LDS Inclusion ~ LDS Exclusion

A straightforward reading of the Book of Mormon appears to endorse eternal punishment in hell for many people. A random example of this is found in 2 Nephi 28.15:

O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell!

Passages like that from the Book of Mormon (BOM) could be multiplied, but you get the picture. Now, if the BOM was allowed to stand alone as a text and govern the LDS church, things would look very different. But in essence, the book simply establishes the authority of Joseph Smith: “for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation” (2 Nephi 3.15). Once Smith was established in his role of authority by the book he produced, he started improvising new theological viewpoints almost immediately.
In fact, a vision given to the false prophet in March, 1830 said that “Endless” is one of God’s names, therefore ‘endless’ punishment simply means ‘God’s punishment’ or punishment from God (Doctrine and Covenants 19). Mormon doctrine developed away from the Book of Mormon on many points and, by extension, away from the Bible. Mormon Professor James McLachlan writes:

With respect to life after death, the LDS church is a universalist religion. All beings have immortality through the atonement of Christ. Joseph Smith claimed that not only humans but animals and plants have eternal spirits (Moses 3:5, 19; 7:48-49; Abraham 3:18-19). Every creature is immortal, having everlasting life, but “eternal life” is interpreted as deification…all will attain immortality, but only those who learn to love perfectly will attain godhood, eternal life” (Musser and Paulsen, 2007).

Essentially almost everyone is ‘safe’ in the Mormon scheme of things – we’ll all end up in one of the three kingdoms. Craig Hazen has summarized things accurately:

Everyone in the next life (except for the small handful of “sons of perdition”) would ultimately enter (perhaps after a limited time in a purgatorial setting) one of the “three degrees of glory” of which even the lowest level (the telestial) has a glory that “surpasses all understanding” (D&C 76:89). [this revelation]…provided the answer to another important question that was probably being asked by early seekers: Why must I join the church if in the end all are going to be saved anyway? Answer: to have a shot at the highest state of glory” (Beckwith, Mosser, Owen 2002).

There is only one category of people in the LDS scheme of things that are in trouble: the sons of perdition. Who are the sons of perdition? Basically they are apostate Mormons:

“Those in this life who gain a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause, a knowledge that comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and who then link themselves with Lucifer and come out in open rebellion, also become sons of perdition” (McConkie 1966).

The bottom line seems to be that you are better off living any way you choose than in joining the LDS church and then leaving it. All of mankind will experience some sort of enjoyable eternal life with the exception of those who betray the LDS church.

8 thoughts on “LDS Inclusion ~ LDS Exclusion

  1. “Once Smith was established in his role of authority by the book he produced, he started improvising new theological viewpoints almost immediately.”

    And, basically, this is how the book is used by LDS missionaries today. The thrust of the missionary apologetic (of those whom I’ve spoken with) is [a] on revelation continuing today (because apostles have been reestablished) and [b] unity in the church (which actually is related to [a]).

    The missionaries I’ve spoken with are singularly uninterested in talking about what the BOM actually teaches, as opposed to leveraging the BOM as part of a process that concedes revelation continues today (and therefore leverages doctrines not taught in the BOM, but ostensibly revealed later).

    IMHO, the BOM by itself would put the Mormons on the periphery of Christianity, about where the Seventh Day Adventists sit, or perhaps in the vicinity of the United Pentecostal churches. Much of it is recognizably Christian (even if of an extreme free-will baptist sort).

    But its familiarity is used deceptively when employed as a gate-way book for continuing revelation — “revelation” that is not anticipated in the BOM (except in the acceptance of the principle of continuing revelation), and that moves the religion radically out of Christianity’s orbit.

    But you and I have talked about this before.

  2. Right Jim, you’ve got it. The book simply establishes the authority of the Church and whatever else flows from that. You don’t see a close discussion of what the BOM teaches in mission talks, it’s just that the book exists and was revealed to J. Smith.

  3. Concerning the three degrees of glory, each is a kingdom of glory. These are described in Doctrine and Covenants 76. This was commonly known as “the vision” during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Many years later he modified it – the full text can be found in Inspirational Poetry.

    While it may appear that the book “establishes the authority of Joseph Smith”, the importance of the Book of Mormon is that it “contains the fulness of the gospel” in the sense that it describes how ancient people came unto Christ and were perfected in him. It also describes the destruction of two ancient civilizations due to “secret combinations” seeking power and authority over people by taking over their “free government[s].” In many respects, the book is a prelude to events long-prophesied concerning the second coming of the Lord.

    The “authority” given to Joseph Smith came about over a period of many years and both preceded and antedated the translation of the book. Angelic messengers such as John the Baptist, and Peter, James and John, gave Joseph – and in almost all cases, another witness was present was present – important “keys” relating to the kingdom of God on earth.

    Lastly, Joseph Smith taught “A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, ‘They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.’ The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. 357). The basic doctrine underlying this principle is that man’s torment in the hereafter is knowing that he could have obtained a higher degree of exaltation than he otherwise obtained. In this sense, it may be said that this doctrine applies to all kingdoms of glory – even the celestial.

  4. There really isn’t anything in the Book of Mormon that gives us a “fullness” that isn’t already in the Bible. The only new material is the establishment of the LDS church.

  5. On the face of it, it is understandable why that might appear to be the case. However, the “fulness” encompasses much more than just the text of the book and as you mentioned is directly related to the establishment of the church. The “fulness” also has to do with the sacred ordinances of the temple and the spiritual blessings of the church which are described in D&C 84:19-24. In this sense, the Book of Mormon leads one to Christ and being perfected in him.

  6. Yes, but the book claiming to the most perfect and to contain the fullness is the BOM, not the D&C. And the COM doesn’t have the Temple service, baptism for the dead, etc. Indeed, it condemns polygamy harshly, which of course was later praised in the highest terms.

  7. And yet the Book of Mormon reads from beginning to end like a “temple text”, from Lehi’s theophany, to the ancient year rite at King Benjamin’s speech, to the gathering at the temple in the land Bountiful. All seem to suggest that the word “fulness” implies much more than sola scriptura because it describes individuals and groups who received a “fulness”.

    As far as polygamy is concerned, in the chapter in which it is condemned “harshly” it reads:

    For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30)

    1. Regarding the BOM as a temple text: I suppose that interpretation is possible, although it hardly seems to have been evident to the first generations of readers from what I can tell. I would have to see more evidence of that reading, frankly.

      On the fulness: your interpretation of that phrase seems strained. Smith says: “He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;”

      I would argue that a straightforward reading of that sentence implies that this fulness was delivered to the Nephites by Jesus and is inscripturated in the BOM – “was contained in it”. Not that the people possessed the fulness in their lives. This seems like an artful dodge to cover the fact that D&C doctrine is largely missing in the BOM.

      On polygamy, Jacob says that it is abominable to God, he calls it whoredom – that isn’t strong language? Also, it is not entirely clear that “I will command my people” equals “I will tell them to commit polygamy which I just said was an abomination.” That is an inference.

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