Sometimes other Christians will ask members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if they are “saved.” Mormons, unless they have experienced this before and become prepared for the next occurrence, will usually hesitate before answering. This sometimes gives Born Again Christians the impression that Mormons are indeed not saved, or at least don’t know if they are saved.
Actually, the reason for the hesitation is two-fold — 1) This is Evangelical terminology and not usual “talk” for Mormons; and 2) Mormon doctrine regarding salvation is more complex than that of Evangelical or Born Again Protestants.
What Does Salvation Mean to Mormons?
Most Christians believe in Heaven and Hell. Catholics also believe in Limbo and Purgatory. Joseph Smith, the first prophet of this modern dispensation, and Sidney Rigdon, an early Mormon leader, simultaneously experienced an amazing vision of the kingdoms of heaven, now recorded as Section 76 in the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of early revelations to the modern Church. They saw God upon His throne and Jesus Christ, and testified that He lives! They also saw various kingdoms of heaven, which correspond with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:40-42. The kingdoms are the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial. The Telestial is the lowest kingdom, and still so glorious that it defies description.
Joseph and Sidney were shown that those who inherit the Telestial Kingdom are those who refuse the gospel of Christ both during mortality and in the afterlife, who must then suffer for their own sins and wait until the last resurrection to come forth, who “are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.” These people committed grave sins and refused to repent, yet they are still “saved,” in that they inherit a kingdom of glory in heaven.
Only those who commit “the sin against the Holy Ghost” are not saved. This sin is to receive a full witness of Christ — that is, to stand in His very presence, so as to have a perfect knowledge that He Is, and then to deny Him, thus assenting to His crucifixion anew. Very, very few people have the opportunity and commit this sin, and they will be called “Sons of Perdition.” Thus, just about everyone will be saved, even those of other faiths, all faiths, no faith, even those who won’t receive the gospel. Thus, it says in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2:4):
…for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free.
So yes, Mormons are saved, and so are you. But to which kingdom in heaven?
Mormons are Hoping for Exaltation
Joseph and Sidney saw that the highest kingdom, the Celestial, enjoys the fullness of the presence of God. The people who inherit the Celestial Kingdom become co-heirs with Christ. This includes salvation, but goes farther; it is “exaltation.” Mormons are not so concerned with salvation, but exaltation, and they use the word salvation often, when they are actually talking about exaltation.
Joseph and Sidney saw that the Celestial Kingdom itself contains three levels. The highest is for those who have entered into eternal marriage covenants and kept those covenants. Everyone else in all other kingdoms is single, although much of our joy will come from reuniting with our loved ones after death. Somehow, those in the very highest kingdom will have an opportunity for “eternal increase.” Mormons don’t know much about this, because our prophets have revealed little. It doesn’t mean they “get their own planets.” God has said (1 Corinthians 2:9),
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
That’s enough for Mormons to aspire to all God has to offer us.
How are we Judged?
As it says in the Book of Revelation (20:13),
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
Mormons believe that we are judged by our works, our intentions, our desires, but that this judgment takes into account the challenges we faced in mortality and the knowledge we gained. In other words, what did you do with what you were given? People who know nothing about Christ cannot sin against His gospel; without knowledge, there is no sin. So, you were born Hindu, raised Hindu, were you kind? Did you do what you could to serve your neighbor?
Those who never heard the gospel of Christ during mortality, and even those who could not accept it because of their cultural biases, will have an opportunity to hear and accept it in the Spirit World between death and resurrection. Repentance is possible during this period, and what happens in the Spirit World is hugely important as an extension of the agency we enjoyed on earth. Many erroneous ideas are lovingly corrected there.
Prophet Joseph F. Smith received a vision of the Spirit World wherein he saw the great missionary work that is done there. He said,
I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures;
And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world;…
I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before, with the following passages:
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
“By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;…”
As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.
President Smith saw the rejoicing of the righteous spirits as Christ visited them before His resurrection. But to the wicked in the Spirit World, Christ did not go, but ordained missionaries to teach them the gospel:
But unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised;
Neither did the rebellious who rejected the testimonies and the warnings of the ancient prophets behold his presence, nor look upon his face. …
And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.
Mormon doctrines of salvation are the most inclusive, loving, and forgiving doctrines in all of Christianity. Are Mormons saved? Yes. And most likely, so are you.