[The following is a guest post from Jacob, a thoughtful Mormon from Oregon who I met at this year’s SMPT conference.]
In a recent series of posts, Geoff has been discussing various models of the plan of salvation, and as you might expect, advocating his favorite “multiple mortal probations” model. During that discussion, the question of telestial salvation came up a number of times, and Geoff graciously offered to host this guest-post of mine on one aspect of that subject. My question is geared toward the more traditional models of the plan of salvation.
In the Church, there seem to be two main camps on telestial salvation:
Camp 1: There will be liars, murderers, and reprobates in the telestial kingdom, who never repented of their sins
Those who will not repent, but are nevertheless not sons of perdition, will remain in hell throughout the Millennium. After these thousand years of torment, they will be resurrected to a telestial glory (Guide to the Scriptures: Hell)
Camp 2: The people in the telestial kingdom may have been former liars, murderers, and reprobates, but they will have to repent of their sins before going to the telestial kingdom
Those who on earth are liars, sorcerers, whoremongers, and adulterers, who receive not the gospel, or the testimony of Jesus, of the prophets, go to the telestial kingdom. They are judged unworthy of being resurrected at the second coming of Christ and must be given a period of time in hell to repent and prepare themselves for a later resurrection and placement into a kingdom of lesser glory. They cannot go to the telestial kingdom while they are still liars, murderers, and adulterers. During this period in hell, they learn to abide laws they once rejected.(Encyclopedia of Mormonism “Degrees of Glory” emphasis mine)
I am a strong proponent of camp 2. The view of camp 1 implies that we can reject Christ’s atonement, suffer for our own sins, and make it to the telestial kingdom by ourselves. This has always seemed to me to undercut the crucial nature of the atonement in saving all people. It also fits well with Joseph Smith’s big picture view expressed here:
God hath made a provision that every spirit in the eternal world can be ferreted out and saved unless he has committed that unpardonable sin… God has wrought out a salvation for all men… So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments, he must abide without salvation. If a man has knowledge, he can be saved; although, if he has been guilty of great sins, he will be punished for them. But when he consents to obey the Gospel, whether here or in the world of spirits, he is saved. (TPJS pg. 356-357, emphasis mine)
Joseph clearly states that salvation only comes after a person has consented to obey the gospel. Guilt, remorse, and the pains of hell, are varying degrees of the same pain, designed to help us see the ultimate results of our bad actions so that we will repent. Some people respond to guilt. Others don’t catch on until the pain is ratcheted up a few notches.
Alma offers his experience as the model of what happens to people in hell. He says he was “racked with eternal torment” and “tormented with the pains of hell,” even with “the pains of a damned soul” (Alma 36:12-16). Alma rejected Christ at first, but when the pain hit, he caught on quickly to the importance of Christ and the atonement, and he had a real change of heart. George Q. Cannon agreed with me that this is typical of the souls in hell:
So it will be with those who are damned in the way that I have described and who are consigned to torment. They will remain in that condition, according to the enormity of their offenses, until punishment will be meted out to them sufficiently to bring them to a condition that they will receive the Gospel of salvation. That Gospel which is taught to us will be taught to them, and they will have an opportunity of obeying it in their damned condition and through repentance will receive will salvation. (Gospel Truth pg. 62)
So, what do you all think? Who will step up and defend camp 1?
[Associated radio.blog song: Mighty Mighty Bosstones – The Rascal King. For all those telestial rascals…]