My Christian friends sometimes tell me that if I believe, I will be saved. I agree with them. But what I believe about salvation is way more nuanced than just believe and be saved. If anything, the Book of Mormon teaches a black and white view of salvation. It talks about heaven and hell. Either you go to one or the other. This is true and I agree with this but the revelations published as the Doctrine and Covenants gives me more of the shades of grey in between salvation and damnation. You might wonder how there can be shades of grey if I believe in heaven and hell. Let’s just say that heaven and hell is the short answer and pertains to what happens to the soul before the final judgement. The eternal outcome of the soul will be as nuanced as there are shades of good and evil because the judgement will be just. And even in the nuanced version of salvation, if you think that any kind of separation from God is hell, then there is a way to see the Mormon doctrine of “degrees of glory” as black and white too.
The Lord Jesus Christ offered his blood as a sinless sacrifice for the salvation of all the children of God. In my theology, there is both a physical death and a spiritual death. Physical death comes from the Fall of Adam and Eve. The spiritual death comes from sin. Jesus Christ’s sacrifice atones for both types of death but in different ways. When it comes to physical death, Jesus Christ’s death breaks the bands of death and everyone of every race and creed is redeemed from this death by receiving a resurrected body whether they believe or not. This salvation a free gift. Jesus offers salvation from spiritual death but we have to repent of our sins. Sins are choices, and our agency is inviolable in heaven. So if we don’t want to give up our sins, God will not make us. We cannot be redeemed from the effects of sin if we don’t voluntarily give up the sin. Here’s an example…how effective is it when someone takes away an addictive substance from another? You don’t really think God will take these things away from us, do you? However, he will not tolerate sin in his presence so we, if not redeemed at the Judgement Day, will have to dwell apart from him. This is technically hell, even if the glory to which we are assigned is a peaceful place.
All of God’s children who have lived on Earth fall into one of these categories with only a few like Judas Iscariot, Christ’s betrayer, being in the category of Son of Perdition. This chart is based on the words of scripture not my own philosophy. You can read any of these scriptures online at www.lds.org/scriptures
The concept of “Degrees of Glory” is not original to Joseph Smith. Paul mentioned them. However, Joseph Smith saw in vision details about them. His vision persuades us to make the effort to make our faith real by actions that express it and show our commitment to God. While no amount of effort will be sufficient to merit salvation, Christ has already committed his life to stand in mediation for us before the Father at the Final Judgment. He will recognize us by our actions and we will recognize him. In Matthew 7:22-23 we read, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
I hope that in studying this topic with me, you have a clearer understanding of salvation. I also hope that if you receive no gifts at Christmas, and if life is generally bad for you, that you still have Christ’s great gift — salvation from physical death which is free to all.