Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Seven Deadly Heresies - Part Four (Second Chance Salvation)

Continuing with our series of the Seven Deadly Heresies according to Elder McConkie's talk, we now move on to the fourth heresy.

Heresy four: There are those who believe that the doctrine of salvation for the dead offers men a second chance for salvation.

I knew a man, now deceased, not a member of the Church, who was a degenerate old reprobate who found pleasure, as he supposed, in living after the manner of the world. A cigarette dangled from his lips, alcohol stenched his breath, and profane and bawdy stories defiled his lips. His moral status left much to be desired.

His wife was a member of the Church, as faithful as she could be under the circumstances. One day she said to him, "You know the Church is true; why won't you be baptized?" He replied, "Of course I know the Church is true, but I have no intention of changing my habits in order to join it. I prefer to live the way I do. But that doesn't worry me in the slightest. I know that as soon as I die, you will have someone go to the temple and do the work for me and everything will come out all right in the end anyway."

He died and she had the work done in the temple. We do not sit in judgment and deny vicarious ordinances to people. But what will it profit him?

There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

For those who do not have an opportunity to believe and obey the holy word in this life, the first chance to gain salvation will come in the spirit world. If those who hear the word for the first time in the realms ahead are the kind of people who would have accepted the gospel here, had the opportunity been afforded them, they will accept it there. Salvation for the dead is for those whose first chance to gain salvation is in the spirit world.

In the revelation recently added to our canon of holy writ, these words are found:

Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God;

Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom;

For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. [D&C 137:9]

There is no other promise of salvation than the one recited in that revelation. Those who reject the gospel in this life and then receive it in the spirit world go not to the celestial, but to the terrestrial kingdom.
At what point does one who rejects the Gospel final reach that threshold where he or she is considered to have had an opportunity and rejected it? BRM above thinks that one who has a knowledge of the truthfulness of the Gospel but still refuses to obey the principles and ordinances has already passed that moment. I tend to disagree to the extent that we do not know all circumstances in a person's life that cause him or her to accept or reject truth and knowledge. We do not know of abuse, education, mental illness, disability, or hardships. Therefore I would leave it to God to decide.

A further reading of Alma 34:33 confirms that there does come a night of darkness for those who have not repented. If a person enjoys the privileges of the understanding of the gospel and subsequently rejects that truth, it becomes difficult to change that lifestyle.

I think that a person who puts off repentance limits his or her progression because of the difficulty of repenting in the next life. Elder Melvin J. Ballard clarifies:

It is much easier to overcome and serve the Lord when both the flesh and spirit are combined as one...Every man and woman who is putting off until the next life the task of correcting and overcoming the weakness of flesh are sentencing themselves to years of bondage, for no man or woman will come forth in the resurrection until the have completed their work, until they have overcome, until the have done as much as they can do. ("The Three Degrees of Glory", 22 September 1922)
I like to think that BRM's use of Section 137 implies that one who would have accepted the Gospel in this life with the opportunity will accept it in the next life, keeping in mind certain life circumstances that affect what kind of people we are.

But the next logical question is whether Amulek's statement that we come to the night of darkness if we don't improve this life means that this person will not have an opportunity for repentance and full salvation while in the Spirit World? BRM thinks that one is disqualified from the Celestial Kingdom, I tend to agree but am not quite sure on this. This is exactly why we can't judge others because we don't know the desires of their hearts based on their life circumstances.

Any thoughts?


LifeOnaPlate said...

A few thoughts on this. I don't see death as a clear demarcation line of "accept gospel=heaven" or "don't accept gospel=hell" in a clear cut "Protestant" way. I personally feel that Elder McConkie and Pres. JFe Smith were too sharp on this principle. I believe they were rightfully motivated, but that the scriptures do not fully support their conclusions.

I find Brigham Young and Heber Kimball's thoughts on "spirit recycling" (my phrase) interesting, in that regard:


Though Pres. Smith and E. McConkie can say they believe SOP's are eternally lost, etc. the D&C leaves it interestingly open:

Wherefore, he saves all except them—they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—

And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof; (D&C 76:44-46).

Compare that with the following from an 1830 revelation:

Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.

But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit (D&C 29:29-30).

Compare those two with the meaning of the word "everlasting" in D&C 19.

Also, an interesting thought: perhaps those who are cast out are actually more comfortable there than they would be in the presence of God anyway. God awards them with the desires of their hearts. While that condition or desire may seem hellish to you or I perhaps not so much to those who partake of it; we apparently won't really know through experiential knowledge.

In short, E. McConkie and Pres. Smith were reaching past what the revelations actually say. As per their own directions to not go for doctrine that can't be measured by the canon, I say we're safe not signing onto it just yet; though I do favor warning against procrastination.

Jeremy said...

All of us will be judged only against that specific amount of light and truth that we obtain unto in this life AND in the spirit world. In this life men are led to reject light and truth (i.e., intelligence, Christ, etc.) resulting from 1) blatant disobedience and 2) following the false traditions of their fathers (D&C 93:38-39).

Through no fault of their own, I believe, some people are led down various false paths simply because that is all they know ("false traditions of their fathers"). Sadly, because that is all they know in this life, their spirit rejects the subtle promptings of the HG. But God is faithful and just and merciful, and cannot allow His children to be blinded forever and punish them as such.

I stand by Peter's statement that "the gospel [was] preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh." (1 Pet 4:6) Accordingly, we must all, living and dead alike, be judged on the same playing field.

Those individuals that pass through this life blinded by false traditions through no fault of their own will have to be judged as you and I, or anyone who did not have that stumblingblock placed before them. If, after having a clear view of the truth of the gospel, they subsequently reject it, then they have no recourse.

Hans said...

BRM and JFeS seemed to look past the mark on this one and we seem to be in a pendulum swing that is more towards a lenient interpretation.

I guess the ultimate question hinges on whether someone can attain a point in this life where they are considered to have passed on the Gospel with the proper knowledge and are beyong saving. Because of all the circumstances involved in one's life, I don't feel comfortable signing on with BRM to that extent.

I am also quick to mention that this should not give anyone a reason to procrastinate and this is perhaps where BRM's heart was on this topic, to make sure that we don't procrastinate as per Amulek. The quotes from my original post seem to indicate why procrastination is not good.

Nate said...

Heresy!!! Burn them!

I think we all basically agree on this.

Here's the question that comes to mind for me, and sorry if this is too far off topic...

What about the people on earth that were born into an LDS family, taught the gospel, and accepted it; when they would not have accepted it had they been raised differently?

For example, I was raised LDS so it is easy for me to live the lifestyle, etc. Sometimes I wonder whether if I would have been raised differently, would I have accepted the gospel? Deep down I'd like to think yes. I'm sure I'd be a good person still. However, I would not have wanted to give up golf on sunday, drinking, etc...so maybe not.

Maybe the answer is that I got put in this position out of fairness due to pre-existence behavoir.

In the end though...I have a hard time seeing it as 'fair' to hold someone's feet to the fire when they were raised differently and turned out to be a bit lazy, when maybe I would have been like that too.

Regardless, it is better for man to think that the bar is high (while not being impossibly high), even if it may be a little lower. This talk accomplishes that goal. As a parent, I teach in a similar manner. Thus, BRM could have been giving an inspired teaching, while not being exactly precise on the real functionality of heaven.

Its better to stay away from the edge of the cliff than to see how close you can get without falling off. That is how I see this teaching. It ignores the fact that you can be close to the edge and not fall.

JLJ said...

I would say that for many of us personally it is a much more deadly heresy to assume that we know how God will judge. Hans, you got it right. None of us can say when a person has properly been given a chance to 'hear' the gospel. Elder McConkie decided that it was the 'first chance.' That would basically be saying that every non-mormom in Utah has lost their chance. The 'first chance' theory totally goes against the principle of eternal progression, that we will have a chance to repent, be healed and change. Yes, this is the life to prove yourself....but you're only working with what you've been given.

LifeOnaPlate said...

JLJ: Check out Brigham Young on that very issue:

I will tell you a practice of the Latter-day Saint Elders generally. For instance, I get up here, and preach the fulness of the Gospel, perhaps to individuals who never heard it before in their lives, and I close by saying, you that believe this which I have told you, shall be saved; and if you do not, you shall be damned. I leave the subject there.

"But," says one, "don't the Bible say so? You ought to explain yourself."

"I only said what the Savior taught-he says, go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not, shall be damned. Don't I say the same?"

"You leave it there, don't you? "

"Yes; the Apostle left it there, and so do I."

I wish to explain it a little more, according to the plain, simple, English language. The sum of this practice is this: when I preach a gospel sermon, and they don't believe what I say, I straightway seal their damnation.

Brethren, do you believe in such a thing as that? I do not; yet there are many of the Elders just so absurd.

I recollect, in England, sending an Elder to Bristol, to open a door there, and see if anybody would believe. He had a little more than thirty miles to walk; he starts off one morning, and arrives at Bristol; he preached the Gospel to them, and sealed them all up to damnation, and was back next morning. He was just as good a man, too, as we had. It was want of knowledge caused him to do so.

I go and preach to the people, and tell them at the end of every sermon, "he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not, shall be damned." I continue preaching there day after day, week after week, and month after month, and yet nobody believes my testimony, that I know of, and I don't see any signs of it.

"What shall I do in this case, if I am sent to preach there?" you may inquire.

You must continue to preach there, until those who sent you shall tell you to leave that field of labour; and if the people don't manifest by their works, that they believe, as long as they come to hear me, I will continue to plead with them, until they bend their dispositions to the Gospel. Why?

Because I must be patient with them, as the Lord is patient with me; as the Lord is merciful to me, I will be merciful to others; as He continues to be merciful to me, consequently I must continue in long-suffering to be merciful to others-patiently waiting, with all diligence, until the people will believe, and until they are prepared to become heirs to a celestial kingdom, or angels to the devil.


Hans said...

Like Nate said, I think that we are all in agreement on this point that there will be multiple chances for those because we don't know their circumstances. JLJ got it right that if only first chance acceptors make it, then we damn all those who are not in such a situation, which is what we condemn when other groups damn those who don't ever hear the Gospel.