My post on Blake Ostler’s views on LDS soteriology quickly ballooned to more than 100 comments and revealed that there are a lot of differing soteriologies among us. In this post I will describe the various things I think scriptures mean when they use the term “salvation”.
A) Salvation sometimes means exaltation in scriptures
RT wrote a post arguing that our scriptures are nearly univocal in meaning that salvation = exaltation. Here are some verses that support his theory:
If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt 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)
If salvation is the greatest gift God can give I think it is safe to say it is synonymous with exaltation in this verse. In addition to this, the term exaltation is usually synonymous with the term “eternal life” in scripture and there are several verses that equate salvation with eternal life. Here are just two examples of the six I found – one from Alma and one that is included in the Abrahamic covenant:
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. (Alma 11:40)
And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal. (Abr. 2:11)
B) Salvation sometimes means being saved from an eternal hell and slavery to the devil, or “outer darkness” in LDS-speak.
In that last thread Mark Butler was insisting salvation always means saved from eternal hell or at least from a “kingdom of no glory”. Here is an instance of salvation used in that sense:
And also the telestial receive it of the administering of angels who are appointed to minister for them, or who are appointed to be ministering spirits for them; for they shall be heirs of salvation. (D&C 76: 88)
I wasn’t able to find any others that clearly describe admission to the Telestial kingdom after a season in hell as salvation, though. If there are others please share.
C) Salvation often is used in an non-specified way and probably means something between A) and B)
My sense is that most of the scriptures that were received prior to section 76 use the term salvation as sort of synonymous with exaltation but leave leeway for referring to anyone who avoids even a temporary hell. That would then include both heirs of the Celestial kingdom and heirs of the Terrestrial kingdom if my sense is correct. The reason I suspect this is because I think the prophet Joseph still saw the afterlife as roughly a heaven/hell dichotomy prior to 1832. As a result I think the scriptures that came through him reflected some of his paradigm. Now I’m not sure if the Book of Mormon prophets also saw the afterlife as roughly a heaven/hell dichotomy and wrote specifically with that in mind or if they understood nuances that Joseph, as the instrument of the translation, did not pick up on in the translation process and convey. Whatever the case, it is virtually impossible to tell exactly what many scriptures mean when they use the term salvation – do they mean exaltation or simply Telestial glory after rotting in hell for a millennium? I suspect they mean the former far more often than they mean the latter, but it is impossible to tell exactly.
My next post will be on the absolute requirements for salvation, such as the absolute requirement to live a Celestial law to inherit Celestial glory, and relative requirements for salvation as described in the parable of the talents.
[Associated radio.blog song: The English Beat - Save It For Later]