Accepting Christ and Glory, by Degrees

by Joseph

Dear Joseph,

That’s the sort of perspective that makes more sense to me. However, it does bring up some interesting possibilities. If a child being raised to believe something is right, or even holy, excuses their ignorance of the sinfulness of the act (or neglect of the act) then even murder could be done without judgement, right?

Another implication/question: does one need not necessarily accept Christ as their savior to enter one degree or another of Heaven so long as they were never taught that doing so was necessary?

What if a person is taught two mutually exclusive doctrines—one true and one false—but the argument for the false doctrine is more convincingly presented so it is more easily believed, and the person dedicates himself wholly to the false doctrine thinking all the while that he has made the correct decision, even though he actually has not. Remember, he was technically also presented with the true doctrine but chose not to heed it. Does he still get judged according to the truth he was presented but ignored?

—Thomas


Dear Thomas,

Very good questions. Sorry for taking so long to reply, life is catching up with me here and there; I’ve been busy with job interviewing and anniversary planning. But I have finally found some time to answer your questions.

“Another implication/question: does one need not necessarily accept Christ as their savior to enter one degree or another of Heaven so long as they were never taught that doing so was necessary?”

I want to answer this question about “accepting” Christ to get into heaven, but in so doing answer all your other questions too. The quick answer is this: yes, someone who has not accepted Christ as their Savior can enter one degree or another of Heaven, especially if they were never taught that it was necessary to do so. To explain this, I will provide a break down of the requirements or general dividing qualifications between the three degrees of glory in Heaven:

The highest degree of heaven is called the Celestial Kingdom. This is the eternal destination of those who have accepted the baptismal covenant by those having authority to perform the ordinance (the priesthood, another good subject for further discussion). Baptism isn’t a guarantee of course, but it is the minimum requirement to go there since baptism should be the beginning of the disciple’s path—a path of dedication. The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, as found in The Book of Mormon, says that Christ’s Gospel is to have faith in (importantly) Jesus Christ, repent of one’s sins, be baptized (again, by authorized servants), and then endure to the end. These are the terms Christ has set forth for salvation through His grace. Note that though there are still two glories of Heaven yet to describe, salvation is defined as being saved in the highest degree of glory.

This highest degree of glory is where our Heavenly Father dwells. As the creator of our spirits and our world, our Heavenly Father intends to bestow those who return to live with Him all that He has, creative authority and all (Revelations 21:7). Hence Christ is His heir and we may become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) if we follow Christ by the terms He has set (the terms of the Gospel mentioned above). That means we too can receive all that our Heavenly Father has. To fall short of this destination is to have one’s creative potential cut short—no eternal increase, a full stop—in other words, damnation (to actually be prevented from progression, not some arbitrary punishment, though this can truly be seen as a punishment).

So then the next degree of glory, the Terrestrial glory of Heaven, is—though a wonderful place beyond our ability to imagine—a destination of “damnation,” technically. Here all those go who believed in Christ but did not accept baptism by authority. Also those who lived without law in this life go here (scripturally termed “the heathen”). Essentially, it is the people who were just and good but chose not to be baptized by authority. They are the people that Joseph Smith spoke of when he said, “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite.” (To get a feel for the character of Joseph Smith, I’ll provide the rest of the quote, which goes on to say, “I do not want you to think that I’m very righteous, for I am not. There was one good man, and his name was Jesus.”)

“What if a person is taught two mutually exclusive doctrines—one true and one false—but the argument for the false doctrine is more convincingly presented so it is more easily believed… Does he still get judged according to the truth he was presented but ignored?”

The Lord included these types as those who inherit Terrestrial glory when He said: “These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:75, emphasis added).

Finally, the lowest degree of glory in Heaven is called the Telestial kingdom. Here go the “liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:103). They’re the type most Christian doctrines usually associate with being destroyed in Hell, but in reality they actually receive glory for having once chosen Christ before the world was and for being put through the grimy test of mortal life (remember, none of us would be here if we hadn’t chosen Christ as our savior once). Into this degree of glory go also those who rejected Christ. And that rejection, it’s important to note, has to have occurred once they had the opportunity to cleanly reject the true doctrines of Christ—whether in this life or in the next.

But again, yes, ‘someone who has not accepted Christ as their Savior can enter one degree or another of Heaven, especially if they were never taught that it was necessary to do so.’

“If a child being raised to believe something is right, or even holy, excuses their ignorance of the sinfulness of the act (or neglect of the act) then even murder could be done without judgement, right?”

The murder discussion will be a lengthy one to pursue at the moment. But suffice it to say—again, for the moment—that our conscience is God-given. The first time you do something that is even minutely wrong, you can feel it, but if you ignore that feeling and continue to sin more and more, that feeling will become numb to you. We call this guiding feeling “the light of Christ,” and it is part of our doctrine that every person who is born receives this light. When we “sin against the light,” as it’s been said, we begin to lose it (but don’t worry, you can get it back!). Sinning can only be sinning if it is against the light we have or receive, and some things are basic to the light we all carry with us to earth. In other words, no matter who raised you, there will be an urge not to take the life of another person and the murderer must act against that urge, or have it buried long ago along with their conscience.

So it is that God has not left us absolutely alone to figure out what is right and wrong when we are introduced at the Earth. Perhaps you can recall what it feels like to do something your conscience told you was right or wrong (maybe a small voice like Jiminy Cricket to Pinocchio, but less cricket-y). That sensation was in fact a spiritual one.

—Joseph

P.S.

Another factor to consider, without delving deeply for the moment, is that if a child is obeying a parent to do something wicked, the sin will be upon the head of the perverse parent. In the eternal scheme, parents will be able to receive some of the greatest glory, and the greatest condemnation, that Heaven can give. The responsibility to raise children in righteousness is one of the most important charges God has put into the hands of mankind.

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