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!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Olive Leaf - Doctrine and Covenants 88

The restoration, through the Prophet Joseph Smith is an interesting study. Joseph grew up in a protestant family and community, and certainly assimilated some of those understandings of religion, some for good, and some that needed correcting. The progression and order of the truths that are revealed are worthy of note.

The first thing that is established is the basic nature of God at the First Vision. Then through the translation of the Book of Mormon and the Bible the Prophet confronted a number of issues, and truths were revealed. Many of these revelations are found in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Certain truths, when revealed had associated ordinances that were simultaneously revealed, authorized, and administered.

In the First Vision the nature of God is revealed. In the 76th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Plan of Salvation (Plan of Happiness) is revealed (restored the knowledge) with the three degrees of glory and the promise that God will “reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom…” someday in the future.[D&C 76:7]

Then in the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants Joseph was given the promise of the Celestial Kingdom:

“This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;” [D&C 88:4]

It appears to me that the “promise” of the celestial kingdom is associated with ordinances, and these things are the point of the temple. We don’t ascend to exaltation outside of or independently from the temple.

The LDS Guide to the Scriptures define the “Holy Spirit of Promise” as:

“The Holy Ghost is the Holy Spirit of Promise (Acts 2: 33). He confirms as acceptable to God the righteous acts, ordinances, and covenants of men. The Holy Spirit of Promise witnesses to the Father that the saving ordinances have been performed properly and that the covenants associated with them have been kept.”

“They who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise receive all that the Father has, D&C 76: 51-60 (Eph. 1: 13-14). All covenants and performances must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise to have force after this life, D&C 132: 7, 18-19, 26.” [REF.]

I believe it is probable that what we have in the Doctrine and Covenants, the 88th section is an outline of teachings Joseph received as he received his endowments. That when understood represent the finest and deepest section of canon we have.

Further, that Doctrine and Covenants 88 is akin to Moses’ vision of eternity, to Abraham’s vision of Eternity, to Jacob’s vision of the Ladder, or to Ezekiel’s vision for the temple.

And further still, that it should be used as a supplemental handbook to the temple experience. Most of us are not going to see the heavens open in this life, but we can attend the temple and receive the ordinances of ascension, and apply the teaching of an almost contemporary description of a Merkabah experience, the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

We can know the mysteries of God.