The Savior Saves Us from Hell
Christ offers us victory over death, sin, our worst selves, and ignorance, but also over hell. Many Christians face a dilemma. They believe God gives common grace (what we would call the light of Christ) to all people, but saving grace only to Christians. So, if everyone has to accept Jesus to be saved, what happens to those who never hear about the Savior? Years ago people taught that these souls went straight to hell, but what does that say about God’s mercy? Today people teach that they will go to heaven regardless of their actions or choices. What does that say about God’s justice? Only in the restored gospel do we find the answer that satisfies both mercy and justice: between death and the Resurrection all spirits will have the chance to learn of Christ and accept saving ordinances performed on their behalf. The Bible Dictionary states, “Knowledge of divine and spiritual things is absolutely essential for one’s salvation; hence the gospel is to be taught to every soul” (“Knowledge,” 721).
For Latter-day Saints, hell is not a pit of fire where the wicked are tormented forever. Rather, the word hell is used to describe a part of the Spirit world—a place of rehabilitation rather than punishment. It is a temporary state in which individuals can choose to be taught, repent, come to Christ, and progress. Ultimately, hell can also describe outer darkness, a permanent place reserved for the devil and his followers, including those who, even after receiving a body, being taught, and having every imaginable opportunity to change, deny the truth staring them in the face and choose to defect to perdition. Those who choose to join Satan in outer darkness will feel anguish—not just because they have chosen to reject repentance and suffer for their own sins but because their progress will be forever blocked and they will have no one to blame but themselves (see Helaman 14:29–31). . . .
The Savior Makes Exaltation Possible
Salvation also means obtaining eternal life or being exalted. Many Christians see immortality and eternal life as the same thing, but Latter-day Saints understand they are different. The Lord said, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Immortality describes living forever, and eternal life describes the life lived by our Heavenly Parents. Elder Bruce C. Hafen wrote that eternal life refers not to length of life but to quality of life, which “involves the long-term, difficult, gradual development of the capacity to live like Christ” (Bruce C. Hafen, “The Value of the Veil,” Ensign, June 1977).
Elder Oaks has written, “This salvation requires more than repentance and baptism by appropriate priesthood authority. It also requires the making of sacred covenants, including eternal marriage, in the temples of God, and faithfulness to those covenants by enduring to the end.”2 Because of these expectations, some people assume that we are saved by grace but exalted by our own works. This is not the case. Exaltation is a gift of grace. It is grace at its finest. Grace can not only get us to heaven, but it can give us the desire to stay. This type of salvation offers victory over our first estate (premortality) and our second estate (mortal life) and constitutes the opportunity to be changed and become like God. This transformation is not possible on our own. This salvation, and the sense of mission it provides, reveals the true greatness of Christ’s Atonement as it opens both the gates and windows of heaven.
Lead image public domain
Learn more with Brad Wilcox's new book, Changed Through His Grace!
In this book, Brother Wilcox uses real-life stories and personal experiences to demonstrate how we can choose to receive Christ's grace more fully. This book is filled with hope. God's help is not a prize for the righteous. It is the source of righteousness. His grace is not a reward for the worth. It is the source of worthiness. It is not waiting for us once we change. It is the power we need throughout the entire perfecting process.