What Do Mormons Believe about Salvation?
Most Christian religions preach that there is a heaven and a hell, and that anyone outside their own religion will be condemned to hell. Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has a more complete, and a much more merciful view of salvation.
First of all, there could be no salvation without the atonement of Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that the atonement has provided us with profound blessings.
The atonement covered the sin of Adam. In the second Article of Faith it says, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.”
Little children who die (younger than the “age of accountability” or eight years old) will be saved in the highest kingdom of heaven. This does not require baptism, for they are innocent before the Lord. In the Book of Mormon it says, “And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of redemption….For behold that all little children are alive in Christ…”(Moroni 8:20, 22). This same blessing is extended to adults who cannot discern between right and wrong.
The millions and millions of people who have lived on the earth without the opportunity to learn the gospel of Christ, will have that opportunity during the space between death and resurrection, in the Spirit World. Revelations concerning the spirit world show that in the space between Christ’s death and resurrection visited the Spirit World and also organized missionary work to the disobedient in the spirit world, so that all would have the chance to accept or reject Christ before resurrection and judgment. Said the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni, “For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law” (Moroni 8:22).
Resurrection is a free gift to all mankind. In this sense, all mankind will be saved, because Christ has overcome the grave. All will live again. All will be awarded perfect, incorruptible bodies in the eternities, both the righteous and the wicked who have lived on the earth.
Christ took upon Himself the sins and sorrows of all mankind. Through His grace, we can be forgiven of our sins on condition of repentance. We can also summon His grace in our everyday lives and cast our burdens at His feet. Thus, the atonement can enable us to triumph over the sorrows and trials we experience during our lives on earth.
The atonement of Christ gives us the possibility of exaltation. Paul talked about three heavens, and Joseph Smith saw them in vision. Christ said that in His house there are many mansions, and therefore many levels of exaltation or glory.
Mormon doctrine teaches the truth that God is more merciful than is taught by any other Christian faith. All except the “Sons of Perdition” will go to heaven and inherit a kingdom of glory. Sons of Perdition are those who have gained a perfect knowledge that Jesus is the Christ (knowledge, not faith; knowledge includes a direct visitation or manifestation) and then deny Him, thus “crucifying Him anew. Even the lowest kingdom of Heaven, called by Paul (1 Corinthians 15:40), the “telestial,” is glorious beyond description. Those who inherit the telestial kingdom of heaven are those who reject a testimony of Christ and commit grievous sins. Hell is defined as 1) “outer darkness,” where Sons of Perdition go; and 2) the situation suffered by those who refuse to believe in Christ — they must suffer for their own sins until they are resurrected and inherit a kingdom of glory.
There are two definitions of “hell” in Mormon doctrine. 1) Those who go to the Spirit World having rejected the saving power of Christ on earth, suffer temporarily for their own sins in the Spirit World. 2) Those who “deny the Holy Ghost” place themselves outside the realm of the atonement. This is very rare. It means personally seeing the Savior, therefore having a perfect knowledge of Him, and then denying Him. This is like crucifying Him anew. People who commit this rare sin are called Sons of Perdition. (We know that Cain is a son of perdition, because he sinned against knowledge and chose Satan over God.) These people are cast into “outer darkness” at the final judgment, where there is no glory, no light, and no progress. There, their “worm dieth not,” because they are constantly consumed by their guilt.
Everyone beside the sons of perdition will inherit a kingdom of glory in heaven. In Joseph Smith’s vision, he beheld that even the lowest kingdom of glory is so glorious that it surpasses all understanding. As Paul said, there are three kingdoms of heaven, the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial, with the Celestial Kingdom being the highest. The Celestial kingdom also has three degrees, and the highest degree is where God Himself and Christ dwell. In this degree of heaven, “…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1Corinthians 11:11). The people in this kingdom have entered into the eternal marriage contract and have endured to the end of their lives in righteousness. They stand to become co-heirs with Christ and share in His glory (Romans 8:17).
Works vs Grace
Mormonism teaches that no amount of good works can save us, because we will always be unworthy to enter the kingdom of God. Therefore, we are saved by grace. However, we manifest our faith through our works, and it is by our works and the intentions of our minds and hearts that we are judged:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot (Moroni 10:32-33).
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved” (2 Nephi 10:24).
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to 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).