Thursday, June 18, 2009

Can We Suffer For Our Own Sins?

Today’s Sunday School lesson was on one of my favorite subjects, the “Plan of Salvation.” This topic is thought by many to be elementary, but I find it deep and riveting.

When we got to the point of discussing the three kingdoms of glory I asked the question; are those who inherit the Telestial or Terrestrial kingdoms fully forgiven of their sins, or just partially cleansed? I always ask that question at that point to anchor the discussion should a debate ensue (which is not uncommon for me on this topic).

As the discussion continued, the view was shared by a couple brethren that those who go to the Celestial kingdom enter by the atonement of Christ. But, those who enter the two next kingdoms do so by suffering for their own sins.

I reject this idea. I know why they believe that, it is based upon a misunderstanding of a few verses, however, it flies in the face of the rest of LDS theology. Yet this idea is not unheard of.

Let me first state my views on these issues, which surprisingly I find controversial among my fellow members.

I believe that Christ died for the world.

“41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;

43 Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him.

44 Wherefore, he saves all except them…” (D&C 76:41-44)

Salvation is the redemption of the soul, or in other words the spirit and the body. In fact, Christ redeems the bodies of all men pursuant to the primordial covenant of creation.

I suggest that the resurrection of the dead is the redemption of the soul, body and spirit, of all men, even the son’s of perdition.

“And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.

And the resurrection from the dead is the redemption of the soul.

And the redemption of the soul is through him [Christ] that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the dearth shall inherit it.” (D&C 88:15-17)

In other words, all are saved, body and spirit in the resurrection (OK, calm down, you don’t need to call my bishop).

The son’s of perdition are in the process of redemption in the resurrection, but until the final judgment, post-resurrection is given, the crowns of the kingdoms are not given. The son’s of perdition reject the gift of redemption at the final day.

Speaking of the resurrection of the son’s of perdition we read:

“And they [son’s of perdition] who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.

For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:32-33)

The gift of redemption is given to all, but is not received by the son’s of perdition.

These son’s of perdition can’t reject the gift of Christ, and pay for their own sins, and receive a kingdom of glory, nor can anyone else.

The punishment for sin is endless separation from God. We can never pay for our own sins! We can never come to a point at which the penalty has been fully paid without Christ.

“Behold, he [Christ] offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Nephi 2:7)

To overcome sin and its consequences, the price paid must be an infinite atonement, see 2 Nephi 9:7. Men can’t provide that. Without a savior we will languish forever in separation from God.

“…[T]here is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.” (2 Nephi 2:8).

The 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verse 35 lays out the ways people can be saved.

Mercy – But unless we accept Christ, how can we receive mercy? Mercy is given through Christ. Otherwise law and justice are frustrated.

Justice – But we all fall short and have broken the law, so law only brings death to us sinners.

Judgment – The same problem as justice.

No matter what else we have done, without Christ, we remain filthy still. There are not several, competing, or parallel ways to be saved, there is only one way. This is basic Mormon doctrine.

The people who inherit the Telestial Kingdom suffer the wrath of God in this life, are cast down to hell after this life to suffer Gods wrath in spirit prison, but in the end accept Christ.

Christ paid for the sins of the world, and salvation is free. What determines where we spend eternity is what law we are willing to live.

“All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the son’s of perdition.” (Joseph Smith, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pg 119)

It's a great plan!


Jeremy said...

I'm not sure I fully follow your logic here. I assume the verses you indicate that cause "misunderstanding" are in D&C 19? If not, what are they?

As for D&C 19, what then do you make of verse 17:

"But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I."

It is my understanding that all who inherit any kingdom of glory must suffer the eternal demands of justice for sin to the extent that they refuse the fulness of Christ's vicarious sacrifice. As the Prophet said, "All will suffer until they obey Christ." (TPJS, 357)

As for the Celestial inhabitants, it has always been my understanding that it is Christ's atonement that imparts grace sufficient to exalt an individual, or boost them to the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom. Without the atonement, we would remain as ministering angels.

On a separate note, you wrote "What determines where we spend eternity is what law we are willing to live." If that be the case, is there then kingdom hopping, or people assigned to the Telestial kingdom that work and repent to the point that they may move into the Celestial kingdom? I know this is against one of McConkie's 7 Deadly Heresies, but there are strong arguments against his opinion.

David Littlefield said...

Hi Jeremy:

Thank you for your comments and kind challenge.

By the way, you have a fine web site, The Seer Stone. I stop in from time-to-time.

I suggest that D&C 19: 15-17 that reads:

“15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
16 For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;”

Means that if we do not repent and accept the atonement that we will suffer. But nowhere in the scriptures does it say that that suffering atones, or makes up for the sins we have done. Only that we will suffer if we don’t repent.

That suffering takes two forms, temporary, which is unto repentance. And permanent, for those who are cast of as son’s of perdition.

The three kingdoms of glory are all part of the Kingdom of God, and the inhabitants receive salvation, and redemption.

A majority of the Kingdom of God is made up of Telestial and Terrestrial recipients. They suffer the wrath of God in this life, but not that it makes up for what they have done, without Christ the demands of justice can not be met.

These same recipients who will ultimately receive a Telestial rewards, when they die are thrust down to hell (D&C 76:84). While there they will suffer the wrath of God which is meant to bring them to repentance, but it does not atone for sin.

Paul taught that:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Eph. 2:8)

And Nephi said the same thing:

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.” (2 Nephi 10:24)

All of the scriptural discussions of law and justice teach about a redemption in Christ, and nowhere does it teach that our suffering will meet the demands of justice. To the contrary, that without the mercy of Christ and His Grace, we will never be free from the clutches of Justice. We would all become son’s of perdition. Moses taught the same idea:

“…mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men..” (Moses 6:53)

I would respectfully suggest that the idea that we can pay for our own sins is akin to the doctrine warned against in 2 Nephi 28 that says if we are guilty at the last day “God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” (2 Nephi 28:8) Which is an idea that we can pay for our own sins, meet the demands of justice without Christ, and be saved.

The Telestial kingdom is full of adulterers and liars who have repented (D&C 76:103). Each of these receive salvation by receiving the gift of grace, by bowing the knee and confessing Christ. ((D&C 76:109)

In my humble opinion anyway.


David Littlefield said...


As to your other two points:

I think it is fairly easy to establish in LDS theology that what law we keep determines where we spend eternity. The 88 section of the Doctrine and Covenants lays it out pretty good.

“22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.” (D&C 88:22-24)

And I would also reject the idea that we can jump from one kingdom to another. This is what D&C 88 says on the subject:

“29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

30 And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

31 And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.” (D&C 88:29-32)

Which I take to mean, the kingdom we receive at the final judgment, we can get all of that kingdom some day, but that kingdom is the end of the line.


Jeremy said...

Thanks for the reply, David. I think I follow your reasoning now.

I guess the misunderstanding comes from what one believes suffering "even as [the Savior]" accomplishes. Isn't the purpose of the Atonement to first and foremost put us right again with God? We sin and, therefore, are distanced from Him. Paying the price of that sin(s) is the only way to return to His presence.

Obviously there is a much deeper significance to the Atonement (i.e., the potential for our exaltation), but it seems that suffering as the Savior did is intended to pay the demands of justice required by the Father. If not, what is the purpose of the suffering we are required to undergo?

If we fail to accept Christ's sacrifice, justice remains wanting and must be satisfied somehow - a mini-Atonement if you will. Now, I don't believe our suffering in any way has the power to exalt us, but it nonetheless satisfies the demands of justice - a clear purpose of the Atonement.

Can you convince me otherwise, or are we on the same page but misunderstanding each other?

David Littlefield said...

Hey Jeremey!

I suspect we understand each other, I think we just understand this differently. I am not sure I can convince you of my position. I can give you more scriptures stating the same things as I have posted above, but I don’t think they will persuade you any more than the arguments I have already made.

Sometimes people just understand things differently. And that’s good enough for me.



Anonymous said...

Love Thy neighbor

"This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it.... if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire. That is the way to love mankind." (Sermon by President Brigham Young, delivered in the Mormon Tabernacle, February 8, 1857; printed in the Deseret News, February 18, 1857; also reprinted in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, pages 219-220)

"It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit.... There are sins that can be atoned for by an offering upon an altar, as in ancient days; and there are sins that the blood of a lamb, or a calf, or of turtle dove, cannot remit, but they must be atoned for by the blood of the man." (Sermon by Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, pages 53-54); also published in the Mormon Church's Deseret News, 1856, page 235)

"Now take a person in this congregation who has knowledge with regard to being saved... and suppose that he is overtaken in a gross fault, that he has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding his blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin and be saved and exalted with the Gods, is there a man or woman in this house but what would say, 'shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods?'

"All mankind love themselves, and let these principles be known by an individual, and he would be glad to have his blood shed. That would be loving themselves, even unto an eternal exaltation. Will you love your brothers and sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant....

I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them....

"And further more, I know that there are transgressors, who, if they knew themselves, and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood, that the smoke thereof might ascend to God as an offering to appease the wrath that is kindled against them, and that the law might have its course. I will say further;

I have had men come to me and offer their lives to atone for their sins.

"All mankind love themselves, and let these principles be known by an individual, and he would be glad to have his blood shed. That would be loving themselves, even unto an eternal exaltation. Will you love your brothers and sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant....

"I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance... if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the Devil... I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them....

Anonymous said...

HEB 10:26
26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
29 Of how much sorer apunishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done bdespite unto the Spirit of grace?

Eph2;8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the cfaith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

16 ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Jesus did not offer an Exalted, Saved, and Less Saved

36He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
that where I am, there ye may be also.

1 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Jeremy said...

Don't you love those random posts that offer no thought or reason; just endless scriptural babblings? Honestly, if these people would put the scriptures they are quoting into context of where they were actually penned, they may think twice about posting. They should at least offer some sort of thought process.

Too often people simply quote scripture that seemingly supports their view without understanding its underpinnings. As Peter warned, these "wrest" the scriptures "unto their own destruction" for "things hard to be understood." (2 Pet. 3:16)

Anonymous said...

Suffering is for our experience. Heavenly Father knows who we are and knows the decisions we will make, but gives us opportunities to learn for our experience as we learn in D&C 122:5-7:

If thou art called to pass through atribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in bperils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
6 If thou art aaccused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to bprison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like cwolves for the blood of the lamb;
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the apit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the bdeep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to chedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of dhell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee eexperience, and shall be for thy good.

Any type of suffering is to teach us to live a law and how to grow as a person. This is the way Christ learned obedience.

Hebrews 5:8
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

In order for us to be exalted we have to suffer as He did in order for us to learn to live the higher law.

Romans 8:16-17
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
Rom 8:17
17 ¶ And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with [him], that we may be also glorified together.

Mark 10:35-38
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.
Mark 10:36
36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?
Mark 10:37
37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.
Mark 10:38
38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?


Anonymous said...

Of course this suffering is cannot reach the same degree as Christ suffered, but we must suffer with Him.


Anonymous said...

"Don't you love those random posts that offer no thought or reason; just endless scriptural babblings?"

I find it a great fault that Some hold the Scriptures lower than their own Babblings and think they know better and could say it Better. Some enjoy the stripes.

Hear This

Prov. 1: 23, 25, 30
23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
• • •
25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:
• • •
30 They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Prov. 17: 10
10 A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.

Anonymous said...


Rom:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

Man can never Pay the price for sins or Wash himself Clean.
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

Rom 5:2 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Rom 6:
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
John 3:18 but he that believeth not is condemned already
36 3 but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Cate said...

What about D&C 138:58-59

58 The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God,
59 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.

David Littlefield said...


First, please forgive my long lapses between posts and comments.

And thanks for the good question. In short, I think we need to understand things in total, with everything else we know about it. I think I have made my case on the topic, but a few scriptures like D&C 138:58-59 sometimes seem problematic. D&C 138 is written a little more casually than many scriptures. It is more of an after the facts commentary of events, than a verbatim thus says the Lord.

In a very general sense, as used by President Brigham Young on occasion, our suffering “atones,” in that we have to pay people or society for what we have done, but that does not balance the eternal books of justice and mercy. Because you are forced to pay back the money you stole does not mean eternal justice has been met. Men can not met the demands of eternal justice without Christ.

Doctrine and Covenants 138:59 is meant in this same sense. Going to spirit prison is their penalty, and spirit prison is where they learn to repent, but in a separate event they are “washed clean.” This washing clean is through the atonement. We can see in verse 58 that they are redeemed by “obedience to the ordinances” which all point to Christ, not by what they suffer.



ShinehahGnolaum said...

Hi, I totally agree with david with the explanation of D&C 19: 15-17

It perfectly clear that the suffering we experience if we do not repent is not going to atone any sin, that suffering as david said is temporary if we repent from our sins and permanent for those who are cast of as son’s of perdition.

there is no way our suffering can atone any sin.

Anonymous said...

It is most refreshing to hear someone with the same point of view about the atonement and salvation. The idea that certain people can pay the price for their sins has always seemed to contradict what I have studied in the scriptures. I however have hesitated sharing those views since they are in direct contradiction to words of apostle both living and dead. Have you ever found support of your view other than the scriptures?
Thanks for sharing,

David Littlefield said...

Hi Mindy, and thanks for the comment.

I am glad we see this topic in the same way. However, I don't think we are in any way out of sync with living or dead apostles. I think most see it the same way, but sometimes the topic is handled in a surface and cursory manner, but even President JF Smith who seems to say the opposite, when discussing the atonement in a deeper setting, says the same thing.