The LDS (Mormon) Church, Part 6: How To Get To Heaven

It's been a while! My passion for this topic of conversation hasn't dried up in the past few months, but my frustration and a bit of anger did (thankfully). I didn't feel I could write about this unless my heart was right again. Here I am, refreshed and ready to talk some more if you're up for it :)

"How To Get To Heaven" is this part's topic. I struggled to figure out which topic to do next. There's SO much history and background that seems to be necessary before discussing this all-important one...but we seem to get bogged down in discussions that matter so much less than this one.

"Heaven", for example, is very interesting and is a topic I plan to address in the future because LDS beliefs on heaven differ greatly from "main stream" Christianity. But at the end of the day, does it really matter? Well, it does a little...because much of what it means to be LDS is tied up in what the LDS church teaches about Heaven. On the other hand, I think we can agree across the board that Heaven is good and it's where we'd all like to end up. So for now, let's leave it at that and talk about how to get there instead...which seems a much more immediate concern.

If you're new to this blog, then please take a moment to read some history before you jump in to the conversation. At the very least, read the first post in this series so that you can better understand my heart. Here are the previous posts in this series:

1. Introduction & Intent
2. Format
3. Part 1: Joseph Smith
4. Part 2: God and Jesus
5. Part 2: Followup
6. Part 2: Another Followup
7. Part 3: Determining Truth
8. Part 3: Determining Truth Followup
9. Part 4: The Fall & Original Sin
10. Part 4: Followup
11. Taking a Break
12. Part 5: The Great Apostasy
13. Part 5: Followup
14. Part 5: Another Followup

With that, let's jump right in.

Section 1 ~ What the LDS (Mormon) church teaches about How To Get To Heaven

Summary:
1. Salvation and Eternal Life are two different things. "Salvation", to the LDS believer, is being physically raised from death. Salvation is universally available to all human beings because of Jesus' death and resurrection. "Eternal Life", sometimes referred to as "Exaltation" is something that the individual must earn.

2. Based on the LDS belief that there are different levels of "exaltation" or "Heaven", every person goes to one of 3 "levels" of Heaven (that's my term for lack of a better one...not the LDS term). Only people who are considered "sons of perdition" go to Hell.

3. To get to the highest level of Heaven, the "Celestial Kingdom", there are certain things that one must do in this lifetime. Some of those "works" are: have faith, repent, be baptized in a particular way by a particular person in the LDS church, have laying on of hands, tithe, be moral, keep commandments, keep word of wisdom (no coffee, tea, alcohol, etc.), baptism for the dead, and temple marriage.

4. Where does Jesus fit in this picture? The LDS church teaches that humans are saved by grace...only after we do all we can do on our own. Jesus led a perfect life, died, and rose again so that 1. we would have an example to live by, 2. there would be no excuse for sin since Jesus was human and lived a sinless life, 3. "opens the door" (again, my term) to allow us to rise physically like he did 4. by following in his ways we could also have the opportunity to go to Heaven.

He did not die to pay the penalty for our sins, and he is not God (he is God's spirit child and our literal brother).

5. It is expected that members perform extensive genealogies and also perform "baptisms for the dead" in their family. It is believed that without the "sealing" of earthly rituals on earth, those who have died can not be fully exalted.

6. I'm not clear on Joseph Smith's role in exaltation, but it seems that he is believed to posses certain power in Heaven to allow people in (or not).

LDS Documentation on this topic:

"And after that you have received this, if you a keep not my commandments you cannot be saved in the kingdom of my Father." (Doctrine and Covenants 18:46)

"And he that will not take up his a cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved." (Doctrine and Covenants 56:2)

"That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:52)

“We believe it is by grace that we are saved after all that we can do, and that building upon the foundation of the atonement of Christ, all men must work out their salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord.” ( “Out of the Darkness,” Ensign, June 1971, 4.) Joseph Fielding Smith (emphasis added)

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (Book Of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23) (emphasis added)

"There is no such principle as saving a man in his sins, neither physically nor spiritually. Our Saviour has never offered himself as an atonement for mankind to redeem and save them in their sins. I regard this as an utter impossibility....

The Scriptures say he tasted death for every man. Did he taste death for every man with a view that every man should be saved from death? No. If so, it would destroy the principle I have been speaking of, and would save the children of men in their sins. But while death had passed upon all mankind because of sin, there was no power that could avert it; yet, by offering himself an offering for sin, he opened a way for mankind to be raised again from the dead, and for ever afterwards be set free from its power." ("Submission To the Divine Will - Eternal Life" by Erastus Snow, January 5, 1860, 7:351) (emphasis added)

"The salvation offered in the Gospel is one of the most consoling, one of the most merciful, one of the most magnanimous principles that can be advanced in all the revelation s of God to man. All the sons and daughters of men will be saved, except the sons of perdition." ("Union Etc.", President BRIGHAM YOUNG, October 7, 1859, 7:276)

Definition of "sons of perdition": "Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father." (DC 76:35)

Salvation is being risen from physical death. Eternal physical life is available for everyone because of Jesus. Eternal spiritual life (life in Heaven) is earned by obeying commandments. (about.com article by Rachel Woods- not an official LDS site, but clearly explains the LDS belief)

"No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith. From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are..." ("Intelligence", Brigham Young, October 9, 1859, 7:282) (emphasis added)

"And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation." (DC 128:15)

"Resurrection, or immortality, comes to every man and every woman as an unconditional gift.
Eternal life, or celestial glory or exaltation, is a conditional gift. Conditions of this gift have been established by the Lord, who said, “If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” Those qualifying conditions include faith in the Lord, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and remaining faithful to the ordinances and covenants of the temple.

No man in this Church can obtain the highest degree of celestial glory without a worthy woman who is sealed to him. This temple ordinance enables eventual exaltation for both of them." (LDS.org)

Section 2 ~ What the Bible says about How To Get To Heaven

Summary:

1. Salvation and Eternal Life are one and the same. "Salvation" is being saved from physical death and from eternal spiritual death. In short, it is going to Heaven forever.

2. We are all eternal beings. After our death we will spend eternity somewhere - either Heaven or Hell. Sadly, many people will reject the teachings of who Jesus is and what he's done for us and they will go to Hell. Not only "sons of perdition" will go to Hell.

3. We are expected to live an upright and moral life, but doing so is an indicator of our faith...not a requirement of salvation or eternal life. Aside from having faith in the sufficiency of Jesus' sacrifice for us, there is nothing we can do to add or subtract from our ability to go to Heaven.

4. When a person dies, their opportunity to choose Jesus or not is past. Baptism for the dead is useless.

5. Where does Jesus fit into the picture? He IS the entire picture. There is no way to get to Heaven aside from faith in who he is and what he did. A personal, loving relationship also seems a requirement. Even Satan "believes" the truth in Jesus, but he's made a personal choice to reject Jesus as Savior. It takes a acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord, a belief and acceptance that Jesus died and rose for us, a humble submission to His will and, and trusting his sufficiency to save.

6. Jesus' sinless life is not proof that we are able to live a sinless life. All of humanity is sinful. The reason that Jesus was able to live a sinless life is because he is both fully human and fully God.

7. God is loving and compassionate, but he is also just. A penalty for sin had be paid. Jesus paid that penalty for us. We can not be justified by the law (by "doing" anything), we can only be justified by what Jesus did for us...by his grace (undeserved gift).

Biblical Documentation on this topic:

"And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." (Colossians 1:20)

"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11)

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

"But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." (Romans 4:5)

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

"Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." (Galatians 5:4)

"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Romans 5:8-9)

"And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?" (Matthew 19:24-25) (definition of "salvation", emphasis added)

See Luke 16:26-31

"None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him" (Psalm 49:7)

"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification." (Romans 5:15-16) (emphasis added)


Section 3 ~ My thoughts

Whew. I'd forgotten how long it takes to do all this research! Sorry for the long post, but I think it's important to do this important discussion justice.

As I read through the LDS teachings about how to get to Heaven, I keep asking myself the same two questions: If we are "saved by grace only after doing all we can do", is there any hope for anyone? And if we're only saved by grace after we do a bunch of required stuff...how is that grace at all? I'll elaborate (lucky you!):

Grace only after all we can do? How can we truly do all we can do all of the time? Are we expected to never EVER fall short of *all* we can do? Can anyone reading this right now honestly look at their own heart and say with 100% certainty, "I've done all I can do"? I can't. I love the Lord. I try my best. But there are times when I'm lazy or tired or frustrated...and I make a lousy choice. Now, you might say that since I'm trying so hard, then I'm doing all I can do...that perfection isn't expected...just doing what you can. But seriously - there are times (and I'd bet anything this has happened in your life too) when I've had a choice, and I flat made the WRONG choice. Intentionally, selfishly, humanly...wrong.

So where does that leave me? According to Mormon teaching, that leaves me in the position of having done less than all I can do. If grace is offered only for those who have done all they can do, I submit that there is no one who can be saved by that "grace".

Grace = a free gift from God. The Bible tells us that God's grace is free. If we have to do things to earn it, then it's not free! If we have to earn it, then the cost or price of that gift is my "works" or "the law". If it's something that must be earned, then (by definition) it is not grace.

Galatians 5:4 seems to lay it on the line pretty clearly: "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." A person may choose to pursue justification/salvation/exaltation by following the law...but then that person must expect to be judged by that standard because it says that person is "fallen from grace". We can't have it both ways. We either work for it, or we trust God for it. Which do you choose?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that accepting God's grace is a joy ride. It's tough! It's tough to set aside my natural inclination to try and make things right all by myself and to do life my way. But at the end of the day, I know that I can't do it right. I can't fix the results of my sins. Trusting God is scary too. Trust someone else completely for my eternal salvation? But...what if...are you sure...is it enough...what if you're wrong?!? SCARY.

But what is my option, really? If I have to choose between me doing it or God doing it? Even if I have a hard time trusting, I don't have much of a choice. I KNOW with 100% certainty that I can't do it...my only remaining choice is to trust him.

And think about it...God came to earth in a human body, suffered, died, and rose again...FOR ME. What could I possibly add to that? A God that would do that for me? A God that loves me that much? I trust him. I rely on him completely. I'll go to Heaven by his grace, or not at all.

Finally, I don't mean to give the impression that I'm diminishing the importance of living a good life. Out of my love for him, and out of gratitude for what he's done for me...I'll live for him. Knowing him the way I do...he's truly irresistable! But if I live a good life to try and earn Heaven, then I'm doing good for me, not for him. He knows my heart, and he knows the difference.

I choose grace. I choose peace. I choose the freedom of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Questions
1. How good is good enough to earn grace?
2. Jesus lived a sinless life. In your heart of hearts, do you believe that since he did it, you can too?
3. Does the LDS teachings on how to get to Heaven bring peace and joy and freedom, or does it bring the chains of legalism?
4. When you do good things, do you do them to earn reward or do you do them out of love for Jesus? (I don't mean to suggest that you're doing one or the other...just encouraging you to examine your heart)
5. Do you think that Jesus paid a sufficient price for your sins?
6. Do you trust the LDS organization enough to trust it with your eternity?
7. Do you choose to live under the law or under God's grace?
8. The Bible talks of Heaven and of Hell. It says that many people will go to Hell. Are you 100% certain that you are going to Heaven?
9. Which do you think is a safer bet...trusting God completely, or trusting yourself completely?

Ruth A Stiles  – (1/08/2009 06:49:00 PM)  

I am a firm believer that religion is NOT faith and religion is man's attempt at labelling God and boxing Him into one definition. I believe that to get to heaven it is a heart issue. I personally am Baptist but that DOESN'T mean that I believe only baptists can get to heaven. It is between a person and God!
Interesting information. I enjoyed reading it!

Vanessa  – (1/08/2009 07:04:00 PM)  

Thanks for coming back to this topic. My brother is living with some of our Mormon relatives right now, so he is dealing with these issues head-on. He has remarked on the emptiness and fakeness he has seen. There is a lot to think through on this topic of the Mormon view of heaven and how to get there. Very different from what the Bible teaches. Thanks for all the research you have done!

Daiquiri  – (1/08/2009 08:36:00 PM)  

I should clarify a bit...

First, I hope it doesn't come across like I think that Mormons can't go go Heaven. As has been pointed out, it is between the One True God and an individual. I think our Awesome God can reach people anywhere and any time with His Truth.

Second, the Mormon faith does NOT teach that only Mormons can go to Heaven. Quite the contrary, in fact. They believe that most everyone will go go Heaven. They believe in different "levels" of heaven, each suited to a person's experiences and choices.

For example, I've had several Mormon friends tell me that they're "not worried" about me and my eternity since I'm a good person and I strive to do good things and seek the Lord. But since I'm not Mormon, and I reject the teachings of the Mormon faith...I would be in a lower level (but still wonderful) of Heaven.

In fact, members within the LDS community will be in different levels too, based on their "works" and things like whether or not they've had a temple marriage or have had children.

Frankly...it's interesting to talk about our different beliefs about Heaven, but it's pretty irrelevant! Heaven is good, Hell is bad. So how do we get to Heaven? That's not a minor issue!

Kaye  – (1/09/2009 12:13:00 PM)  

Great post with lots of information. I know that members of the LDS church believe that they WILL go to Heaven...like most others. However, I questioned one once about how sure he was that he would get to live surrounded by the utmost glory. His answer (paraphrased of course) was basically that he hoped he would but had no idea if all he had done would be deemed "enough." I told him that my faith taught me that I would live in the full glory of God throughout all eternity and there was no reason for me to doubt that because I could (on my own) never be good enough for Heaven. That intrigued him.

Once again...great post! Thanks for returning to this topic!

McMom  – (1/10/2009 10:49:00 AM)  

Awesome topic! I just found your blog.

Heart of a Ready Writer  – (1/10/2009 03:09:00 PM)  

Intriguing post. Well-researched.

I have a Mormon friend, and when non-Mormons visit her family, the TEACHER must be present at all times.

A bit alarming.

Blessings,

Linda

McMom  – (1/10/2009 11:37:00 PM)  

Thanks for coming by my blog! I found you at "Everyday Becky". Beckys Dad was my husbands "boss" awhile back in Omak.

David  – (1/12/2009 02:50:00 PM)  

The good news is that your prior posts on Mormon beliefs have led to my becoming a regular reader of your blog which I find it to be interesting, uplifting and generally enjoyable to read and follow.

The bad news is that your decision to return to the subject that brought me here initially means that I'm commenting again. Sorry.

To make sure that I understand what you're saying, I'd like to ask a few questions.

Do you believe that there is anything that is required for salvation?

In other words, does a person need to feel, do, or say anything in order to be saved?

What is the process of accepting God's grace? Or is there a process?

How does someone with no knowledge of Christ come to be saved? Or were they saved already by His grace?

At some point I'd like to try to make a few clarifications on what you have stated as Mormon beliefs, but I'd first like to know more about what your beliefs are.

Daiquiri  – (1/12/2009 04:02:00 PM)  

Hi David - As far as I'm concerned...that's good news, better news. I'm always happy to have your participation :)

To your questions:
1. "Do you believe that there is anything that is required for salvation?"
2. "In other words, does a person need to feel, do, or say anything in order to be saved?"
3. "What is the process of accepting God's grace? Or is there a process?"

First things first - when I use the term "salvation", I'm referring to both being raised from death AND to being "let in" to Heaven, as I believe the Bible defines it in Romans 5:15-16.

And to answer questions 1-3, a couple of verses immediately come to my mind. The first is Romans 10:9: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."

The second passage is the story of the thief on the cross next to Jesus, Luke 23:41-44, "And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

I believe that to be saved I must acknowledge my sinfullness, I must acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, and I must put my personal trust in him to save me.

Must I be baptized? The man on the cross was not baptized and he was in paradise that very day with Jesus.

Must I tithe? No.

Must I perform certain good "works"? Again, the man on the cross didn't.

Must I belong to a particular church organization or partake in any particular ritual? No.

Must I live a good life? This is where it gets tricky. To many, it seems like splitting hairs...but it gets to the very heart of a person, so I think it's crucial.

So...must I live a good life to be saved? NO. I do not have to "do" anything to be saved.

HOWEVER...if I have had a true repentant heart before the Lord and have asked him to be the Lord of my life...my life should reflect that. I will want to live a good life for the sake of honoring him, but that is VERY different from doing good in order to earn something.

All that being said, I think it's pretty tough (not to mention terribly inappropriate) to look at someone's life to try and determine if they're saved or not. Really, it's all about that person's true heart (attitude, intentions) toward God. Mother Theresa seemed to live a righteous life as a humble servant of God. From my lowly perspective, she seems pretty "saved" to me! But only God knows the true heart of a person. For all I know, she was doing it for all the wrong reasons.

That brings me to your next question:

4. "How does someone with no knowledge of Christ come to be saved? Or were they saved already by His grace?"

The Bible does specifically say, and I can't assume anything. All I can do is trust that God is a perfect, all-knowing, good, fair, and loving judge.

I don't know how it will work. I do know that whatever it is that is required for a person to be saved will be offered to every person at some point in their life. No one will be left to chance.

I hope that answers your questions. I'd be happy to elaborate more if not.

Anonymous –   – (3/08/2009 09:10:00 PM)  

1st Corinthians 15:29
"Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?"

Daiquiri  – (3/09/2009 08:06:00 AM)  

Anonymous-

I'm assuming you're quoting 1 Cor 15:29 to make a cast for baptism of the dead?

If so, I invite you to read the surrounding verses and chapters to get that verse in the proper context. When you do that, you'll see that Paul was addressing a particular disbelief at that time in the resurrection of the dead.

Those same people who didn't believe in resurrection after death were baptizing for the dead! Paul was pointing out the hypocrisy of that behavior, not condoning or saying that baptism of the dead should be happening.

Please also not that Paul says "they" baptize for the dead, not "we". There is no Biblical support for the idea of the early Christian church participating in this practice.

Again - please direct your attention to the thief on the cross next to Jesus.

I think it's safe to say that Jesus would be entering the "highest" level of heaven upon his physical death (assuming that there are different "levels" of heaven). Jesus said he would be with him today in paradise. Wherever Jesus was going, that thief would be also.

And when would that happen? TODAY. Not after the guy's relatives had a chance to be baptized for him, but today.

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