Note: The following was originally printed in the January/February 2020 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hope for eternal life. Christians also hope for eternal life. And while Mormonism and Christianity define eternal life differently, there is one aspect that is the same: For both faiths, eternal life is the absolute best and highest everlasting joy God has for His people.
Regarding eternal life, twelfth LDS president Spencer W. Kimball once taught religious educators,
“I use the blackboard as I go into the stakes of Zion to dramatize some of the things that seem to me to be very, very important. …I draw on the blackboard a series of circles, and in the top one I write ‘Eternal Life or Exaltation.’ That is our ultimate goal for everyone, of course.” (“Circles of Exaltation,” Charge to Religious Educators, 3rd edition (1994), 42)
President Kimball went on to explain “the straight and narrow way” to eternal life or exaltation. He labeled his series of circles with the things that he believed would lead people to this everlasting joy.
The bottom circle, the first influence leading to eternal life, he labeled as the church’s seminary and institute programs (that teach young adult Latter-day Saints). This circle led up to the next, which he labeled “a mission,” described as the Mormon commitment that “has the most important impact” on achieving the final step that leads to eternal life. There remained one more circle immediately preceding the one labeled “Eternal Life or Exaltation.” President Kimball said this one was the “gateway to exaltation.” He labeled it “eternal marriage.”
“That is the gateway to exaltation,” President Kimball said, “and the Lord says through John, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.’ (John 10:1.) In fact, there is only one door. You all know it. I hope you are indoctrinating each and every boy and girl that comes into your presence. Only one door—no other—and that is eternal marriage, for no soul will enter the portals of exaltation alone.”
How very different President Kimball’s teaching was from Christianity! On Mormonism Research Ministry’s website, there is an excerpt from a sermon preached by the great nineteenth-century Christian pastor Charles Spurgeon. In this sermon, the “Prince of Preachers” also spoke of the “one door” to salvation or eternal life. He said,
“You must understand that there is only one door to salvation, and that is Christ; there is one way, and that is Christ; one truth, and that is Christ; one life, and that is Christ. Salvation lies in Jesus only; it does not lie in you, in your doings, or your feelings, or your knowings, or your resolutions.”
Or your eternal marriage, I might add. For Charles Spurgeon, eternal life was all about Christ. In the Bible, a few verses after the one from John that President Kimball quoted in his talk, Jesus identified the door. He said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. …I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:9-10). Charles Spurgeon and Jesus agree: There is one door to eternal life, and that door is Christ.
But President Kimball taught people to try to climb in by another way. In his teaching on things he considered “very, very important,” the “straight and narrow way” to eternal life, Christ was never even mentioned. It seems that, though the Book of Mormon says “…we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ…” (2 Nephi 25:26), Mormonism has no need for Jesus when it comes to eternal life.