24
Nov
09

MORMONISM’S FREE GIFT OF SALVATION

     One of the basic tenets of Mormonism is that we are on earth to be tested and to work to become worthy of life in the celestial kingdom.  The following quote from Gospel Principles is representative of this teaching.  “By following His teachings, we can inherit a place in the celestial kingdom.  He did His part to help us return to our heavenly home.  It is now up to each of us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation.”  (p. 16)

     As a result, many Mormons have scoffed at the idea of that salvation is God’s gift based completely in Christ’s work for us – that salvation is by grace, through faith, without works.  For example, an LDS prophet stated:  “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”  (Spencer W. Kimball)

      But there is a whole class of people that Mormonism says will be saved in the celestial kingdom without having to prove themselves.  I’m talking about small children who die.  D&C 137:10 says:  “And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.”

     This sparks a couple of questions.  If it was so important, according to Mormonism, that we had the chance to prove ourselves by wisely choosing the right, then why does God allow children to die before they have a chance to prove themselves?  And if the idea of salvation as a totally free gift is so obnoxious, why then does God give small children salvation in the celestial kingdom?

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39 Responses to “MORMONISM’S FREE GIFT OF SALVATION”


  1. 1 faithoffathers
    November 25, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Mark,

    I have some questions too. If God chooses whom He will save with no consideration of our personal behavior and works, why are we here at all? Why create this planet on which to sift through His creations? Why not just create some to inhabit heaven, and another group to send to hell? If the theology of being saved by grace alone is true, and if that grace is bestowed independent of our choice, than there is no purpose for this life. Am I wrong?

    Why do people die? Why does God allow a person to kill another? Why does he allow rape, murder, slavery, torture, etc.? Unfortunately, many people have lost faith as a result of asking such questions. But in my mind, it is a testament to the importance God places on man’s agency. He values our agency so much He does not interfer to prevent such terrible things from happening, including babies dying.

    In our theology, those babies who die, along with all who enter this world, have already undergone a period of testing before this life. So it is not as if they get off completely scott-free. The fact that we mortals grieve over such babies and feel so badly for them indicates to me that having a long life has value in and of itself- those babies are missing out on many things.

    Why some people go through seemingly more intense trials and sufferings than other is known to God. I often wonder why relatively little has been asked of me when I consider the thousands and millions who have suffered in wars, slavery, etc. I don’t have a great answer except that God knows the beginning from the end and is perfectly fair and just. And our choices and behavior matters.

    fof

  2. 2 Echo
    November 25, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    FOF: In your theology, if people are sent to earth to be tested, why do babies die before having the opportunity to be tested?

  3. November 25, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    FOF just said that they DO have a testing period.

    We all did pre-mortality.

    At least, that was his point.

  4. 4 Echo
    November 25, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    So why come to the earth then?

  5. 5 faithoffathers
    November 25, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    Echo,

    To obtain a physical body, and to gain mortal experience. Some people have a very short mortal experience. They must be very fast learners.

    fof

  6. 6 Echo
    November 25, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    What mortal experience does a dying baby have? What purpose?

  7. 7 Echo
    November 25, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    What is the purpose of a mortal experience for everyone?

  8. November 26, 2009 at 2:16 am

    Two purposes in going to earth:

    1. get body

    2. continue the period of testing.

    Getting #1 is required. FOF is saying that #2 is optional due to the premortal experiences playing into the equation.

    Not sure I agree with him, but I do think that is his point.

  9. 9 Echo
    November 26, 2009 at 6:20 am

    So the babies who die don’t go through a process of being tried and tested. This brings up Mark’s questions: “If it was so important, according to Mormonism, that we had the chance to prove ourselves by wisely choosing the right, then why does God allow children to die before they have a chance to prove themselves? And if the idea of salvation as a totally free gift is so obnoxious, why then does God give small children salvation in the celestial kingdom?”

  10. November 26, 2009 at 6:31 am

    FOF was saying that trying and testing happens in two phases:

    1. Premortal life

    2. Mortal life.

    And that for some of God the Father’s children – stage one was sufficient.

    At least, that’s what I think he was saying. Not that I agree with all of it, but I think that’s what he’s saying.

    All clear now?

  11. November 26, 2009 at 6:32 am

    And the idea of a “free gift” is not obnoxious to Mormonism.

    I think that’s just certain people putting words in our mouths.

  12. 12 Echo
    November 26, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Seth,

    What is the difference between trying and testing in premortal life and Mortal life?

    You said: “And the idea of a “free gift” is not obnoxious to Mormonism. I think that’s just certain people putting words in our mouths.”

    And that person would be (Spencer W. Kimball)
    “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”

  13. November 26, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Spencer W. Kimball was speaking in a context of responding to the “cheap grace” crowd of Christians. Half of the inflammatory rhetoric in the LDS Church can be viewed as us overcompensating for what we see as the excesses of other Christians.

    I seriously doubt this quote was meant to be a theological statement about the sufficiency of Christ’s saving power. Especially since LDS leaders are constantly teaching the inadequacy of human efforts (a theme of their teaching in every age of LDS teaching).

  14. 14 Echo
    November 26, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    What is the difference between trying and testing in premortal life and Mortal life?

  15. November 26, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Couldn’t tell you. It’s not really my argument to begin with.

  16. 16 ADB
    November 27, 2009 at 4:32 am

    Seth,

    “Especially since LDS leaders are constantly teaching the inadequacy of human efforts (a theme of their teaching in every age of LDS teaching).”

    Unfortunately, even teaching an “inadequacy” of human efforts is not correctly reflecting what Heavenly Father tells us. The Bible says that even the best human efforts are worthless, not “inadequate.” Calling them inadequate may affirm that we need Jesus, but only to “fill in the cracks” where we fall short. Such terminology still leaves the door open for a false teaching that requires human effort.

  17. November 27, 2009 at 7:35 am

    On that Gospel Principles quote:

    “By following His teachings, we can inherit a place in the celestial kingdom. He did His part to help us return to our heavenly home. It is now up to each of us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation.” (p. 16)

    I don’t think this is a very theologically careful statement and don’t think it accurately portrays LDS teaching on the subject. It’s not like this is a relay race where Jesus ran most of it and is now handing us the baton. That’s a very poor way to describe the LDS doctrine of the Atonement.

    Here’s hoping later revisions correct this oversight.

  18. November 27, 2009 at 7:39 am

    One thing FoF,

    I think you are speculating here when you state that dead infants had adequate chance to be tested in the pre-mortal world.

    We were all tested in the pre-mortal world. We were presented with the choice of accepting Satan’s plan or God’s plan. We all chose God. We all kept our “First Estate.”

    Test passed.

    I think saying that some select class of spirits will automatically gain their “Second Estate” purely by virtue of keeping their “First Estate” is rather problematic theologically from an LDS perspective.

    This is an area that we don’t know much about. Sometimes it’s better to leave it at that. Or make it clear that we are only advancing our own opinion on the subject.

  19. November 27, 2009 at 7:43 am

    FoF,

    I have some stuff you might be interested in if you want to email me at sdrogers24 at gmail dot com.

  20. 20 markcares
    November 27, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Seth:
    That quote was from the 2009 edition of Gospel Principles. So it will be there for a few years yet.
    The Kimball quote is from the older Book of Mormon manual. I know there’s a newer edition but this manual is still on-line at LDS Institutes.
    I know we have had discussions in the past about church manuals and what authority they have. My experience is that the authority assigned them differs widely throughout the LDS Church with official statements placing more weight upon them than many LDS individuals do. Would you agree? but I do have a question I don’t remember discussing. What is the LDS take when manuals are revised? Does that mean the older manuals have no value? Does anybody in Moormonism ever look at the revisions and wonder why things were revised? That would be a somewhat common exercise in the Christian world.

  21. November 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    What do you mean “common?”

    Are the majority of lay Christians going in for this kind of thoughtful analysis?

    Somehow I doubt it.

  22. November 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    An interesting quote from the prophet Harold B. Lee:

    “The Church? The Church? What is “the Church?” And what difference does it make whether the Church takes a position on anything or not? The important thing is that God has taken a position on everything and it is up to you to find out what it is.”

    Harold B. Lee, BYU CES Summer School, 1970.

    Honestly, I think he may have been a little annoyed when he made that quote.

  23. 23 Echo
    November 27, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Seth,

    Seth said: “I think saying that some select class of spirits will automatically gain their “Second Estate” purely by virtue of keeping their “First Estate” is rather problematic theologically from an LDS perspective.
    This is an area that we don’t know much about. Sometimes it’s better to leave it at that. Or make it clear that we are only advancing our own opinion on the subject.”

    Seth, I appreciate the acknowledgement that it is an area you don’t know much about. We have such areas as well for which we must also say: “God hasn’t answered that question.” It is far better to acknowledge that fact than to speculate.

    What knowledge do you have about the “second estate”?

  24. November 27, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    The “Second Estate” generally refers to salvation after mortal life. Although LDS sometimes confuse the words salvation and exaltation, so be careful there.

    Public Service Announcement:

    I’ve been having a hard time verifying that Harold B. Lee quote. So take it with a grain of salt. It may or may not accurately reflect something he said. I like the sentiment, but that’s just me.

  25. November 28, 2009 at 4:41 am

    My own preferred speculative opinion is that infants who die early enough are given another chance at mortality. This is my opinion of what happens to those who are aborted (or otherwise die at that stage of development). They get another chance at mortality under different circumstances.

    But this view is not without problems either. Where do you draw the developmental line? Am I as comfortable assigning this fate to, say… a three year old child who dies?

    I am not comfortable doing that.

    A common Mormon folk doctrine holds that parents will have a chance to raise their children to adulthood after Christ’s return. But this is not exactly an official doctrine.

    Either way, I don’t think it necessary to read D&C 137:10 as talking about a final state of exaltation. The verse does not really demand that sole reading. What if the verse is talking about merely “saving” the infants for later? The Celestial Kingdom would not then be a final destination. Or what if the verse is merely talking about “saving” the children from hell? Not necessarily a final destination there either.

    I don’t know what D&C 137 is really talking about. I don’t think it demands Mark’s read on it. But I don’t think we have enough information to make other definitive explanations either.

  26. November 28, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    My own preferred speculative opinion is that infants who die early enough are given another chance at mortality. This is my opinion of what happens to those who are aborted (or otherwise die at that stage of development). They get another chance at mortality under different circumstances.

    Has one of the prophets or apostles taught that, Seth? I ask because the idea was expressed in Women & Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism several times. For example:

    . . . There is a real irony in being a Mormon and considering abortion. Yes, we believe that life is sacred; yes, the official Church position is against abortion. But according to our doctrine, abortion does not kill the spirit; what it does mean is that spirit is forced to go elsewhere. And so with prayerful heart, as a family we made a decision that the best interest of this particular spirit was to deny it birth to these parents at this time. —NAME WITHHELD

    Please, let this not turn into a debate about abortion. I’m just curious where Mormons get this notion from.

  27. November 29, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I’m afraid I don’t know which General Authority, if any, said it.

  28. 28 faithoffathers
    November 30, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Seth, Echo, others,

    My comment about being tested in the pre-mortal life was not intended to suggest the same degree of cummulative testing between those who die early here and those who don’t. I was merely responding to the idea that it wasn’t fair for infants to get off scott-free- that there was inconsistency in our doctrine that this life is a time to be tried and tested.

    I will respond and say I that do not agree your idea Seth about there being another mortality for spirits who die as infants in this life.

    I think some of the sentiment about parents of these spirits being able to raise them later comes from a statement from Brigham Young about the subject. Don’t have the time to look it up. I think there is a possible fulfillment of such a thing without there being a full “mortal” element to it. But as many have said- we simply do not know those things now.

    I don’t know about the spirits who are aborted as fetuses here. Doubt anybody does.

    fof

  29. November 30, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Seth, that is the first time that I have ever heard an LDS friend give such an opinion.

  30. December 1, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    “that infants who die early enough are given another chance at mortality”

  31. 33 Echo
    December 1, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    Hebrews 9:27 “Just as man is destined to DIE ONCE, and after that to face judgment,”

  32. December 1, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    I doubt Paul had fetuses in mind when he made that statement Echo.

    What about fertilized eggs? Do you think Paul was making a theological statement about fertilized eggs when he said that?

  33. 35 Echo
    December 2, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Take him at his word Seth. Paul is speaking about everyone when he says a man is destined to DIE ONCE. He is including men, women, children, infants, that is, all human beings.

  34. December 2, 2009 at 3:40 am

    I was taking him at his word Echo. Which he wasn’t applying to fertilized eggs. You have little basis at all for implying that he had that in mind.

    The scriptures don’t just mean what you want them to mean.

  35. 37 Echo
    December 2, 2009 at 3:57 am

    Seth, It says “man” as in mankind.
    Where in the scripture is reincarnation mentioned?

  36. December 2, 2009 at 4:24 am

    In the ancient world, people widely believed that children resided whole in the man’s sperm and the woman was mainly the incubator. I doubt the author of Hebrews knew that fertilized eggs can exist.

    On the other hand, the early Christians were almost universally opposed to abortion. They definitely viewed the unborn as human life.

  37. December 2, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Well, of course it’s not in the Bible Echo.

    I’m a Mormon. Remember?

    It doesn’t have to be.


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