As is evidenced by comments on this blog, there exists a communication problem between Christians and Mormons. Mormons complain that Christians don’t understand them. Christians say the same thing about Mormons. Charges of misunderstanding and misrepresentation fly back and forth. Therefore I offer the following in the hope that is will both help Christians understand Mormonism’s plan of salvation and help Mormons understand some of the difficulties Christians have with it.
Although, in Mormonism, it is referred to as the plan of salvation, from a Christian perspective it is easier understood as a plan of maturity. Salvation, to a Christian, means going to heaven. In Mormonism, as is evidenced by its plan, very few people don’t go to heaven. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, almost everybody will be saved, even if they have no belief in Jesus. The lowest kingdom of LDS heaven is the telestial kingdom. “Telestial glory will be reserved for individuals who ‘received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus’ (D&C 76:84, 106).” (True to the Faith) In other words, if a person rejects Jesus, in Mormonism, they will still be saved, according to Christian terminology.
Why then does Mormonism have such a detailed plan of salvation? Seeing it as a plan of maturity rather than as a plan salvation helps clear up some of the confusion for Christians. The plan takes a person from being a spirit child in pre-existence, to growing maturity on earth as they overcome bodily temptations, to more maturity in the spirit world, until finally, the worthy ones reach exaltation and become gods. Instead of talking about maturity, however, Mormonism prefers talking about a person’s progression.
Another Mormon expression that fits into this description is the description of themselves as “gods in embryo”. Consider the following quote from the LDS manual, “Achieving a Celestial Marriage”. The heading of this section is entitled “MEN ARE GODS IN EMBRYO.”
“’Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of our earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable by experience through ages of aeons, of evolving into a God.’ (The First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund], “The Origin of Man,” Improvement Era, Nov. 1908, p.81.)”
If we truly think the differences between Mormonism and Christianity are substantial, then it is is important to try and communicate clearly with each other. Hopefully this is one step in that direction.