Monday, September 7, 2015

A New Paradigm: Amulek's View of Salvation and Eternal Life

In his preaching to the people of Ammonihah, the prophet Amulek taught: “And he [the Son of God] 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.”1

Let’s look carefully at the last part of this verse.  It contains a glittering truth that we typically gloss over:

“These are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.”

In other words: All who are saved by Christ will inherit eternal life!

This concept is significantly different than our usual paradigm regarding salvation and eternal life.  In the Church we generally speak of eternal life as a subset of salvation--that the majority of mankind will be saved, but a lesser number will receive eternal life.  We believe that inhabitants of the telestial and terrestrial worlds are saved, but we reserve eternal life for those who inherit the celestial kingdom (or, in a narrower interpretation, the highest degree within that kingdom).

Amulek presents a different perspective.  In his prophetic view, eternal life and salvation are inseparable.  He makes it clear that citizenship in the kingdom of heaven is the measuring stick of life and salvation.  “How can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven?”2  “These are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.”

If we apply Amulek’s reasoning to the common notion that eternal life is limited to those in the celestial kingdom, we must suppose that inhabitants of the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms are not saved. They must, in the prophet’s words, be classified as “wicked,” and “remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death.”3  They must be sons of perdition.  They must be damned eternally.

This conception of heaven doesn’t make any sense, however.  How could the inhabitants of the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms be unredeemed?  How could they be wicked, unrepentant, and damned?  Doesn’t Amulek argue passionately that Christ “cannot save [us] in [our] sins”?4  Isn’t heaven--all of it, every degree--the habitation of the holy?  If salvation were to exist solely in the celestial kingdom, how hellish the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms would be!

Our understanding of Amulek’s doctrine regarding the resurrection and Atonement is substantially enhanced when we realize that what we call the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial kingdoms are all part of one great kingdom, what he calls “the kingdom of heaven.”5  To be a citizen of that kingdom is to be saved; to gain entry is the guarantee of eternal life.  Progression within that realm is not only possible, it is the natural order of things.  All who are redeemed can and will ascend to its glorious summit.  Thus, life and salvation are inextricably intertwined.  And so it is, in harmony with the Holy Ghost,6 the prophet confidently proclaims:  

These are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.

1. Alma 11:40.
2. Alma 11:37.
3. Alma 11:41. Throughout his recorded ministry, Amulek speaks of only two groups in the resurrection--the righteous and the wicked (i.e., those that are saved and those that are damned). Some have suggested that he and other Book of Mormon prophets were speaking only of the extremes--only the very righteous and the very wicked.  However, it is evident in their prophetic expressions that they include all people within their twofold classification.  See, for example:  2 Ne. 9:15-16; Alma 11:44; Morm. 3:20; Moro. 10:34.
4. Alma 11:37.
5. Ibid.
6. Alma 11:22. “I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord.”

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