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My question is pretty straightforward; I'm just wondering how a person gets "saved" according to Mormons.

By "saved" I'm referring ultimately to entrance into the "third heaven" of Mormon doctrine, which as I understand it, would correspond to the place that Chalcedonian Christians call "Heaven" (i.e. the "New Earth" of Revelation 21).

I know Mormonism teaches that all non-Mormons will go to "a heaven", but as they are considered apostate, they don't make the cut for getting into "the third heaven" (i.e. what the rest of us mean when we say "heaven".)

So what does a person have to do to make the cut? If the answer varies based on gender, race, etc., please indicate this in your answer.

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    Is that covered in any of the answers at What is the Plan of Salvation in LDS theology? – David Stratton Dec 24 '14 at 23:29
  • @DavidStratton I did look at that question, and I skimmed the accepted answer. There didn't appear to me to be very much overlap between that one and this one. (That question was more about the big-picture "plan of salvation".) – Jas 3.1 Dec 25 '14 at 0:23
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Celestial Glory

Mormons aren't guaranteed they're going to the "third heaven". They have to prove themselves worthy.

The qualifications for salvation according to mormons sound very similar to what most Christians believe. The big difference between mormons and most christians is that mormons believe in One Lord, one faith, one baptism (see Ephesians 4:5) that means that there is only one true Church of Jesus Christ, and that church alone–being the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–is the only church that has Christ's authority to preform saving ordinances such as baptism, and that Christ does not recognize baptisms from any other Church.

The Mormon Definition of salvation:

To be saved from both physical and spiritual death. All people will be saved from physical death by the grace of God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each individual can also be saved from spiritual death as well by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. This faith is manifested in a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ.

In the definition above, "faith in Jesus Christ" includes faith in His prophets, His scriptures, and being baptized into His one true Church.

The "third heaven" spoken of by Paul in 2 Corrinthians 12:2 is the Celestial Kingdom. This is the highest kingdom of glory, and once you obtain the highest degree of glory within the Celestial Kingdom, that is when you can be exalted as the gods on high. (see Gospel Principles chapter 47: Exaltation)

Below is a description of the life you must choose to live in order to obtain Celestial glory:

Celestial

“They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized, … that by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit.” These are they who overcome the world by their faith. They are just and true so that the Holy Ghost can seal their blessings upon them. (See D&C 76:51–53.) Those who inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, who become gods, must also have been married for eternity in the temple (see D&C 131:1–4). All who inherit the celestial kingdom will live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ forever (see D&C 76:62).

Through the work we do in temples, all people who have lived on the earth can have an equal opportunity to receive the fulness of the gospel and the ordinances of salvation so they can inherit a place in the highest degree of celestial glory.


Chapter 46: The Final Judgment. Gospel Principles, (2011), 268–74

Bluntly stated, you have to be a temple worthy mormon in order to go to the "third heaven". All other mormons, and christians from other denominations, will go to the "second heaven", the Terrestrial Kingdom. There are exceptions however, such as children that die before the age of 8, (age of accountability) and unaccountable individuals (people who were born mentally impaired - such as with down's syndrome, etc.), these people will be automatically admitted into the Celestial Kingdom. People who die without a knowledge of Christ will also be given an opportunity in the afterlife to enter the Celestial Kingdom, this is why mormons perform proxy baptisms for the dead in the temples.


Regarding gender and race, salvation is the same for all, it does not matter if you're male or female, black or white, we're all children of the same Father and the atonement of Christ applies to each of us equally, and it always has.

There are however practices that are not fully understood outside the church. Men and women cannot enter the Celestial Kingdom alone:

"Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 11:11)

Eternal marriage is an essential ordinance that must be performed in order to be exalted, a man or a woman must be sealed to their spouse in the temple before they can be permitted into the presence of the Father. There is however an order to which married couples are admitted into the kingdom, the man enters first, and then guides in his wife. This is just the order of things, the man holds the priesthood, so it is natural that he would perform the ordinance for his wife, or if you want to chew on some more meatier doctrines, his wives, but that's probably best saved for a different question.

Africans were not permitted to hold the priesthood for a time in the church, this was a temporary practice (see Official Declaration 2), much like exclusive rights to the Aaronic or Levitical priesthood were given the the descendants of Levi for a time. It had nothing to do with the colour of their skin, and everything to do with their ancestry (they were of the lineage of Cain). This past practice will not affect their salvation and never once threatened it, though there were some past church leaders who supposed they would never receive the priesthood, but that was their personal belief, and it was unsupported, Brigham Young clearly stated that the black members of the church would at some future date have all the privileges enjoyed by other members (see Race and the Priesthood).

  • That sounds more like it. Thanks. I would like to see a comment on how salvation differs for men and women, and for whites and blacks. I know at various stages in Mormon history they have been different. (Men have to call wives into heavenly existence, blacks don't have a soul, etc.) – Jas 3.1 Jan 28 '15 at 21:37
  • Salvation has never been different, the doctrine has always been the same, but there is an order for things to be done and practices have been different in the past. I'll make an edit and attempt to explain in my answer. – ShemSeger Jan 28 '15 at 21:48
  • @Jas3.1 - I've edited my answer to address your questions about gender and race. – ShemSeger Jan 28 '15 at 23:07
  • @Jas - it might interest you to look further into the term "temple worthy" as even the link provided doesn't fully clarify what exactly this means. To enter the temple you need a bishop to approve you. To get their approval you need to report that you're tithing according to the expectations of the church - which may very well be on the honor system, though 10% is the expectation. I don't know if they keep a written record for proof. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems money is a key element in the process. Can you get a bishop's approval if you haven't paid a tenth in cash? – Bubbles Jan 28 '15 at 23:50
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    @Bubbles - Records are kept of how much tithing you pay so you can receive a receipt for tax purposes at the end of the year, but they don't know what percent it is of your income. Your bishop will simply ask you, "Are you a full tithe payer?" and he won't pursue it any further than that (unless perhaps you're a lawyer who's only paid $10 for the year...). You have to have a relationship with your bishop before he'll give you a recommend, I know of bishops who have refused to give out recommends because they know nothing about the individual they're interviewing. It's a very serious matter. – ShemSeger Jan 29 '15 at 4:11
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The simplest answer to this is given in the Articles of Faith:

3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."

An additional principle made clear in scripture but not cited in this summary is that it is necessary to "endure to the end" in exercising faith, repenting, and obedience to the commandments of God. The LDS consider salvation to be a process more than an event, a process which is usually not complete until one has died. (This is why they typically have difficulty giving a simple "yes" or "no" answer to the question "Have you been saved?")

Race and gender do not matter. The degree of accountability or responsibility a person has does. In addition,

Doctrine and Covenants 137:7-10

"All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God. Also, all those who shall die henceforth, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom. For I, the Lord, will judge all man according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts. And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven".

Most references in the scriptures to salvation refer to salvation in the celestial kingdom. Two other degrees, and the requirements for each of these degrees, are described in Doctrine and Covenants section 76. There is also a state of no salvation described there.

Faith in Jesus Christ is understood to include acceptance of his latter-day prophets and apostles (Joseph Smith and successors) and the additional Testament he has given (the Book of Mormon) as well as the Old Testament and the New Testament. Anyone may repent and all are commanded to, but repentance must be genuine and involve a permanent change of conduct, not lip service only. The ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost must be performed by those who have been ordained to the same priesthood given to Joseph Smith and according to the order of the Church.

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    This answer seems to suggest that all Christians will end up in the "third heaven", which I'm fairly certain is an incorrect representation of Mormon doctrine. Care to clarify? – Jas 3.1 Dec 25 '14 at 3:40
  • @Jas3.1 - It's not that off, chances are most people will end up in the celestial kingdom. – ShemSeger Dec 26 '14 at 15:56
  • @Jas3.1 I think the last paragraph explains what sets The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apart from other Christian groups- our faith in Jesus Christ includes a belief that He has given us The Book of Mormon, latter-day prophets. Perhaps most importantly, it also includes the belief that Christ has given authority to administer the ordinances of the gospel- our 5th Article of Faith says "We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof." – Michael Hoffmann Jan 28 '15 at 7:45
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A fine question to answer on Christmas Eve, I suppose. Revisiting these doctrines is a good way to remind myself why Christ was born: to save us and all Creation.

This is a detailed, but only introductory, answer for those interested in a thorough study of Mormon doctrine. If you're just looking for a basic answer to "How are we saved?" I recommend Confutus' answer or some articles on Mormon.org.

In LDS theology, being saved is an ambiguous term. In the general sense, we are all saved through Christ's Atonement (His suffering, death, and resurrection). Everyone, even the wicked, will be resurrected so they can be brought back into the presence of God to be judged. Amulek explains this in the Book of Mormon, in Alma 11:40-41 (read through 45):

40 And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and 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.

41 Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.

Here, there is clearly a distinction between the group that is resurrected (everyone), and the group that obtains eternal life (those who believe on His name).

The resurrection - being saved from the bands of death - is made possible because of Christ's resurrection and it is by His power that we are redeemed from the grave, as explained in D&C 88:14-17:

14 Now, verily I say unto you, that through the redemption which is made for you is brought to pass the resurrection from the dead.

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

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

17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.

It goes on, referring to the new Earth in Revelation 21 you wrote about in your question:

18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;

19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;

20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.

This is where we get to the specific meaning of the term "saved" like in your question: How do we obtain the celestial glory with which God lives?

Doctrine and Covenants 76 records a vision of who obtain the celestial kingdom:

50 And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—

51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—

52 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;

53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

(I've emphasized the saving ordinances referred to below.)

Most of these characteristics (keeping commandments, receive the Holy Spirit, etc.) should be familiar with Christianity at large. Granted, "The Holy Spirit of promise" is probably an unfamiliar term, but its explanation would deserve its own question.

In any case, it's a tall order to qualify for this salvation, but it's nothing less than what would be expected of a God who wants us to reach our potential.

Requirements for salvation are not dependent on race or gender. They are universal no matter who, what, where, or when you are.

If you're a "non-Mormon" you are neither exempt nor disqualified for the celestial kingdom. It is not a matter of being a "good Mormon" or an active member of "the right church" (both are common phrases, but not with Latter-day Saints; they come off kind of snobby) to be saved, in that sense. It is more about receiving the necessary saving ordinances by proper authority by which we make sacred covenants.

So in practice, how is this achieved? By consistently being who/what we are trying to be come, by following the example of Jesus Christ and being sanctified by His Spirit. This is what Mormons focus on in daily life. And for those who haven't yet been baptized, there are the LDS missionaries to help with that.

The Book of Mormon concludes with words from Moroni that emphasize this gradual sanctification:

32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.

33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.

  • This answer seems rather vague... what are these "necessary saving ordinances"? The way the answer is currently worded it sounds more Evangelical than Mormon. – Jas 3.1 Dec 25 '14 at 4:04
  • @Jas3.1 The saving ordinances required for the celestial kingdom are baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, just as it it explains in the D&C passage. Also, see Confutus' answer for a re-iteration of the ordinances. Also see this question for more information about ordinances in the LDS church in general. – Matt Dec 25 '14 at 4:09
  • So you're saying the only distinctively Mormon thing about Mormon salvation is that Mormons have to be the ones to baptize you? – Jas 3.1 Dec 25 '14 at 4:14
  • More or less. Again, "salvation" is a broad term, but in general it's very similar to the rest of Christianity. What may be unique is the concept of a Priesthood authority by which the ordinances must be performed. That authority helps ensure that the Lord's Church is in proper order and that the ordinances stay pure as the Lord has directed. In that sense, yes, it matters who baptizes you. – Matt Dec 25 '14 at 4:18
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    You are probably referring to the Telestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms? Though a little about them has been revealed, they aren't particularly significant in Latter-day Saint theology. As far as I understand your question, you are asking about the requirements to get into the "third heaven" -- are you actually asking about any of them? (P.S. Mormons don't typically consider non-Mormons "apostates" - that more means people who have explicitly left the LDS Church.) Hope this is helpful! – Matt Dec 25 '14 at 4:36

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