Certain souls will not be saved


The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The contention in heaven was-Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved; and the devil said he could save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favor of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him” (TPJS, p. 357).

Source: Encyclopedia of Mormonism, War in Heaven

That phrase has always intrigued me. We believe that eventually all will be resurrected and will be assigned a kingdom of glory. Does that mean that most will be saved? We teach that there are very few who will become Sons of Perdition. A simplified definition of a Son of Perdition is one who has had open visions of God and Christ and then goes about fighting against their work.

The unembodied spirits who supported Lucifer in the war in heaven and were cast out (Moses 4:1-4) and mortals who commit the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost will inherit the same condition as Lucifer and Cain, and thus are called “sons of perdition.” Again, we believe that it is very difficult for most people to commit the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost.

The War in Heaven

We believe and teach that spiritual growth is dependent upon agency, or the capacity to act for ourselves, and to be accountable for those actions. In other words, we have the freedom to choose our actions. Most people I know feel very strongly about that freedom. There are some of course, who reject the idea of being held accountable to anyone else for their actions.

Satan proposed that all could be saved or redeemed and brought back into Heavenly Father‘s presence. He felt that he could ensure the obedience of everyone through force. In other words, he would remove choice from the plan. We would pass through mortality without opposition. Amazingly, he eventually became the one who provided the source for opposition in our lives.

My understanding of the War in Heaven is that we fought a war of words and opinions over elements of Lucifer’s plan and our Father’s plan. We debated over the details of obedience, submission, faith, repentance, the need for a Savior, opposition, choice, freedom, agency and a myriad of other basic doctrines of the gospel. It’s the same stuff we debate about today.

Opposition and temptation

We believe and teach that Lucifer and those who followed him were cast out of heaven and came to this earth as devils, never to have the opportunity to become mortal or have physical bodies of their own. We also believe that they can and do possess, even if just for a few moments, the physical bodies of mortals when we sin, or knowingly disobey God’s commandments for us.

Although it is true doctrine believed and taught today, I don’t think we should get hung up on this concept of evil spirits possessing the bodies of mortals. For most people, their influence is only momentary, such as when we lose our temper or when someone gets so drunk that they are no longer in control of themselves. Being under the influence of evil can be subtle or obvious.

I think most people, or at least Christian people, agree that the influence of the adversary can be seen in the world throughout history and especially in our day. We see his influence in the misuse of drugs, in pornography, in crude language and behavior, murder, rape, abortion, adultery, homosexual behavior, oppressive tyranny, war, divorce and in many other areas.

Some will not be saved

Now this is going to be pure conjecture, and I throw it out there as speculation. I wonder if maybe what the Prophet Joseph taught, that there are certain souls that will not be saved, applies to many who were born into mortality. In other words, I don’t think his explanation of the war in heaven was limited to the loss of just those who followed Lucifer and were cast out.

Of course, this really requires a clear definition of what it means to be saved. I define salvation as being placed beyond the power of one’s enemies. It means redemption from the bondage of the consequences of sin and the lasting power of death. Of course, to be saved from sin, one must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and abide by the conditions of the atonement.

Therefore, when the prophet Joseph Smith taught that there are certain souls that will not be saved, I believe we can logically apply that to many mortals as well. They are not saved from sin because they will not believe in Jesus Christ, exercise faith in him, repent of their sins and obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel. They will not be saved from the consequences of sin.

The War in Heaven continues

Now this may seem very obvious and you may wonder what point I am trying to make in this essay. I’ll try to spell it out clearly. I know individuals, as you probably do too, who have been taught the gospel and at one time understood it well enough to know what the Lord requires of them, and yet decided to exercise their agency and not believe or act upon their knowledge.

In other words, they have been taught what it takes to be saved from the consequences of sin, and yet they refuse to take advantage of that free gift of salvation. They will not be saved. They must suffer the consequences of their sins and someday pay the price of suffering themselves. So Joseph taught and it is central to God’s plan, that some just will not believe and be saved.

The War in Heaven continues. We fought over the idea that some would not be saved. I see great evidence all around me that many believe in Lucifer’s plan – that there should be no consequences for sin, that we should not be held accountable for our actions or our beliefs. This is most evidenced by those who refuse to accept personal responsibility for their own lives.

Summary and conclusion

While we believe that all will eventually be resurrected and obtain a place in the Kingdom of God, we do not believe that all will be saved. To be saved means to not have to suffer the price that justice demands. To be saved means to have mercy extended to us upon conditions of faith, repentance and obedience to the commandments of God. It is obvious that not all will be saved.

Perhaps it is stubbornness or pride that prevents them from accepting the free gift of mercy. They are so invested in the idea that they should not be held accountable for their actions that they will not do something so simple as to believe and repent. That idea is a holdover from the War in Heaven. Lucifer said that there is no sin and that it isn’t fair to be accountable for sin.

Accepting responsibility and being accountable for one’s own life can be a tough decision to make. It precludes a belief in God and the idea that there are standards of behavior that He requires. In other words, we can’t live our lives with the idea that anything goes and that whatever we do is not sin. That just won’t cut it. Those who believe that will not be saved.

Note: Almost all the hyperlinked references in this essay are to the new HTML version of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, now available online at BYU. Thanks to those who provided it.

11 Responses

  1. “I know individuals, as you probably do too…In other words, they have been taught what it takes to be saved from the consequences of sin, and yet they refuse to take advantage of that free gift of salvation. They will not be saved.”Well, this assumes that they continue in their refusal until the end. Suffering acts as a catalyst for change. I doubt that many of the people we know will end up refusing until the very end.Howard

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  2. Thanks, Howard for reminding us of one of the great gifts of mortality – time. It fills the heart with hope to realize that some people learn late in life the importance of turning to the Savior for mercy and help.Perhaps they are fulfilling their purpose in life by learning and growing in their experiences, even though they are as yet, without Christ in the world. You also pointed out one of the great purposes of suffering – to invite change and repentance.Thanks so much for visiting my blog and adding this excellent clarifying comment – very much appreciated. Cheers!

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  3. They must suffer the consequences of their sins and someday pay the price of suffering themselves“I don’t see how it is possible for there to be two ways to pay the eternal debt of sin:Ourselves or Christ.Christ came so that all would have to enter the Kingdom of God through His Atonement or no other way at all.”We believe that all will eventually be resurrected and obtain a place in the Kingdom of God, we do not believe that all will be saved.“How can one be in the Kingdom of God, but not saved?

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  4. Hi JayFlow22,Thanks for visiting my blog. You raise two excellent and related questions. To paraphrase the first question, you ask, "Who pays the price of sin – us or Christ?" Let me know if I dd not understand your question correctly.Without looking up quotes, I'll try to clarify from my own understanding. Yes, it's and either or situation. Either we accept Christ's suffering for us or we must suffer the price of our sins. The scripture that comes to mind is D&C 19:16-17."For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I."It is my understanding that those who do not accept the Savior, repent and obey his commandments, must suffer the effects of their own sins. In other words, they are not saved from suffering.In your second question, you ask, "How can one be in the Kingdom of God, but not saved?" It is my understanding that those who inherit the Telestial Kingdom must suffer from their sins in hell for a thousand years during the period of the Millennium.So they are not saved from suffering. Yet they are given a place in the Telestial Kingdom after they pay the price of their own sins. Perhaps I can best clarify this by reiterating the point of my post. They are in the Kingdom of God because they met the requirements of justice on their own without Christ. They were not saved from suffering.Hopefully we are agreed on the fact that some will not be saved from suffering by their own choice to not exercise faith and repent. Yes, there are two ways that the demands of justice can be met – either by Christ's suffering for us or by our own suffering. As the Savior said, we do not want to go there as it is an exquisite kind of pain that we know not.

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  5. My question arises b/c, to my understanding, the punishment for sin is suffering for all eternity. The point of Jesus Christ coming was that man could not pay the debt for their own sins.In D&C 19, the unrepentant must suffer "even as I” — that’s eternal suffering. He experienced it in a finite length of time b/c He is God. Man would have to experience it for all eternity.I understand that the common theory in the culture of the Church is that Telestial people pay the price of their own sins, but I feel as if that is tradition and not doctrine. There are not 2 courses to the Kingdom of God. There is only one — through Christ.If, as you say, Telestial people are in the Kingdom of God, then they must have been baptized [most likely, in their case, by proxy] b/c Christ said that is essential [John 3:5]. Baptism is not effectual unless you have faith in Jesus Christ and repent.We do agree on the fact that some will not be saved from suffering by their own choice to not exercise faith and repent.

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  6. A careful reading of D&C 19:4-19 teaches us the meaning of the words endless and eternal. I do not believe that the punishment of sin is intended to last for all eternity. The law of justice demands that a price for sin be paid – either by Christ or by us. God is also subject to the laws of justice. Suffering pays the price of sin. However, man cannot bring himself back into the presence of God. For that we need Christ. We also do not yet have the power to resurrect ourselves. Those keys will be granted when we are ready.I assert that it is doctrine and not just tradition that man must pay for his own sins if he does not accept the atonement of Jesus Christ. Sin removes us from God. Repentance is the only way to return to God. Suffering is a part of repentance. Christ is a vicarious sacrifice for us. His suffering pays for our sins if we accept and obey Him. Resurrection is unconditional, forgiveness is conditional and requires action on our part – faith and repentance."…to hell there is an exit as well as an entrance. Hell is no place to which a vindictive judge sends prisoners to suffer and to be punished principally for his glory; but it is a place prepared for the teaching, the disciplining of those who failed to learn here upon the earth what they should have learned."True, we read of everlasting punishment, unending suffering, eternal damnation. That is a direful expression; but in his mercy the Lord has made plain what those words mean. ‘Eternal punishment,’ he says, is God’s punishment, for he is eternal; and that condition or state or possibility will ever exist for the sinner who deserves and really needs such condemnation;"but this does not mean that the individual sufferer or sinner is to be eternally and everlastingly made to endure and suffer. No man will be kept in hell longer than is necessary to bring him to a fitness for something better. When he reaches that stage the prison doors will open and there will be rejoicing among the hosts who welcome him into a better state."Source: Elder James E. Talmage in General Conference, April 1930Are those who inherit the Telestial kingdom baptized? We read that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the Christ. But we also read that they did not accept Christ or his gospel. In other words, they did not believe in vicarious suffering on behalf of the repentant and faithful. God and Christ do not dwell in the Telestial kingdom. So perhaps they are not baptized because what good would it do them as they do not believe or accept it?

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  7. In the Telestial kingdom is the presence of the Holy Ghost. What is necessary before one can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost? Baptism.What is necessary before one can enter the Telestial Room in the Temple? Baptism.”This life is the time to repent. That is why I presume it will take a thousand years after the first resurrection until the last group will be prepared to come forth. It will take them a thousand years to do what it would have taken but three score years and ten to accomplish in this life.“–Melvin J BallardTheir time in Hell is for repentance. What does Moroni 8 tell us that the 1st fruits of repentance is? Baptism.There are not two ways. There is only one.

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  8. Yep, you’re right. We agree. Points well made. So the suffering in Hell in only until they accept what Jesus Christ did for them as well as vicarious baptism. Only then can they exit that time of punishment to come forth to the Telestial kingdom. Thanks for pointing out that there is only one way to be redeemed – through Christ.

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  9. I think we need to be careful about our definition of “saved.” Not everyone is going to repent, and not everyone is going to be saved.

    Some Mormons seem to think that just about everybody is going to partake of salvation in a degree of glory. I’ve even heard Mormons teach a lessons at church and say that very few people will end up in hell. But let me ask you: How many people are meek and humble before the Lord? And how many are rebellious? There’s a lot more in the latter category, I’d say. They’ll stubbornly go their own way, throwing off the guidance of the Holy Spirit so they can walk in the ways of men.

    There are plenty of rebellious people who will remain unfit for heaven, even after the best efforts of others to convince them to accept the Lord’s way rather than their own.

    People seem to forget that repentance is necessary in order to partake of salvation. And repentance takes work. We have to endure to the end. That’s not something a lot of people — and I do mean a lot — are really willing to do. It’s much easier for them to go along with whatever the culture says is popular than to decide, like Nephi did, that whatever the Lord tells them to do is right.

    We’ve got a lot more Lamans and Lemuels than Nephis around, you’ve got to admit.

    So does hell lack for inhabitants? No. As long as there are people arrogant enough to think they’re smarter than the Lord, there’ll be a place for them in hell.

    Remember the evil combinations of old? Well, it takes quite a few people to combine for that kind of wickedness. I say there are a lot more souls in hell than many Mormons are willing to admit.

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  10. The “contention in heaven” quote is the topic I chose to study today and in surfing the web, I came across this thread. I realize that I am late to the game, but I’d like to add a few points of doctrine to the comments. (All that I add here can be found on lds.org)

    The most important one seems to be what Church doctrine is regarding the “Kingdom of God” or “Kingdom of Heaven”. When used in the context of life following the final judgment (which takes place after the Millennium), it specifically refers ONLY to the Celestial Kingdom because that is the kingdom where God dwells. The Telestial and Terrestrial Kingdoms are kingdom’s of glory, but those who dwell there are not considered to belong to the same “Kingdom of God”.

    (from LDS.org)” The people who live in the telestial kingdom are those who did not accept either the gospel or a testimony of Jesus, either on earth or in the spirit world. They will suffer for their own sins in spirit prison until after the Millennium. Then they will finally be resurrected.”

    It is not in line with the laws of God to baptize anyone who does not accept the gospel or a testimony of Jesus. Telestial people pay the price required for their own sins because Justice demands payment and they do not accept Christ as their Redeemer. There IS only one way to the Kingdom of God-these people choose not to belong to that Kingdom.

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  11. [...] Joseph said, “All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition.” In order to become a son of perdition, a man “must have the heavens opened onto him, and know God, and then sin against Him.” He said there are some souls who simply cannot be saved. [...]

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