“For behold, this is my work and my glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”1
In this stirring statement to Moses, the God of heaven summarizes His grand design in relation to mankind. He is going to bring about our immortality and eternal life. He is our Father. We are His children. He is going to help us “grow up” and become like Him in every way, which includes obtaining a resurrected, glorified body of flesh and bones and dwelling in His presence in a never-ending state of holiness and happiness. “And there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.”2
We as Latter-Day Saints seem to have no trouble believing that God is going to grant us immortality. We don’t question the doctrine of universal resurrection. We believe the scriptures which say: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,”3 and “all shall rise from the dead...both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost.”4
However, we generally are much less inclined to believe the second part of God’s declaration to Moses--that He is going to guide us to, and ultimately grant us, eternal life. “I’m just not a celestial person,” says one. “I’ll be happy if I can make it to the terrestrial kingdom,” says another. “I’m worried that my children who left the Church will wind up stuck forever in the telestial kingdom,” says a third. In these surely heartfelt yet dismal views, eternal life appears distant and beyond reach except for an uber-faithful few.
The truth is that we are selling ourselves and others short. We are underestimating the Lord’s capacity to sanctify us, and to save and exalt us in celestial splendor. We are forgetting that “there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do”--including bringing to pass our eternal life--”but what he will do it.”
The truth is: All except the sons of perdition will inherit eternal life!
This amazing and awe-inspiring truth is succinctly stated in a passage from the Doctrine and Covenants:
“But, behold, verily I say unto you, before the earth shall pass away, Michael, mine archangel shall sound his trump, and then shall all the dead awake, for their graves shall be opened, and they shall come forth--yea, even all. And the righteous shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life; and the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father; Wherefore I will say unto them--Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”5
At the Great Day of Judgment we will stand either on the right hand of God or on His left.6 We will be either righteous or wicked.7 Just or unjust.8 Clean or unclean.9 Holy or unholy.10 Happy or unhappy.11 Saints or sinners.12 Heirs of eternal life or doomed to eternal death.13
“And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us--That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; That through him all might be saved14 whom the Father had put into his power and made by him; Who glorifies the Father, and saves all the works of his hands, except those sons of perdition who deny the Son after the Father has revealed him. Wherefore, he saves all except them.”15
This is the gospel, the good news! “Glad tidings of great joy!”16 “How glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!”17
My purpose in writing about this subject is to persuade the reader that our all-loving and all-powerful Heavenly Father has created a plan that allows each of us to advance, progress, and ultimately become even as He is; and that, except for an irrepressibly recalcitrant few, eternal life and exaltation constitute our divinely assured destiny. I propose that in the end, there are only two possible outcomes for all people in all the ages of the world--to become, in the words of C.S. Lewis, either “immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”18 Unless we utterly refuse to repent and choose to rebel against His sovereignty and that of His Heir, Jesus Christ, during the day of our probation, He is going to honor His word and, when we are ready, crown us with immortality and eternal life in His celestial kingdom.19 There is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but he will do it.
Now, before any of my brothers and sisters in the gospel raise the cry of “Heresy!” and submit my name to the Brethren for much-needed correction and reproof,20 I intend to provide a number of articles that will explain in greater detail how the scriptures support this idea of a near-universal salvation for the human family. I will explore key concepts, including: usage and meaning of the terms salvation, eternal life, and exaltation; who the sons of perdition are and how they arrive at their terrible fate; how to reconcile the dualistic view of the Judgment in the Book of Mormon with the vision of the degrees of glory in D&C 76; and how a three-part pattern of eternal progression is embedded throughout the holy word. I will also write about some wonderful things we can look forward to when we eventually receive our eternal glory.
Noting that there is no official Church doctrine on many matters pertaining to life beyond the veil;21 and also that, like any other human, my reasoning is subject to the fallibilities of a fallen and imperfect nature--I will nevertheless endeavor to show how the scriptures themselves, with additional illumination supplied by insightful and inspired extracanonical sources--give us abundant reason to “have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, [that we will] be raised to eternal life, and this because of [our] faith in him according to [His] promise.”22
1. Moses 1:39.
2. Abr. 2:17.
3. 1 Cor. 15:22.
4. Alma 11:41-44.
5. D&C 29:26-28, italics added.
6. Matt. 25:31-33.
7. 1 Ne. 15:36.
8. Alma 12:8.
9. 2 Ne. 9:15-16.
10. Morm. 9:1-6.
11. Morm. 9:13-14.
12. Mosiah 3:19, 23-27.
13. 2 Ne. 2:27-29.
14. The use of the word “saved” in this passage is essentially the equivalent of receiving eternal life. For example, see Alma 11:40; Abr. 2:11.
15. D&C 76:40-44, italics added.
16. D&C 128:19.
17. D&C 128:23.
18. C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory.
19. James 1:12; D&C 138:51.
20. My sweet wife would likely agree with this sentiment, but for reasons other than ‘heresy.’ ;)
21. Fairmormon.org is a helpful website that lists whether or not the Church has taken an official position on a plethora of commonly-asked questions pertaining to the plan of salvation.
22. Moro. 7:41.