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Doctrine and Covenants 137:7 – Is it better to have never known?

By Bill McKeever 

Mormons often pride themselves in the fact that Mormonism can be a hard religion to live up to. Unlike “gracers” (such as myself, I suppose), theirs is a religion of action and effort. If true salvation, otherwise known as exaltation in the celestial kingdom, is to be gained, it must be earned. In the words of Thomas Monson, President Gordon Hinckley’s first counselor, “It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned” (Thomas Monson, “An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p.53).

To insist that the true Christian faith is not a religion of action and effort is to commit a huge stereotype. The New Testament informs every Christian that we are saved “unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Good works should follow conversion, we just can’t accept the unbiblical position that the good works we perform have any bearing on our justification before God. They are a part of our personal sanctification, not our justification.

I don’t disagree that Mormonism sets a very high standard for its adherents. It is just that I have never known of a Mormon who has ever met that standard. Mormons talk a lot about keeping all of the commandments and forsaking all sin, but I’ve never come across one who has done this.

It is true that a Latter-day Saint is under some serious obligations. In fact, so strict are these requirements that tenth Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith said that it is not likely that even half of all Mormons will be saved in the celestial kingdom! He wrote, “There will not be such an overwhelming number of the Latter-day Saints who will get there. President Francis M. Lyman many times has declared, and he had reason to declare, I believe, 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. Not that the Lord is partial, not that he will draw the line as some will say, to keep people out. He would have every one of us go in if we would; but there are laws and ordinances that we must keep; if we do not observe the law we cannot enter” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:15).

Imagine the impact of the above statement. If what Smith (and Lyman) said is true, that means that approximately 7.5 million of the more than 15 million Mormons will be spending eternity with non-Mormons (based on 2013 membership statistics).

However, Joseph Smith offers an interesting loophole found in Doctrine and Covenants 137:7. It reads, “Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.” In other words, if you had never heard of Mormonism but would have embraced it had you heard, you are entitled to a free pass. Without any sacrifice whatsoever, you get to enjoy an eternity in the best place that the Mormon religion has to offer. In fact, you will apparently have access to the same place that hard-working Mormons who, during their lifetimes, denied themselves of such things as coffee, tea , and the tithe of their gross income—along with a host of other demands placed on them by their church leaders—eventually hope to go.

It seems to me that if the Mormon Church really wanted the best for humanity, they would recall their missionary force. After all, if the celestial kingdom awaits those who had never known but would have accepted had they known, they are better off being completely ignorant about Joseph Smith and his “restored” gospel rather than risk accepting it now and not being able to live up to this religion’s many requirements.

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