The Gift of Salvation

In the last post we learned that the only way we can be saved in the kingdom of God is through faith, repentance, baptism by water, baptism by fire, and enduring to the end. We also learned that only those in the celestial glory have met those requirements. Meaning that those of the terrestrial and telestial glories do not meet the criteria to be saved in the kingdom of God.

What about salvation then? We’re taught that the three degrees of glory are a key part of the plan of salvation. Is there a difference between being saved and receiving salvation? Some may argue that while we can only be saved in the celestial kingdom, perhaps we can still participate in salvation in one of the lower kingdoms.

Let’s start with the Webster 1828 definition.

SALVA’TION, [Latin salvo, to save.]
1. The act of saving; preservation from destruction, danger or great calamity.
2. Appropriately in theology, the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and liability to eternal death, and the conferring on him everlasting happiness.

SA’VED, Preserved from evil; injury or destruction.

Those two words appear synonymous. In fact, they are used interchangeably in the scriptures:

D&C 6
3 Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap, let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.

13 If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.

Saved in the kingdom                     = The greatest of all gifts of God (meaning no gift is greater)
Salvation                                            = No greater gift (meaning it is the greatest gift)
Greatest of all gifts                           = No greater gift
Salvation in the kingdom of God = Saved in the kingdom of God

All these phrases show that salvation and being saved are equivalent. With that in mind, look at these other scriptures.

D&C 43:25
How oft have I called upon you by the mouth of my servants, and by the ministering of angels, and by mine own voice, and by the voice of thunderings, and by the voice of lightnings, and by the voice of tempests, and by the voice of earthquakes, and great hailstorms, and by the voice of famines and pestilences of every kind, and by the great sound of a trump, and by the voice of judgment, and by the voice of mercy all the day long, and by the voice of glory and honor and the riches of eternal life, and would have saved you with an everlasting salvation, but ye would not!

Alma 5:9-10
And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, Yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they are saved. And now I ask of you on what conditions are they saved? Yea, what grounds had they to hope for salvation? What is the cause of their being loosed from the bands of death, yea, and also the chains of hell?

Romans 10:9-10
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the 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.

Isaiah 45:17
But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

Isaiah 25:9
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us:
this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

I don’t think I’m wresting the scriptures when I assert that there is no difference between being saved and receiving salvation. Now that we know they are equivalent, let’s see if the scriptures provide the same qualifications for receiving salvation as being saved.

Alma 9:27-28
And behold, he cometh to redeem those who will be baptized unto repentance, through faith on his name. Therefore, prepare ye the way of the Lord, for the time is at hand that all men shall reap a reward of their works, according to that which they have been—if they have been righteous they shall reap the salvation of their souls, according to the power and deliverance of Jesus Christ; and if they have been evil they shall reap the damnation of their souls, according to the power and captivation of the devil.

Alma 34:15
And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.

Alma 26:35
Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name.

So far, these are the same requirements as for being saved in the kingdom of God: faith, repentance, and baptism. These next verses add becoming as a little child and continuing in faith until the end, matching the requirements we found in the last post. But notice the qualifiers in red.

Alma 11:40
And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.

Mosiah 3
12 But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

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.

Mosiah 4:6-8
I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world. And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.

There is no other way, no other salvation, no other condition by which we can be saved. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. To argue otherwise is to deny the scriptures.

This presents the same problem with the terrestrial and telestial people – they don’t qualify for salvation. Salvation is only for the celestial category of people. Yet God says he will save everyone except for the sons of perdition. How can God save everyone, but only save celestial people? How can he save all, but not the terrestrial and telestial people?

1 Nephi 15:34-35
But behold, I say unto you, the kingdom of God is not filthy, and there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God; wherefore there must needs be a place of filthiness prepared for that which is filthy. And there is a place prepared, yea, even that awful hell of which I have spoken, and the devil is the preparator of it; wherefore the final state of the souls of men is to dwell in the kingdom of God, or to be cast out because of that justice of which I have spoken.

There are no three degrees of glory here. You are either in the celestial kingdom or you are cast out. How can we reconcile what the scriptures plainly teach about salvation and being saved in the kingdom of God with the current LDS interpretation of the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms? It’s not possible. If we believe what the scriptures say, the plan of salvation, as taught by the LDS Church, is really a plan of condemnation. The vast majority of humans will be doomed to the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms, cast out, without salvation, without being saved; while a small portion enjoy the celestial kingdom.

We know that can’t be true, so the conclusion is that our interpretation of what the scriptures say about the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms is wrong. Once we have accepted that truth, we need to cast aside everything we have been taught and start fresh. Which is what we’ll start doing next.

Saved in the Kingdom of God

The three degrees of glory are one of the bedrock traditions of the LDS Church. Unfortunately, many of our beliefs about the three degrees of glory don’t agree with the scriptures. Let’s take a look one of these beliefs.

Near the beginning of the vision in D&C 76, we are given a description of the gospel:

40 And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—
41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;
43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them

Verse 43 says God saves all the works of his hands except the sons of perdition. It’s so important, it’s repeated again in verse 44. Everyone except for the sons of perdition are saved. Just to be painfully obvious, this is saying that celestial, terrestrial, and telestial people are all going to be saved.

The scriptures say we will be “saved in the kingdom of God”, “saved in the kingdom of heaven”, or “saved in the kingdom of the Lamb”. We want to merge these statements with our interpretation that the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms are places where people will be saved for eternity. This leads us to teach that someone can be a terrestrial or telestial person and still be in the kingdom of God. We teach that we can be “saved in a lower kingdom”, “saved in the terrestrial kingdom”, or “saved in the telestial kingdom”. Yet none of those phrases have a scriptural basis that I can find. So what do the scriptures teach about who is saved, and where they are saved?

What did Jesus teach?

John 3:5
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

3 Nephi 9:22
Whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.

(Notice also that he declares he has laid down his life for those who repent and come unto his as a little child. He doesn’t say he laid down his life for those who don’t repent. Compare this with D&C 76:41-43 at the top of this post.)

3 Nephi 11:33
Whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

3 Nephi 11:38
Ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

According to Jesus, we need to believe, repent, be baptized, be born of the Spirit, and become as a little child or we can IN NOWISE inherit the kingdom of God. The Webster 1828 dictionary gives us this definition of no wise.

NO’WISE, Not in any manner or degree.

According to the resurrected Christ, we cannot in any manner or degree inherit the kingdom of God without believing, repenting, becoming as a little child, and being baptized. Moroni adds some more criteria which we cannot avoid in any manner or degree:

Moroni 10:21
Except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.

Alma piles on, telling us we must also be born of God and be changed from our carnal and fallen state and become a son or daughter of God, and unless we do this, we cannot in any manner or degree inherit the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 27:25-26
Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Alma 42:24
Justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.

Alma 38:9
And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

Nephi takes it even higher. Now we need to have perfect faith in God or we cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.

2 Nephi 9:23
And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.

He then tells us we need to endure to the end or we cannot be saved.

2 Nephi 31:15-16
15 And I heard a voice from the Father, saying: Yea, the words of my Beloved are true and faithful. He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. And now, my beloved brethren, I know by this that unless a man shall endure to the end, in following the example of the Son of the living God, he cannot be saved.

Just in case we’re thinking there is another way to be saved without having faith and enduring to the end, Nephi closes the door to any such possibility:

2 Nephi 31:21
21 And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.

Modern revelation is consistent with this:

D&C 20
29 And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.

Inheriting the kingdom?

In addition to “being saved in the kingdom of God”, the scriptures talk about “inheriting the kingdom of God”. Is there a difference between inheriting and being saved in the kingdom of God? They also talk about “inheriting the kingdom of heaven”. Is there a difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven?

Nephi uses saved and inherit interchangeably:

2 Nephi 9:18
But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.

2 Nephi 9:23
And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.

Alma uses kingdom of God and kingdom of heaven interchangeably:

Alma 9:12
Behold, now I say unto you that he commandeth you to repent; and except ye repent, ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Alma 5:51
And also the Spirit saith unto me, yea, crieth unto me with a mighty voice, saying: Go forth and say unto this people—Repent, for
except ye repent ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of heaven.

I don’t know how much more interchangeable you can get than that! He goes on to use inherit and saved in the same sentence:

Alma 11:37
And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.

And the criteria for the kingdom of heaven are the same as for the kingdom of God listed above:

Alma 7
14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

It seems that there is no difference between being saved in the kingdom of God and inheriting the kingdom of God. Nor is there is a difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven.

From these scriptures we’ve just reviewed, here’s a list of the scriptural requirements to be saved in the kingdom of God:

  • Faith in God
  • Repentance
  • Baptism
  • Born again / born of God / redeemed of God
  • Become as a little child
  • Hope
  • Charity
  • Endure to the end

Now let’s take a look at terrestrial people:

  • Died without the law / didn’t receive the testimony of Jesus ,  (76:72-75)
  • Blinded by the craftiness of men (76:76)
  • Received the testimony of Jesus, but weren’t valiant. (76:79)

Those people don’t meet the scriptural criteria for being saved in the kingdom of God.

What about telestial people?

  • Didn’t accept the testimony of Jesus, but don’t deny the Holy Spirit.(76:82, 101)
  • Weren’t baptized, or didn’t accept the everlasting covenant (76:101)
  • Liars, sorcerers, adulterers, whoremongers (76:102)

They don’t fit the scriptural criteria for being saved in the kingdom of God either.  In fact, we have several scriptures that make it clear that these telestial people will not be saved in the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:19-21
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

If all these scriptures consistently say that telestial and terrestrial people do not meet the criteria to be saved in the kingdom of God, how do we reconcile this with D&C 76:43-44?

43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.
44 Wherefore, he saves all except them

If we believe in the traditional view of the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms, these people cannot be saved, as only celestial people fulfill the requirements to be saved. Yet God says he saves everyone except the sons of perdition, so he also saves the telestial and the terrestrial people. Both cannot be correct.

I propose that our traditional interpretation of the three degrees of glory is flawed and inconsistent with scripture. For those that disagree with my assessment, I invite you to share with me scriptures that teach that:

  • we can be saved in the terrestrial or telestial kingdom
  • the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms are part of the kingdom of God
  • there is some other way to be saved in the kingdom of God without faith, repentance, baptism, being born again, becoming as a little child, having hope and charity, and enduring to the end.

In the next post, we’ll dive into what the scriptures say about salvation and what that means for the “plan of salvation”.

 

Further references

I have only listed a few scriptures in the main article. Here are other scriptures that teach about being saved:

3 Nephi 23:5
And whosoever will hearken unto my words and repenteth and is baptized, the same shall be saved. Search the prophets, for many there be that testify of these things.

D&C 49:5
5 Thus saith the Lord; for I am God, and have sent mine Only Begotten Son into the world for the redemption of the world, and have decreed that he that receiveth him shall be saved, and he that receiveth him not shall be damned

D&C 53:7
And again, I would that ye should learn that he only is saved who endureth unto the end. Even so. Amen.

D&C 56:2
And he that will not take up his cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved.

D&C 68:9
And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.

D&C 112:29
And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

1 Nephi 15:14
And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they may know how to come unto him and be saved.

2 Nephi 9:9
Wherefore, he is the firstfruits unto God, inasmuch as he shall make intercession for all the children of men; and they that believe in him shall be saved.

2 Nephi 25:13
Behold, they will crucify him; and after he is laid in a sepulchre for the space of three days he shall rise from the dead, with healing in his wings; and all those who shall believe on his name shall be saved in the kingdom of God. Wherefore, my soul delighteth to prophesy concerning him, for I have seen his day, and my heart doth magnify his holy name.

Moroni 7:34
And he hath said: Repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, and have faith in me, that ye may be saved.

Moroni 7:38
For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.

Mormon 7:3
Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved.

Mormon 9:23
And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned;

Helaman 12:22-23
And wo unto him to whom he shall say this, for it shall be unto him that will do iniquity, and he cannot be saved; therefore, for this cause, that men might be saved, hath repentance been declared. Therefore, blessed are they who will repent and hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; for these are they that shall be saved.

Jacob 6:4
And how merciful is our God unto us, for he remembereth the house of Israel, both roots and branches; and he stretches forth his hands unto them all the day long; and they are a stiffnecked and a gainsaying people; but as many as will not harden their hearts shall be saved in the kingdom of God.

Ether 4:18
Therefore, repent all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me, and believe in my gospel, and be baptized in my name; for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned; and signs shall follow them that believe in my name.

Ether 5:5
And if it so be that they repent and come unto the Father in the name of Jesus, they shall be received into the kingdom of God.

Alma 32:13
And now, because ye are compelled to be humble blessed are ye; for a man sometimes, if he is compelled to be humble, seeketh repentance; and now surely, whosoever repenteth shall find mercy; and he that findeth mercy and endureth to the end the same shall be saved.

Alma 39:9
Now my son, I would that ye should repent and forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes, but cross yourself in all these things; for except ye do this ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. Oh, remember, and take it upon you, and cross yourself in these things.

3 Nephi 27:6
And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.

4 Nephi 1:17
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.

Omni 1:26
And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.

Mosiah 15:11
Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, yea, all the holy prophets who have prophesied concerning the coming of the Lord—I say unto you, that all those who have hearkened unto their words, and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins, I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God.