Saved by Grace Unto Damnation?

By Bill McKeever

It is no secret that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a unique definition for the word salvation. In the words of Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie, salvation must be understood in light of these two definitions:

  1. “Unconditional or general salvation, that which comes by grace alone without obedience to gospel law, consists in the mere fact of being resurrected. In this sense salvation is synonymous with immortality; it is the inseparable connection of body and spirit so that the resurrected personage lives forever.”
  2. “Conditional or individual salvation, that which comes by grace coupled with gospel obedience, consists in receiving an inheritance in the celestial kingdom of God. This kind of salvation follows faith, repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued righteousness to the end of one’s mortal probation” (Mormon Doctrine pp. 669-670).

McConkie makes it very clear that resurrection from the dead is known in the Mormon vernacular as being synonymous with “salvation by grace alone” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 671). He wrote, “those who gain only this general or unconditional salvation will still be judged according to their works and receive their places in a terrestrial or a telestial kingdom. They will, therefore be damned.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 669).

There are several reasons why these definitions should cause Christians concern. One can be found in the words of Jesus Himself. In John 5:28 and 29 our Lord is recorded as saying, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

If we are to believe the LDS definition of salvation by grace alone we must conclude that the great majority of those who are saved by grace will be saved by grace unto damnation.

It would be erroneous to assume that this will include only those who refuse to embrace Joseph Smith’s “restored gospel.”

Tenth Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith did not offer a lot of hope for many professing Latter-day Saints when he said, “There will not be such an overwhelming number of the Latter-day Saints who will get there” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:15). Smith agreed with Apostle Francis M. Lyman’s assessment that “if we save one-half of the Latter-day Saints, that is, with an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God, we will be doing well.”

If our conversations with Mormons are any indication, it seems that far less than half are confident enough to say they will definitely find a place in the celestial kingdom. The great majority of Mormons with whom we have spoken haven’t a clue as to where they will end up in the next life. There is a good reason for this. LDS leaders have insisted that entrance into the celestial kingdom can only be obtained by keeping celestial law which has been described as complete obedience to all of God’s laws. We have yet to meet a Mormon who is doing this.

Can Christians be damned?

McConkie said that damnation will affect many types of individuals. On pages 176-177 of his book Mormon Doctrine, he stated that damnation will be experienced by those who are sons of perdition. On page 746 of the same book he describes sons of perdition as Lucifer, the demons (Mormonism teaches that the demons are God’s spirit-children who chose to follow Lucifer in the “war in heaven”), and “those who have a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause…then link themselves with Lucifer and come out in open rebellion.” The latter would seem to include ex-Mormons who make a concerted effort to rescue their friends and loved ones from Mormonism by exposing its error. Of course no one can know for sure if such persons ever had a “perfect knowledge” of the faith they oppose.

However, McConkie expands the definition of damnation to also include “those who fail to gain an inheritance in the celestial kingdom” as well as those “who fail to gain exaltation in the highest heaven within the celestial world, even though they do gain a celestial mansion in one of the lower heavens of that world” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 176).

If these definitions are correct, then we can conclude that many Mormons will be damned in the next life. If these same Mormons insist that they are true Christians, then we must conclude that Christians can be damned. If true Christians cannot be damned, then based on Joseph Fielding Smith’s analogy, half of LDS members are not Christian. If that is the case, then consistency would demand that they stop using that title to describe themselves.

If damnation awaits millions of professing Mormons, we can only assume that based on these definitions, damnation also awaits the great majority of Christians throughout the world as well.

What does the Bible say?

Biblically, all Christians are going to be the recipient of the best God has to offer. Because all of their sins are forgiven (Colossians 2:13), they can anticipate living with Him for eternity. Since only Christians are justified in the sight of God, only they can rest in knowing they are no longer under the wrath of God but are free from the law of sin and death (John 3:36; Romans 5:1,2). By faith they pass from death to life (John 5:24).

As a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the believer can fully expect Christ’s atoning power to expiate (remove) and propitiate (satisfy) all of their sins. If the sins of Christians have been removed and satisfied, then damnation is no longer something to be feared.

On the other hand, the fate of the unredeemed is described in much more negative terms. They unfortunately, will die in their sins (John 8:24) and face an eternity of torment; a fire that shall never be quenched (Mark 9:43-45). Jesus told us that many on this list would complain that personal efforts should be considered. They would insist that God is too harsh and cry, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matthew 7:22.)

While such religious actions might seem impressive, they apparently will not satisfy the holiness of God. Sadly, they will be told to depart from Him.


For more on the topic of salvation, click here.