Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mormon Week: The Plan of Salvation

I try not to be snarky on the blog, but sometimes I think I accidentally come off that way.  At the beginning of yesterday's post I said I probably lost a few readers just from the title.  I meant that perhaps some people might find the topic boring, not because I think there are rampant anti Mormon ranters ready to pounce.  So please excuse the unintended sass.

Now back to Mormon week.  Next up is a doctrine I find absolutely beautiful and amazing.  It's hard to say it's 'one' doctrine because there are many doctrines and truths that all run together to form a complete picture.  So if I'm jumping around a little, just know I'm trying to explain things as susinctly as possible.  The Plan of Salvation.  This plan is essentially the entire overview of our purpose here on earth.  I find it interesting that something so vast and spiritual in nature is often depicted in such a black and white, step-by-step chart.  I guess what I'm saying is that admittedly when I show someone a little drawing/chart I feel a little sheepish like I'm trying to sell them Ginsu knifes and wowee-zowee look at the special Celestial Kingdom bonus over here! or something.  But truth be told, a nice graphic helps.  Also there is a lot to the Plan of Salvation, so I'm just giving a very basic, broad overview.  So here it is:




The basic premise is this.  Before we came to earth we lived with our Father in Heaven in a pre-mortal life.  There was a plan presented to us about how we could grow and progress eternally.  The plan was that we could come to earth--of course we wouldn't remember anything about our pre-earth life--and we would be free to choose for ourselves between right and wrong.  Since Heavenly Father knew we would sin and make wrong choices, we also needed a Savior who could bridge the gap between right and wrong--through the gift of repentance--and therefore if we choose to follow Him (Jesus Christ) we would return to live with our Heavenly Father again.

Now here is where I think things really start to make sense to me and something that is fundamentally different about Mormonism than what other Christian churches believe--at least as I understand it.  When we die, you don't just automatically go to Heaven or Hell.  In fact we don't really believe in Heaven and Hell--at least not in the traditional sense.  When you die you go to the spirit world, where people have the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their savior if they didn't have that opportunity on earth.  Then after the second coming, when Jesus returns to earth, we will all have the gift of resurrection where our bodies are reunited with our spirits.  (I wrote once about the importance of bodies and the plan of salvation here).  Then we will go through final judgement where we will go to one of 3 kingdoms.  Mormonyouth.org gives this explanation of the 3 kingdoms of Heaven:  

Mormon doctrine teaches that there are three kingdoms in heaven: the Celestial (which is the highest), the Terrestial, and the Telestial. If we have performed all necessary ordinances and have lived righteous lives, we will be able to live again in the presence of God in the Celestial Kingdom and have eternal progression and increase. If we did not follow all of the commandments and did not accept the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but still lived good lives, we will go to the Terrestial Kingdom. If we rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ, [and commit serious sin such as murder, adultery, lying and loving to make a lie and do not repent while in mortality] we will go to the Telestial Kingdom. 

That's what I find so beautiful and amazing about this modern revelation--it gives a much more complete picture of the afterlife.  Like I said, we don't believe in the traditional ideas of Heaven and Hell.  To me it makes sense that a loving Father in Heaven wouldn't send his children to burn in hell forever, but still rewards us with a kingdom of glory even if we make terrible choices in our earth life.  In each Kingdom there are varying degrees of glory and it is the Celestial Kingdom where we can continue to progress eternally. 

OK so like I said, that is a very basic overview.  There are definitely some holes in my explanation here, but this is the basic gist.  If you want to read more about the Plan of Salvation check out these links:  Encyclopedia of Mormonism,   Mormon Youth.org, and a talk by Elder L. Tom Perry.   

Again, feel free to ask more questions or leave comments.  Also, I'd love to hear how your faith is similar or differs from ours.  Thanks!


7 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:50 AM

    I've read your blog for awhile. It is great! I'm a Jew (a Jew who works in the Jewish communal world) but I've always been fascinated by Mormonism. Thanks for these posts.

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  2. i love that graphic! great explanation. i love the mercy of God.

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  3. I'm in a book club that's currently only reading CS Lewis. The other members are also Christian, but I'm the only LDS member.

    It is AMAZING how interested everyone is in the LDS beliefs that relate to Lewis. I think it may be b/c they're all transplants to UT, so they kind of look to me as a key to figuring out all the weird Mormons they interact with now that they live here :)

    I love that you're doing these posts because they will make a difference for someone. They will remind someone of their testimony of a certain principle, or they'll spark an interest in someone who isn't a member of this faith. Or it might just make someone feel good to learn something new.

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  4. Love it all. Can't wait for more :)

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  6. A question --- do the folks who go telestrial, the least good of the 3 spirit worlds, have a chance to come back to earth and try again? Like reincarnation? I guess what I'm really asking is do Mormons believe in reincarnation? I'm Catholic and I'm curious about your religion ...but not in a converting kind of way but just in a Christian-believing isn't it cool how we all believe in the same man in a different way kind of way, if that makes sense.

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  7. Jillbert--Good question. No we don't believe in reincarnation. However, from what I understand it seems that people still have a chance to right some wrongs when they die while they're in the spirit world. Obviously, I don't know the extent of this and perhaps I'm wroing... but that is what I understand.

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