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Do only Mormons go to Heaven

by W. John Walsh

Do Mormons teach that they are the only ones who go to heaven?

Latter-day Saints believe that all those who do not commit the unpardonable sin will eventually be saved in the kingdom of heaven.  This means we do not believe that you must be a member of our Church to go to heaven.  However, we believe that all men are rewarded in heaven based on their works and the type of lives that they lived in mortality.  There are certain blessings in Heaven which are only available to Latter-day Saints who have been true and faithful to the sacred covenants that they have made with God.  These exclusive blessings will be discussed later in this essay.  We do everything in our power to help the rest of the human family prepare themselves so that they might be worthy to receive these blessings also.

The Church is frequently attacked by competing denominations for holding an "exclusionary" view of salvation.  In reality, the LDS view of salvation is far more inclusive than that of other Christian denominations, as will now be demonstrated.  (Please note that this page does not attempt to delineate differences between LDS beliefs and all Non-LDS beliefs.   Instead, the anti-Mormon view presented is reflective of the Fundamentalist Evangelical Protestant groups who comprise the majority of the anti-Mormon community.):

LDS View

Anti-Mormon view

Heaven comprises multiple degrees of glory or dwelling places. In other words, not everyone who enters Heaven receives the same rewards. However, even the lowest degree of Heaven is supernally wonderful. There is only one Heaven. Everyone who enters it receives the same reward.
Believers and nonbelievers are judged by the same standards. They will be rewarded or punished "according to the deeds done in the body." There is no judgment as to how people lived their lives. Believers automatically enter Heaven while unbelievers automatically enter Hell.
Those sent to Hell are released into Heaven as soon as they repent and are cleansed from their sins. Those sent to Hell stay there forever. There is never an opportunity for pardon or redemption.

To bring out these differences even stronger, let's use a few hypothetical examples:

Hypothetical Example LDS Belief Anti-Mormon View

A six year old agnostic, atheist, or member of another religion is killed in a car wreck.

Since God does not hold young children or the mentally handicapped responsible for their transgressions, he goes to Heaven and inherit all the blessings that God offers to his children. (See Salvation of Children; Celestial Kingdom)

Since only Christian children [as defined by the anti-Mormons] go to Heaven, he burns in Hell forever.

An agnostic, atheist, or member of another religion lives a good, honest, and honorable life. He spends his free time working for charities like Habitat for Humanity, lives a morally chaste life, is kind to animals, etc. However, he could never quite bring himself to accept the gospel of Christ.

Since he did not take advantage of the Atonement of Christ, he must suffer for his personal sins. However, once he has been cleansed, he is released into a wonderful state of existence that is more glorious than the human mind can imagine. It is known as the Terrestrial Kingdom.

Since only Christians [as defined by the anti-Mormons] go to Heaven, he burns in Hell forever.

A man lives a life of lies, adultery, and murder.

Since he did not follow the Light of Christ, he must suffer for his personal sins. However, once he has been cleansed, he is released into a wonderful state of existence known as the Telestial Kingdom. While the Telestial Kingdom is more wonderful than the human mind can imagine, it is not as nice as the Terrestrial Kingdom noted above.

If he is not a Christian [as defined by the anti-Mormons], he burns in hell forever. However, if he is a Christian [as defined by the anti-Mormons], God will overlook his sins and accept him into Heaven.

A man dies without ever having the opportunity of hearing the gospel of Christ.

Since everyone has the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel for themselves, he will be taught it in the spirit world. If accepted, he would be entitled to all the blessings of the faithful. God sends no one to Hell for lack of opportunity. (See Salvation for the Dead)

Since there is no preaching of the gospel to the dead, he burns in hell forever. Only confessed Christians [as defined by the anti-Mormons] go to Heaven.

I could list more hypothetical examples, but I believe readers will understand the point. Did you notice that under the anti-Mormon view of salvation, all Latter-day Saints burn in Hell forever with no hope of pardon? Since they do not recognize us as believers (see Are Mormons Christians?), we are doomed even if we are really good people. On the other hand, under the LDS view of salvation, anti-Mormons generally inherit a glorious state of existence. Which view of salvation is more tolerant? Which do you believe to be more reflective of the God of Heaven, who is the living embodiment of Justice and Mercy?

Finally, the following question could be asked:

If you believe I'll receive the same judgment standard as a Latter-day Saint, why should I join the Church?

Latter-day Saints believe that the purpose of life is to obtain the fullness of salvation by becoming like God and living as he lives (See Godhood). We call this state of existence eternal life or exaltation. To obtain this ultimate degree of salvation, it is necessary to "obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel." (Third Article of Faith) These laws and ordinances are taught in their fulness only by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here are just a few examples -- faith in Jesus; repentance; baptism by immersion; gift of the Holy Ghost; gifts of the spirit; oath and covenant of the priesthood; eternal marriage; Sabbath keeping; Word of Wisdom; and law of consecration. While many Christian Churches teach portions of the gospel, we alone offer all the knowledge necessary to become Christlike and receive the fullness of salvation. As President Hinckley recently said:

"We, in effect, simply say to others, 'Bring all the good that you have and let us see if we can add to it'" ("The BYU Experience," BYU devotional address, 4 Nov. 1997).

In closing, I want to point out a very critical point.   Most religions, especially almost all Christian denominations, are by their very nature exclusionary.  Think about it.  Religion is the study of God and salvation.  By espousing a religion you are promoting the idea that your way is higher than those who do not share your views.  And most religions teach that those who do not share their views face some type of eternal detriment.  To clearly show my point, let me summarize a conversation I have had in the past with an Evangelical Christian.

<Evangelical Christian>  I am so mad.   How dare you Latter-day Saints believe that I will not inherit all the glories that God offers to his children!  I am a Christian and you are no better than me!

<Latter-day Saint> Do you believe you are going to Heaven?

<Evangelical Christian> Of course.

<Latter-day Saint> Why do you believe you are going to Heaven?

<Evangelical Christian>  I believe in Jesus and he is the way to salvation.

<Latter-day Saint> Do you believe that Muslims are going to heaven?

<Evangelical Christian> Of course not.  They don't follow Jesus, so they are all going to Hell.

<Latter-day Saint> Jews?

<Evangelical Christian> No.  As I said, you have to believe in Jesus.

<Latter-day Saint> Hindus? Buddhists? Wiccans? Atheists?  Agnostics?

<Evangelical Christian> No.  As I said, you have to believe in Jesus.

<Latter-day Saint>  Don't you find your views a little exclusionary?  Why are you so offended that Latter-day Saints believe you have to follow their teachings to receive all the blessings offered in Heaven? 

<Evangelical Christian> Well, it's OK if I hold exclusionary views about others, I just don't want anybody being exclusive towards me!

(See Do Latter-day Saints believe that they are the only Christians?; Have You Been Saved? by Elder Dallin H. Oaks; Tolerance; Teachings About the Afterlife home page; Interfaith Relations home page; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

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