The Return To God
For the past few generations the LDS church has had a wide gap in its definitions of “salvation” and “exaltation”. The authorities say that exaltation requires great effort; whereas salvation is freely given to all and requires little or no effort. We are told that when one is resurrected he will achieve salvation and all men will be resurrected whether they want to or not. Jesus grants this salvation to everyone.
I cannot blame one for reading the above doctrine into the scriptures for before I read them carefully I believed it myself. However, a closer reading of the prophets certainly reveals that salvation is not obtained with an effortless resurrection, for we already have shown that the immortal resurrection must be obtained through great effort. It is true, however, that when one does obtain the incorruptible resurrection he is saved (from rebirth). Before one can obtain this though, he must pass from “exaltation to exaltation,” as Joseph Smith said.
The scriptures plainly reveal that salvation must be earned. Paul said “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Phil 2:12. Alma said “ye should work out your salvation with fear before God.” Alma 35:37.
The word “salvation” is translated from the Greek SOTERIA which literally means to “rescue” or “deliver”. The word is really quite relative, but it’s meaning is quite consistent in the scriptures. There are three main things the scriptures tell us we will be delivered from: (1) Death, (2) Sin, and (3) Destruction at the end of the age. Deliverance from this destruction will enable one to reign in the kingdom of God during the millennium. We are told: “If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shall be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the Gift of salvation.” D&C 6:13
Generally salvation refers to deliverance from all of our enemies as Joseph Smith clearly said: “Salvation is nothing more nor less than to triumph over all our enemies and put them under our feet. And when we have power to put all enemies under our feet IN THIS WORLD, and a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come, then we are saved, as in the case of Jesus, who was to reign until he had put all enemies under his feet, and the last enemy was death,” DHC 5:389 Joseph Smith also said again and again that man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.
Keeping the above quotes in mind we clearly see that salvation simply means deliverance from enemies through knowledge. Since this is so, how can the ignorant be saved unless they acquire knowledge? The Book of Mormon clearly tells us that the wicked will not be saved unless they make an effort: “But wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God! For salvation cometh to none such except it be through repentance.” Mos 3:12 “But behold, and fear and tremble before God, for ye ought to tremble; for the Lord redeemed none such that rebel against him and die in their sins; yea, even all those that have perished in their sins ever since the world began, that have willfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them; these are they that have no part in the first resurrection. Therefore ought ye not to tremble? FOR SALVATION COMETH TO NONE SUCH; for the lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such.” Mosiah 15:26-27. “He shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and SALVATION COMETH TO NONE ELSE.” Alma 11:40.
It is clear then that salvation is not an automatic thing that happens to everyone in a universal resurrection as the church teaches, but is something that must be obtained by faith and knowledge.
Even though the prophets indicate that salvation will require considerable effort they also indicate that all will eventually obtain it. Joseph Smith was once reported by Mathew S. Davis in a letter to his wife as saying that all would eventually return to the presence of God: “Here he entered into some explanations, which were so brief that I could not perfectly comprehend him. But the idea seemed to be that the soul of man, the spirit, had existed from eternity in the bosom of Divinity; and so far as he was intelligible to me, must ultimately return from whence it came.” DHC 4:79
Jesus said something similar: “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matt 18:14. Paul also agreed: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” I Tim 2:3-4. People who doubt the scripture will say that God’s will is not always done, but they forget that “For with God NOTHING shall be impossible.” Luke 1:37. They also forget the prayer of Jesus: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matt 6:10. I contend that if it is the will of God that none shall perish, then that will of God shall be fulfilled. I say that if God “allotteth unto men according to their wills” Alma 29:49 then God shall surely be able to fulfill his own will. If God cannot fulfill his will then you and I have great reason to tremble and fear for he may not even be able to save us if we repent! What else can the believing mind accept except that God’s will, will be done and eventually through free agency “ the last weary pilgrim will find his way home.
Those who say that the Lord has doomed the wicked to eternal banishment from his presence have not read the scriptures: “And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from my own mouth that they (the wicked) should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power. But remember that ALL MY JUDGMENTS ARE NOT GIVEN UNTO MEN.” D&C 29:29-30. Here the Lord leaves the field wide opened, for he tells us that all of his judgments are not given, and why? “Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore IT IS MORE EXPRESS THAN OTHER SCRIPTURES, THAT IT MIGHT WORK UPON THE HEARTS OF THE CHILDREN OF MEN, altogether for my name’s glory.” D&C 29:7
If the Lord told previous generations clearly that a way is opened for the wicked to eventually repent and return to his presence many would have become spiritually lazy and wait for the next life to repent, and their progression would be greatly delayed. Many are effected badly enough by the teaching that there is some repentance in the spirit world. Others say that since the telestial kingdom is supposed to be wonderful beyond our understanding, then that is good enough for them.
One can see why the Lord thought it wisdom to conceal the fact that all men will eventually return to his presence. But when you approach it logically one must ask, what loving Father would give up working on the deliverance of his sons and daughters? Is not God as good a father as we are? God has indeed prepared a way for all eventually to return. Whereas this knowledge may have an adverse effect on the laggards, truth will always inspire the righteous to greater heights. Think not that this has anything to do with Lucifer’s plan, for the Lord’s plan is predicated entirely on free agency, whereas Satan introduced a shortcut by taking it away. It is by no means the doctrine of the devil that God will always work for the salvation of man for it is written: “All flesh shall see the salvation of God”. Luke 3:6 Not only will many come back and see temporal salvation in Zion in the last days, but eventually all will gain the knowledge necessary to overcome his enemies. Will God ever stop a man from acquiring more knowledge? Verily, No.
Several scriptures referring to salvation also give indications of reincarnation. For instance we are told: “But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” What is meant by “the end”? The word “end” comes from the Greek TELOS which is most appropriately translated “consummation”. This refers to the consummation or end of the age just prior to the ushering in of the millennium of peace. The next verse makes this crystal clear: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the END (Consummation) come.” Matt 24:14.
Obviously enduring to the end does not mean the end of one’s life, but to the end of the age. How can one endure to the end of the age unless one is reborn here so he has the opportunity to endure?
Paul said that Jesus “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world.” Gal 1:4 If, then the salvation of Jesus was to deliver us from this world, no salvation is to be confined to it. How can one be confined to mortal earth without reincarnation?
Since Joseph Smith said that all must ultimately return to God (DHC Vol 4; pg 79) it obviously follows that all will eventually be saved. This promise as well as many others must be cast aside unless we consider reincarnation.
Copyright 1996 by J J Dewey