this is mind blowing. D and C
110: 4 quotes at one point word-for-word from Thunder; Perfect Mind.
For those unfamiliar with this Gnostic Poem here's whatWikipedia says:

The Thunder, Perfect Mind is a poem discovered among the Gnostic manuscripts at Nag Hammadi in 1945.

Thunder Perfect Mind (the title is, more accurately, The Thunder - Perfect
Intellect), takes the form of an extended, riddling monologue, in which
an immanent saviour speaks a series of paradoxical statements
concerning the divine feminine nature.

OK, now here's the section of the poem I'm referring to:

"For I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned one.
I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am and the daughter.
I am the members of my mother."

First of all these texts which date back to the time of
Christ and contained the Gospel of Mary Magdalene for example, were not
found until 1945. So first of all, there is no way Joseph could have
quoted these texts unless it was through some mystical source.

Second, the poem is a description of a savior contemplating the divine
feminine. It seems to me what was given to Joseph in revelation was the
masculine counter part to this ancient poem of the divine feminine!"

Another point to make to this is that to be quoting a masculine version of an ancient Gnostic text that Joseph Smith could never have known about in his life time clearly shows me that the Revelations coming through Joseph were of a Gnostic nature and thus a Gnostic approach to Christ and salvation is appropriate when reading the B or M
and other Revelations given to Joseph.

One of the beauties of Mormonism and the teachings of Joseph Smith is that everyone receives the glory of God. This universal plan of salvation, though not
currently taught by theLDS church, is a fundamental part of the belief structure of Mormonism and is an inspiring Revelation given to our Prophet from our Heavenly Parents.

Perhaps not everyone agrees with my view point but Joseph himself called women
to expound on scripture so I feel I am in keeping with a divine
tradition.

Anonymous said...

He has created the way for us to do that, but it is up to us to accept that invitation and "come to the knowledge of the truth" and act upon it (faith, repentance, and baptism).

NM said...

Jeff,

Please excuse the Columbo-esque explorative demeanor when I ask yet another question(!):

Is it true that Mormon theology, in relation to God's saving grace is similar to Universalism? Now according to the mighty wikipedia, it seems that universalism was a major player within early Christianity; that is, until St. Augustine refuted it.

I can see that you have used I Tim 4:10 as a supporting verse for your argument. I'm just wondering where else in the Bible are there any scriptures which might allude to 'salvation-for-all-whether-or-not-one-accepts-Christ' doctrine?

This question is open to anybody else who might like to help?

Thanks again. =)

tatabug said...

NM,

Not knowing much about Universalism myself, it may be possible that some of our beliefs carry some vague similarities, but just from what I read about it on Wikipedia, I would say, no.

Yes, we do believe that a measure of salvation is granted to all who have kept their first estate. Those spirits who followed Satan in the pre-existence did not keep their first estate. Those who have come to this earth to receive a body have succeeded in keeping their first estate and will receive a glorified resurrected body regardless of our choices here on earth. That is a form of salvation and is a free gift for all.

The second form of salvation is spiritual. It is determined by our faith and obedience. In 1 Corinthians 15:40-42 it says, "There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:"

We believe that nearly everyone will be resurrected to a different glory depending on individual worthiness.

The glory of the telestial is the lowest form of glory, but even that glory is said to surpass all understanding. It's glory is comparable to the stars. Those who will inherit telestial glory are those "who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie." They will be in number like the stars in heaven. These will be cast down to hell until the fulness of times when Christ has finished his work. Then they will be redeemed to their glory.

The glory of the terrestrial compares to the glory of the moon. Those who inherit terrestrial glory are those "who died without law;...Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it. These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men...These are they who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus; wherefore, they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of our God."

Those who inherit the glory of the telestial or the terrestrial will not dwell with God or with Christ.

The glory of the celestial is comparable to the sun. Those who receive this glory are those who "receive the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized...That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Sprit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power; And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. They are they who are the church of the Firstborn...These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever." Comparably few will receive this glory.

(The above quoted scriptures come from Doctrine and Covenants 76.)

We also believe that there are those who commit the unpardonable sin who will not be resurrected to any glory but will dwell for eternity with the devil and his angels, but they will be relatively few in number.

So, while all will receive some form of salvation, and most will receive a glory, not all will receive a glory, and from what I understand, Universalists believe that all will receive glory and even satan and his angels will at last be reconciled to God. This is not in our beliefs. I'm not sure where Ayla gets the idea that the universal plan of salvation is a fundamental part of Mormon belief structure. She is however correct in saying that it isn't taught by the Church, and for good reason--it's false doctrine. But then it would be helpful to know specifically what she means by everyone will receive the glory of God. That concept itself could have various meanings.

Joseph Antley said...

Thanks Jeff.

Fingers said...

Ah, Ayla. There are many things wrong with your analysis. I'll just point out the most obvious. You claim Joseph in D&C 110: 4 was channeling an as yet undiscovered masculine version of a feminine oriented gnostic text, based on one line of similarity: "I am the first and the last." Problem is, there's quite a few, somewhat more obvious sources:

Isaiah 41:4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.

Isaiah 44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

Isaiah 48:12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.

Revelation 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

Revelation 1:10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

Revelation 2:8 And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive;

Revelation 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.

Revelation 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.




Oh, and the quick google search that got me that also got me this:

Revelation 1:14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

Hmm... where have we seen that?


And last, those quotes from D&C 76 Tatabug provided clearly demonstrate not everyone receives the full glory of God, as your post seems to imply.


I could go on, but it's bedtime.

Mormanity said...

NM, I thought I explained that it's not "salvation" for all in the sense we normally mean, but "resurrection for all" (salvation from physical death), with a higher "special" salvation for those that believe = salvation from sin and eternal life in the presence of God.

The Bible has many other passages that speak of the "universal salvation" of resurrection for all, both the righteous and the wicked, the believers and the rebels. John 5:28-29 comes to mind. Resurrection is not just for believers. I hope you're on board with that.

Kathleen said...

Tatabug wrote about how "comparatively few" will receive the glory of the sun...ultimate glory. What about Romans 8.30?

tatabug said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tatabug said...

I'm not sure what is significant about Romans 8:30. I don't sense any attempt to quantify there. Perhaps he only 'predestinated' and 'justified' a few. We don't believe that, but our understanding of what is meant by predestination is likely very different from yours, and it should really say sanctified, not justified, according to the Joseph Smith Translation.

tatabug said...

Matthew 20:16 says, "...for many be called, but few chosen."

Anonymous said...

NM, after Jeff said:
said, "...though I hope they will one day turn to Christ.

I think this is just a general statement that we hope all people will turn to Christ.

* "Are LDS theology and Evangelical theology similar in terms of God's act of forgiveness, in that only those who call upon His name are the ones who are saved?"

In general the LDS believe that all those that are born to earth will be resurrected. This is a free gift of Jesus Christ. Also He gives as a free gift forgiveness of sins for those that repent. This gift you must make the effort to pick up the gift so to speak. Then depending on your desires you will go to different levels. I know this is a strange concept but we believe that Satan and one third of heaven rejected G-d and his plan knowing that they would be punished by not obtaining a physical body ect. So in some way they got what they desired which was to fight against G-d.

*"ALL people will receive glory, whether or not they follow Christ. Is that true? "1 Corinthians 15:41-50
41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual.
Plus there is more in the Mormon D&C that you can look up that expands on this and other Mormon writings.
True from the stand point all will be resurrected and their glory will be at least above the spirits that will never gain a physical body.

Also we don't really believe in a hell of fire. Hell is being seperated from G-d and Christ.

Peter said...

The earth is in a Telestial glory at the moment (from my understanding), so how much glory will many people inherit? Pretty much what we have at the moment.

Anonymous said...

What is the meaning of "telestial"? It doesn't appear in the KJV of the bible. 1 Cor.15 only uses celestial and terrestrial.

"35But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead" NIV.

The addition of 'telestial' is an addition by Joseph Smith in the inspired version to make it three degrees of glory. In context, it sounds like the bible verse is simply saying that there is a difference between a heavenly body and an earthly body. Apparently its different from our earthly experience.

I am a bit of a loss as as to jesus preaching to the spirits in prison.
"He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19through whom[d] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge[e] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."

What is the relationship between these spirits and the days of noah?

I found an interesting, if not bizarr teaching about angels that sinned in the days of noah.
http://www.ldolphin.org/noahdays.html

I don't know if that has anything to do with it.

Anonymous said...

tatabug,
The angels that sinned, isn't that the same "sons of god" that married the daughters of men? Gen 6

tatabug said...

Anonymous,

Sorry for the delay in my response to you. I've been out of town.

I found a possible meaning of the word telestial from Wikipedia:

The origin of the word "telestial", which does not occur in other contexts, is uncertain, although some claim it means "distant" (since this realm is seen as being further from the seat of God than the other kingdoms), citing the meaning of other words that begin with the Greek prefix "tele-" (such as telephone and television). Another possible source might be the Greek adjective "telestikos", which means "mystical," "consecrational," or "initiatory."

However the word was derived, or whatever the conventional meaning, in LDS theology, it denotes a glory comparable to the stars.

I'm not sure why you are asking me about the "angels that sinned" and the "sons of god" because I don't recall ever referencing these things. But to answer your question, I don't know.

We believe that whenever children of God marry any of the children of men, that means that they are basically marrying outside of the covenant to an unbeliever.