PLAN OF SALVATION

Questions and Answers

by: Loyal to the Word

 

Pre-mortal Life

 

Q: Do the spirits of those in their pre-mortal state, who are not yet born, mingle with the spirits of the dead in the spirit world?

A: There is no scriptural evidence to suggest that such would be the case. And since the spirit world is where departed spirits are given a chance to accept or reject the gospel (D&C 138:14-18, 30-31) on a fair basis, we must conclude that, at least for those in spirit prison, there is no association with the pre-mortal realm.

 

Q: Are the youth of the Church today among the noble and great spirits in the pre-existence mentioned in Abr. 3:22-23?

A: A detailed list of the noble and great spirits is given in D&C 138:38-46, 49, 53-55. You may notice that your name was not mentioned there. How righteous were you in the pre-existence? The best answer to that is - what quality of a person are you now? We are all essentially the same people now that we were in the pre-mortal existence (Alma 34:34). So it follows that proportionately to as noble as we are in earth life, we were only as noble as that in the pre-existence. It is true, as the prophets have said, that God is sending more righteous spirits to be born in the Church in this age. But let’s not get an over-inflated view of who we are and class ourselves unduly with spiritual giants like Abraham.

 

The Atonement

 

Q: Was the atonement necessary? Why couldn’t God just forgive us?

A: It must be remembered that God is perfect in all of his characteristics and attributes. In fact, the reason God is God is because he is perfect. If God was not perfect in all attributes and characteristics he would not be God, neither could he be (Alma 42:13, 22, 25). That means God is perfectly merciful. But at the same time, he is also perfectly just. If God simply forgave his children of their sins without a penalty being met, then he wouldn’t be perfect anymore, because he would be lacking in justice. God’s perfect sense of justice declared that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). His justice could not be ignored, or he would no longer be perfect; and if God were no longer perfect, he would no longer be God. That is why, in order to fully satisfy both his sense of mercy and justice, a penalty for sin was required. “the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made…to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” (Alma 42:15).  

 

Q: Why did blood have to be shed in the atonement?

A: The penalty for sin is death, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). And so the punishment for sin is a loss of life. There is a connection between blood and mortal life.  Resurrected beings do not have blood (Matt. 16:17, 1 Cor. 15:50), but mortal beings have blood, and have had since the Fall of Adam. Adam’s Fall caused blood, which is a symbol of mortality or corruption, to enter his body. Adam was “the figure of him [Jesus Christ] that was to come” (Rom. 5:14). It was the first Adam who introduced blood (mortality), and it was the second Adam (Christ) who paid the price of it (1 Cor. 15:45). The blood is what makes the body corruptible and mortal, and so the blood had to be forfeited, or shed.  Jesus Christ gave his life as a penalty for our sin, that is, he gave his blood, for “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev.17:11, emphasis added). Blood is what gives mortals their life, and this makes blood the very symbol of life. Since death was required, blood had to be taken. And so Jesus Christ had to die, and spilling his blood was tantamount to his life draining away. A loss of blood is essentially a loss of life, and loss of life is the penalty or “wages of sin” (Rom. 6:23). According to the laws of heaven, the shedding of blood was necessary to atone for mortals, for “without the shedding of blood is no remission [of sins]” (Heb. 9:22).

 

Q: Was Christ’s atonement for all the created worlds or just our planet?

A: Jesus Christ created the universe under the direction of his Father: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3), and “That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created” (D&C 76:24). We are also told that “through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him” (D&C 76:42, emphasis added). We are also given to understand that “the inhabitants [of all the worlds Jesus has made and will make] are begotten sons and daughters unto God” through the atonement of Jesus Christ (D&C 76:24, Mosiah 5:7). 

            Jesus only had to perform the atonement once, though, and not once for each world, “For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God” (Rom. 6:10, emphasis added), and “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10, emphasis added). Therefore, the atonement of Christ was effective for all worlds he created, and for souls who lived both before his sacrifice and forever after.

 

The Spirit World

 

Q: Do people change their attitudes and beliefs when they die?

A: No. There is nothing about the process of dying that turns someone into a different person. “that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:34). Previous attitudes and beliefs carry over after death.

 

Q: Will temple work for the dead benefit every spirit in the spirit world?

A: No. Temple ordinances prepare people for the Celestial kingdom and not every spirit will go there. It will only benefit those who would have accepted the gospel with all their hearts had it been preached to them while they were alive (D&C 137:7-8).

 

Q: Is there a second chance for salvation in the spirit world? Can I hear the gospel in this life, reject it, and then accept it later in the spirit world and still receive Celestial glory?

A: No. The only spirits who will go to the Celestial kingdom are those “who would have received it with all their hearts” if they had “been permitted to tarry” on earth (D&C 137:7-8). For this righteous class of spirits spoken of in section 137, the first time they hear the gospel will be in the spirit world. Those who reject the gospel in the flesh but later accept it in the spirit world can only expect to reach the Terrestrial kingdom at best (D&C 76:74).

 

Q: How is mortal life still a probationary state if the dead can repent and accept the gospel?

A: It is true that the dead can actually repent and accept the gospel (D&C 138:58-60). But for those who understand the truth, “after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed” (Alma 34:33). Amulek spoke this to people who had been taught the gospel (Alma 34:2). For those who do not have the truth, their probation seems to extend, at least in part, to the world of spirits, where they will be given the opportunity to hear the gospel (D&C 138:32-34). 

 

Q: Throughout the world’s long history there have been many souls who have lived and died on this earth in ages past for whom we have no genealogical record, or even any idea that they ever existed. How will we ever be able to do their temple work for them?

A: Brigham Young taught us that, “In the Millennium, when the Kingdom of God is established on the earth…the Saints of God will have the privilege of building their temples, and of entering into them, becoming, as it were, pillars in the temples of God, and they will officiate for their dead.…And we will have revelations to know our forefathers clear back to Father Adam and Mother Eve, and we will enter into the temples of God and officiate for them. Then man will be sealed to man until the chain is made perfect back to Adam, so that there will be a perfect chain of Priesthood from Adam to the winding-up scene. ” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 116, emphasis added).

 

The Resurrection

 

Q: When is the First Resurrection (the Resurrection of the Just)?

A: Technically, the First Resurrection began with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Ne. 2:8-9). But this is not really what we have in mind when we speak of the First Resurrection. At the beginning of the Millennium, those who are eligible will be resurrected en masse (D&C 88:95-99). 

 

Q: Who is resurrected in the First Resurrection (the Resurrection of the Just)?

A: Two classes of people – those who have lived the Celestial law come forth first, and then those who have lived the Terrestrial law (D&C 88:96-99).

 

Q: When is the Last Resurrection (the Resurrection of the Unjust)?

A: It occurs at the end of the Millennium (D&C 88:100-101).

 

Q: Who is resurrected in the Last Resurrection (the Resurrection of the Unjust)?

A: Two classes of people – those who have lived the Telestial law come forth first, and then the sons of perdition are resurrected last of all (D&C 76:84-85, 34-37; 88:100-102).           

 

Q: What happens to Telestial people and sons of perdition until they are resurrected?

A: They suffer the torments of hell (D&C 76:84-85, 31-35).

 

Judgment and the Degrees of Glory

 

Q: Which places may Church members go to after the final judgment?

A: Simply having Church membership does not save a person from the consequences of their personal conduct. Therefore, Church members may go to any of the kingdoms of glory, depending on their conduct in mortal life. In fact, Church members are the only people potentially eligible to become sons of perdition and go to outer darkness (D&C 76:31-34).

 

Q: Can the number of sons of perdition be counted on the fingers of one hand?

A: There is no authoritative statement to substantiate this common notion. There is, however, evidence to the contrary. In 1844, while the Church was still in relative infancy, Joseph Smith taught, “All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (TPJS, p. 358, emphasis added).

 

Q: Who goes to the Telestial kingdom?

A: Those who did evil deeds go to the Telestial kingdom. It includes dishonest people, people who indulged in the various forms of sexual sin, and all other sinful, carnal, or worldly people. Every person who inherits the Telestial kingdom must first suffer in hell before going there. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:8, see also D&C 76:103). It so happens that most people in this world qualify for the Telestial kingdom (D&C 76:109).

 

Q: What is the Second Death spoken of in the scriptures?

A: The Second Death is the conditions of hell which is suffered by all Telestial people and sons of perdition (Hel. 14:17-19). For Telestial people, this condition will eventually end (Rev.20:13, D&C 76:84-86, see also D&C 19:6-12). But for the sons of perdition, the conditions of hell, which is the Second Death, remain forever (D&C 76:32-37).

 

Q: What is hell like?

A: Hell is a place of intense torment which is “like an unquenchable fire, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever” (Mosiah 2:38) and is “as a lake of fire and brimstone,” (Alma 12:17) but not literal fire. In fact, the torments of hell are entirely nonphysical. It is a place where the wicked are “racked with eternal torment,” and their souls are “harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all [their] sins” (Alma 36:12) as they “remember all [their] sins and iniquities, for which [they will be] tormented” (Alma 36:13). As those in hell are “racked, even with the pains of a damned soul,” (Alma 36:16) they are “harrowed up by the memory of [their] many sins” (Alma 36:17) and “there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as [these] pains” (Alma 36:21). Referring to the torment in hell the Lord has said, “your sufferings [will] be sore - how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not” (D&C 19:15). The torments of hell are what is known as the Second Death (Alma 12:16-17, D&C 63:17). Hell is permanent only for those who have committed the unpardonable sin (D&C 76:32-33). The balance of those in hell will, after being purged as if by fire, inherit the Telestial kingdom after the judgment (Rev. 20:13). References to hell being “eternal” or “never-ending” have reference to the scope, rather than the duration of hell (D&C 19:6-12).

 

Q: What is the fate of a murderer?

A: All murderers go to hell (Rev. 21:8). If the murderer has not also committed the unpardonable sin, they will eventually inherit Telestial glory (D&C 76:84). But once a person murders, they are automatically ineligible for the Celestial or Terrestrial kingdoms forever, even if they would like to repent. The scriptures declare that “Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come (D&C 42:18, emphasis added), and “no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Joseph Smith taught, “A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness…This is the case with murderers. They could not be baptized for the remission of sins, for they had shed innocent blood” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 339). Keep in mind that murder is a wrongful killing, not a wartime killing or a self-defense killing.

            The simple fact that murderers are not eligible for forgiveness is no doubt the reason God has prescribed capital punishment for the crime in every age (Gen. 9:6; 2 Ne. 9:35; Alma 34:11-12; D&C 42:19). Once they murder, since forgiveness is not possible, there is simply no point in having them live on the earth any longer. Not only is the world better off when a murderer is destroyed and the victims given justice, but death is the best thing for the murderer himself, since it constitutes a beginning of the process of personally atoning for the grievous misdeed. 

 

Q: Who goes to the Terrestrial kingdom?

A: Good people go to the Terrestrial kingdom. It includes good people who did not accept the gospel (D&C 76:75), and members of the Church who were not very concerned with spiritual matters but otherwise led clean lives (D&C 76:79). It also includes people who did not accept the gospel when they heard it on earth, but decided to accept it in the spirit world after hearing it again (D&C 76:74).

 

Q: Who goes to the Celestial kingdom?

A: Those who make and keep covenants with God go to the Celestial kingdom (D&C 76:51-53). The Celestial kingdom itself has 3 degrees (D&C 131:1). Baptism is required to enter, presumably to the lowest degree of Celestial glory (2 Ne. 31:17-18). Temple marriage is required for the highest degree (D&C 131:1-4), and those who enter there become exalted. As for the middle (2nd) degree in the Celestial kingdom, there is no revealed answer. Speculation might tell us that it is those who have received their endowment but not the marriage sealing.

 

Q: What does exaltation consist of?

A: Exaltation is salvation in the highest degree of the Celestial kingdom. It consists of living forever in the presence of our Heavenly Father (D&C 132:23), and becoming a god ourselves (D&C 132:20). It also consists of living forever with those who qualify of our earthly families as an eternal family unit, with father and mother being sealed to children, each member themselves also being a god (Mal. 4:5-6). It also consists of a man being sealed to his wife (or wives) for all eternity in the marriage relationship (D&C 132:19). Through this marriage relationship, in addition to being sealed to earthly offspring who have themselves become gods, husband and wife will have “a continuation of the seeds forever and ever” (D&C 132:19) meaning the ability to have spirit offspring without number. These spirit offspring will eventually inhabit the endless number of worlds created by the aforementioned husband and wife (Moses 1:4, 39).

            In summary, exaltation consists of godhood and three tiers of family: 1) Our Heavenly family, 2) our earthly family, and 3) our eternal progeny.

 

Q: Is there marriage in the Terrestrial or Telestial kingdoms?

A: There are no marriage relationships outside of the Celestial kingdom (D&C 132:16-17). Since there is no fornication in heaven, that means there are absolutely no sexual relations possible outside of the highest degree of the Celestial kingdom (D&C 131:1-4). Family relationships continue only for those who qualify through obedience (D&C 132:21-23). 

 

Q: Is progression between kingdoms of glory possible? In other words, is it possible, through the ages of eternity, to progress from lower kingdoms of glory on up until we reach the Celestial kingdom?

A: Certainly not. First, the scriptures tell us that progression between kingdoms is not possible. We are explicitly told that “where God and Christ dwell [Telestial inhabitants] cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:112). Likewise with all those who have inherited a lower kingdom, they shall “remain separately and singly, without exaltation…to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (D&C 132:17). Of course, logically such a progression between kingdoms would make our earthly probation essentially meaningless. This false progression between kingdoms doctrine is exposed in the Book of Mormon, when the antichrist Nehor incorrectly taught that “all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble” since “in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Alma 1:4). Furthermore, exaltation in the Celestial kingdom requires the covenant of marriage (D&C 131:1-4), but the scriptures say that “when they [Telestial and Terrestrial people] are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (D&C 132:16). Also, a person who was inseparably resurrected with a Telestial or a Terrestrial body would not be able to abide a Celestial glory (Alma 11:45; D&C 88:27-31, 22-24).

            Those who believe the false doctrine of progression between kingdoms base it on a mistaken idea of God’s mercy. Their reasoning is: since God is merciful he wouldn’t cause any of his children to be relegated to a lower kingdom forever. In reality, however, mercy and repentance are only offered to mankind while they are yet in a preparatory state. “Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed” (Alma 42:13, emphasis added). After the judgment, mercy and repentance is not operable for the deeds done in the flesh. “The days of the children of men were prolonged…that they might repent while in the flesh” (2 Ne. 2:21, emphasis added). The Book of Mormon is careful to designate our probationary estate as the time when repentance is granted, and the time to prepare for eternity (Alma 12:24).

             Further, Mormon assures us that "every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one" (Moroni 7:16-17, emphasis added). The idea or possibility of progression between kingdoms does not lead men to do good, but rather it does the opposite by giving them license to be careless during their mortal probation.

 

 
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