Salvations

As Mormons can we talk about “salvation” in the plural?

It seems that part of the restored gospel is the pluralization of “salvation”. We teach multiple “kingdoms” after death–where people receive different kinds of salvation. Granted we teach that these “salvations” are gradated, with the Celestial Kingdom being the highest (and even gradated within itself); but it does seem proper to talk about different “ends”, beyond the paradigm of simply Heaven or Hell.

Christian theologian Mark Heim (professor at Andover Newton Theological Seminary), in his book Salvations, attempts to articulate a religious pluralism rooted in a notion of multiple “salvations”. He concludes:

I insist salvation can be understood in the plural. Religions may be seen as both true and as alternative rather than necessarily either true or false, and thus two “true” religions need not be assumed to represent the same thing. All religions that are true do not have to be true “in the very same sense.” And it does not necessarily follow that the adherents of two true religions must each regard the other as anonymous members of its own tradition (225-226).

Building to this point he states:

Nirvana and communion with God are contradictory only if we assume that one or the other must be the sole fate for all human beings. True, they cannot both be true at the same time of the same person. But for different people, or the same person at different times, there is no necessary contradiction in both being true (149).

I wondering if there is room in Mormonism for this view. What kinds of multiple salvations can (and/or should) we believe in? How does this impact the way we view other traditions, as well as the universal claims of our own?

  • Rob Osborn

    Before one can readily discuss kingdoms of glory in LDS terms one must first establish what salvation entails. I think the BOM sums it up well-

    7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the achildren of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are bchanged through faith on his name; therefore, ye are cborn of him and have become his dsons and his daughters.
    8 And under this head ye are made afree, and there is bno other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other cname given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should dtake upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.
    9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.
    10 And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some aother name; therefore, he findeth himself on the bleft hand of God.

    (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 5:7 – 10)

    So it seems quite evident in the LDS religion that there is only “one” salvation and that in order to be “saved” one must take upon himself the name of Christ through the covenant of baptism. This is the only way that mans sins are remitted and salvation comes. If one does not take upon themselves the name of Christ through baptism then they cannot be saved and are found instead on the left hand of God to be cast aside with the devil and his angels.

  • Matt W.

    We do speak of all being resurrected as salvation, and we speak of exaltation as salvation, and we speak of not going to outer darkness as salvation, and we speak of any application of the atonement in our lives as salvation. I guess I have also read salvation used in connection with going to spirit paradise…

    So we difinitely have multiple salvations, but that isn’t what you were getting at.

  • lxxluthor

    My religiously liberal leanings tend me to want to say that it is entirely possible for other religions’ views of salvation to also be possible but off the top of my head I can’t for the life of me think of anything specific to put forward. But I’m sure there is something out there. I doubt seriously that we have a fullness of info on the subject or that there isn’t some truth out there somewhere to be found.

  • smallaxe

    So it seems quite evident in the LDS religion that there is only “one” salvation and that in order to be “saved” one must take upon himself the name of Christ through the covenant of baptism. This is the only way that mans sins are remitted and salvation comes. If one does not take upon themselves the name of Christ through baptism then they cannot be saved and are found instead on the left hand of God to be cast aside with the devil and his angels.

    In the BoM, this may be the case; but in the broader picture of LDS “theology” baptism is a celestial ordinance. In other words, those in the other kingdoms will receive a salvation, just not a celestial salvation. At least, this is my understanding.

    So we difinitely have multiple salvations, but that isn’t what you were getting at.

    I at least partially had this in mind. I’m wondering, though, if there isn’t more room to take a position closer to Heim’s.

    LXX,

    Nice to see you back.

  • Rob Osborn

    Smallaxe,

    The “broader picture” of LDS theology is so confusing that every reference manual published under the church cannot nail down a single specific definition for the word “salvation”.

    I do agree that baptism is an essential ordinance to the Celestial Kingdom. But I also believe it to be an essential ordinance to salvation. And when I say salvation I mean the redemption from both physical and spiritual death. Baptism is a preperatory ordinance. Baptism prepares one to be in the state for higher ordinances and communion with God.

    After an indefinate and deep study of salvation in LDS theology I have come to the obvious conclusion that our picture of salvation and who gets it in LDS thought is very mysterious and confusing. In fact, it can be so confusing that we teach one can be both damned and saved at the same time. And so, we have also come up with different meanings of “damnation” that are not in line with How the early prophet like Joseph Smith used the word in his translation. Because of this problem, we have in a sense retranslated certain passages to mean what we want them to mean rather than how they were actually meant to be.

    Joseph Smith had a very unique but strong understanding of salvation and damnation. What he established or tried to establish was the stark contrast between the saved and the damned. And when I say “damned” I mean it in the strict sense that Joseph Smith used it- the condemnation of ones soul in hell.

    So, somewhere between his time and our current time we have restructred the plan of salvation with new meanings that are actually contrary to the scriptures. One for instance of this is the teaching of “baptism is not required for salvation from Satans power”. In fact, the entire New Testament and BOM teach the opposite that one must believe and be baptized or be damned (everlasting condemnation in hell). Current LDS thought teach a universal salvation that is very similar to Nehors of the BoM in the one sense that man need not repent of his sins to find an eternal salvation away from Satans power.

    I have found section 138 of the D&C very helpful in that it teaches about those who are currently in spirit prison must accept the gospel, repent and be baptized in order to be redeemed from their awful state. This is for all people there. There is no teaching of the unrepentant “paying the price” themselves and receiving salvation after they have suffered in full for their sins in their unrepentant state. The unrepentant who always choose to not repent will forever be in Satans grasp and eternally be under his influence.

  • http://adventures-in-mormonism.com bfwebster

    I addressed some of the non-obvious implications of LDS beliefs regarding salvation — “Who gets saved?” — in one of the first posts on my blog. It was in direct response to what appeared to be a political hit piece against Romney claiming that the LDS Church is guilty of religious intolerance. I pointed in (in the post) that we have possible the most liberal concept of salvation of any major Christian denomination. FWIW. ..bruce..

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com SmallAxe

    I do agree that baptism is an essential ordinance to the Celestial Kingdom. But I also believe it to be an essential ordinance to salvation.

    So it sounds like you’re rejecting the possibility of multiple “salvations”.

    Current LDS thought teach a universal salvation that is very similar to Nehors of the BoM in the one sense that man need not repent of his sins to find an eternal salvation away from Satans power.

    Are you saying that current LDS thought is Nehor-ic and in need of your correction?

    IMO it’s probably best to speak of LDS “theologies” in the plural. Which theology wins out, or is the “orthodox” one, is complicated, as you’ve pointed out. If you want to argue for one over the others, I think you need to provide a compelling reason to do so. As it stands, I hear you saying that the Bible and BoM contain a theology contray to this notion of “salvations”. That’s fine. But there are, as you’ve admitted, other, more inclusivistic LDS theologies; which I argue should be emphasized because they cohere better with our experience of realizing all the good in other traditions of faith.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com SmallAxe

    Bruce,

    Do you think Mormonism is tolerant enough to include Heim’s position?

  • Rob Osborn

    Smallaxe,

    As a mormon I used to believe in a multiple salvation view. But after much discussion and study i now adhere to only a “one salvation” view. I firmly believe that baptism is an absolute requirement for sinners in order to find eternal salvation from Satans power. Because everyone who wants to be saved from Satans power eternally must be baptized, there is a provision for such in the spirit world to do such. And because baptism is the gateway to the Celestial Kingdom of God, everyone who gets saved from Satan gets to go to that Kingdom. This teaching is very much in line with Christ and the numerous prophets and apostles of the scriptures. The book of Revelations even specifies that all of the saved will go to the Celestial Kingdom to partake of the tree of life (everlating waters of eternal life) while the unsaved are outside of that Celestial kingdom in the lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death

    In the current Lds tradition of thought, we teach a multiple salvation model where the saved are damned in varrying degrees. The number one problem with this teaching is that the word damned is the exact opposite of the word salvation. Its kind of like saying that a persons sins are totally forgiven except that they really aren’t. It is hard to talk about multiple salvation scenerios when we as LDS do not seem to fully understand what the word means. One cannot substitute glory or reward for the word salvation. It would be more proper to instead define a multiple glory model over a multiple salvation model. The reason being is that salvation only means deliverance from physical and spiritual death. There cannot be a degree of salvation in this sense because no one will be more alive or more dead than another.

    But, one can have more glory in the sense that they are more progressed in their state than another. LDS definitions on salvation, damnation, eternal life, eternal damnation, etc.. have missed the mark in my humble opinion because we have tried to stretch the definitions into something that cannot be supported by the very scriptures we use to define them. Let me give a for instance-

    In the LDS bible dictionary under the heading of “Damnation”, it speaks of this condemnation in these words–

    All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges, and hence be damned to that extent
    (Bible Dictionary | D Damnation:Entry)

    The problem here is that we are talking about the word “Damn” and not “Dam” like one would dam a stream to slow or stop its progress. The word damn means to condemn to hell. The bible dictionary goes on to quote several scriptures to support this view when in fact everyone of the scriptures given speak of the condemnation to hell by being disobedient. Much of our problems arise by not fully comprehending the meaning of the scriptures. Much of the misunderstanding comes from how we try to interpret section 132 of the D&C. At the beginning of the section it seems as if it is saying that if you are not married aternally then you are damned. This is where the confusion all starts because damnation is closely linked to it opposite- “salvation” and if one can be damned, then he must not recieve the same kind of salvation, etc etc etc….

    The problem is that it just gets all blown out of proportion and loses its real intent. The proper way to understand section 132 is in the logistics of it. It says that if you first enter into the covenant and then transgress, that you will be damned (condemned to hell temporarily or eternally depending upon the repenant state). This is clearly spelled out in detail further in the section in verse 26-27 where it says that if a man enters into the covenant of marriage and then commits sins that he will be destroyed in the flesh and delivered over to Satan until the day of redemption and then he can enter into his exaltation. The key here is that when he is condemned for sinning under covenant he is damned be cause he is condemned to hell temporarily.

    Anyway, sorry to keep rambling on and on, but there is really a lot of basic gospel elements that we as LDS still do not understand and realize.

  • Doc

    Can two mutually exclusive things be true at the same time, take light. Is it a particle or a wave. The answer is that if you think of it as a particle it acts as a particle, if you think of it as a wave, it acts as a wave.

    It may be a hedge, but I have to say that anybody living their religion to the fullest understanding God gives them can receive salvation ultimately. I don’t know that this makes the salvation itself qualitatively different or why it would need to. What is Heim’s reasoning on this?

  • Doc

    It seems to me that particle or wave, light is still light.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com SmallAxe

    Rob,

    Thank you for your insight. I can see that you’ve given this issue quite some thought.

    One cannot substitute glory or reward for the word salvation. It would be more proper to instead define a multiple glory model over a multiple salvation model. The reason being is that salvation only means deliverance from physical and spiritual death. There cannot be a degree of salvation in this sense because no one will be more alive or more dead than another.

    You raise some good points, but I don’t see why we need such a strict rendering of “salvation”; at least not in terms of this discussion. In the larger context of world religions, we should probably take “salvation” as something like “being saved from a human condition or predicament”, or even more broadly as “destinations”, which in all honesty seems to be the way Heim is using the term. In other words, the question for LDSs becomes one of whether or not there are multiple predicaments and multiple ways to be saved from those predicaments. And whether or not there are multiple “destinations” (not including “hell”).

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com SmallAxe

    It may be a hedge, but I have to say that anybody living their religion to the fullest understanding God gives them can receive salvation ultimately. I don’t know that this makes the salvation itself qualitatively different or why it would need to. What is Heim’s reasoning on this?

    It basically comes down to what you mean by “salvation”. In other words, if you are saying something to the effect of, “Hey, who are we to say we know what salvation entails. God will ultimately sort it all out,” then perhaps it doesn’t matter. The problem is that many adherents of many religions take a much more aggressive stance than this. They “know” what happens after death, and they know this not only for themselves, but for the entire race of human beings (and all living things, in some cases). Heim is positioning himself in these debates where “the next life” is something asserted, and asserted universally. I think most Mormons fit the latter camp (but perhaps you’re not “most Mormons”?).

  • Rob Osborn

    I guess then that what I am driving at in answer to the question is that under careful scrutiny, there is only one predicament we get into- that of being a “sinner”. There are a jillion ways to sin and be under jurisdiction of eternal law. To become saved from any of the jillion ways one can possibly sin, be it petty or severe, it seems quite clear that it is only through baptism that sins are remitted (not counted against one at judgment). So in all reality, even though there are countless ways man can sin, there is only one single thing man must do to be saved and that would be through the waters of baptism.

    That being the case, there is only one thing keeping us from the Fathers presence. That one thing is our filthy state of sin. So if God will forgive us of all sins possible through the waters of baptism then there is truly no other obstacle in the way. From this deduction alone, we can toss out a multiple spherical model of salvation as a definition as everyone who is “saved” from spiritual death will be literally in the fathers presence on the earth in its immortal condition which will indeed be the Celestial Kingdom.

  • Doc

    SmallAxe,
    To me, Mormonism is remarkable in the sense that it actually does work out a way that salvation can be had by people belonging to any faith or no faith at all. Yes there is a certain rigidity to the framework of the Plan of Salvation, but ultimately it seems to me that all who come to “know ” God and are willing to toss off any incorrect “traditions of their fathers” can recieve. However there is so much we don’t know, that undoubtedly even Mormons themselves will have to part with certain fatih promoting rumours, traditions and folklore. However, what we recieve will be far greater, truth.

  • http://faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com SmallAxe

    I guess then that what I am driving at in answer to the question is that under careful scrutiny, there is only one predicament we get into- that of being a “sinner”.

    Ah, perhaps this will give us a little more to discuss. Not that I take Heim’s view, but I do believe it is worth serious consideration. And I personally may be more of a pluralist than yourself.

    One of the implications in Heim’s thesis is to pose the question of whether all “religions” fit into the same category. In other words, the very notion of “religion” as a universal category, or a category that should contain Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, etc. can and should be challenged. Why should we assume that all religions (or these “traditions”) are trying to remedy the same thing? This isn’t to say that there are no conflicting truth claims; but what if different religions are actually up to quite different things? The predicament for Buddhism, for instance isn’t about sin; but about our ignorance of the reality of the world. Now, those two views may not be entirely compatible (so perhaps I do not completely agree with Heim), but they obviously take quite different points as their points of departure. Why should we say that they are competitors in the same category?

  • http://www.MormonMysticism.com David Littlefield

    I suggest one salvation. Then within salvation we are given a resurrection corresponding with the law we cling to. This discussion did cause me to post on this topic on http://mormonmysticism.blogspot.com/2007/09/salvation-is-free.html

    Great discussion!

  • Mark D.

    As long as one sticks to the canon, I do not think the idea that baptism is a celestial ordinance can be defended.

    For example:

    “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, And after they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.” (D&C 138:58-59)

    This strongly implies that to be saved in any degree of glory, one must repent, and be redeemed through ordinances of the house of God. And what is the introductory ordinance of the house of God if not baptism?

    As further evidence consider the following:

    And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. (3 Ne 11:33-34)

    This is an explicit disjunction. Believe in me and be baptized – salvation. Believe not and be not baptized – damnation. Scripturally speaking, salvation and damnation are mutually exclusive states. No baptism, no salvation. Work for the dead may be rather more effective than we suspect.

  • Rob Osborn

    Mark D,

    I agree with you as to what you are saying. If I may add one little bit though.

    If baptism is required for salvation, would not all who get baptized be able to enter into the Celestial Kingdom?

    Because of this logic are not the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdoms just the stages of the earths, and ours as we progress back into the fathers presence after the millennium? Doesn’t the temple state that we are in the Telestial kingdom now?