JCRUTCH - What is the significance (meaning?) of baptism in the Mormon church? Is baptism necessary for salvation? How is one "saved" in the Mormon Church? Meaning, how does one make it into heaven? What about assurance of salvation? Can a well-meaning Mormon have promise of a place in heaven and then screw up somehow and lose his place there? How do you know if your relatives are in heaven? Or maybe you don't know????? I would appreciate Biblical (non-Mormon) Scripture references to support the answers. Thanks you for your help. I am trying to sort this all out in contrast to Christian beliefs.
JOEL - In order to answer your questions correctly, you must first understand that the LDS believe in latter-day revelation from God to His prophets. Things are not always clear in the Bible. That's why there are so many different Christian religions in the world today. Our latter-day prophets help clarify many points of doctrine as they are inspired by God and have written them down in other scriptures. So in order to tell you what we believe, I have to include that information as well. I can not only refer to things in the Bible. I know hearing this is going to make you say, "See! He can't prove what he believes in by just using the Bible!" And you would be right. Because not everything that God wants us to know or do is in the Bible. Those things that are in the Bible, people don't agree on what they mean. Anyway, on to your questions if you are still interested. I will refer to as many Bible scriptures as I can and will leave out references to LDS scripture.
JCRUTCH - "What is the significance (meaning?) of baptism in the Mormon church? Is baptism necessary for salvation?"
JOEL - It is very significant. The First four principles and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are:
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins
4. Laying on of hands for the gift of the holy Ghost.
(Fourth Article of Faith of the LDS Church)
Baptism is one of the first steps on the road to salvation and an essential ordinance for everyone joining Christ's Church and Kingdom of God as stated in John 3:3-5 and in Mark 16:15-16.
The ordinance of baptism serves two purposes. It washes away any sins that the repentent soul has committed (Acts 22:16, Acts 2:38) and it allows them membership into the Church and God's Kingdom (John 3:5). They then have the potential of gaining access to Eternal life with God, if they obey God's commandments and endure to the end (Mat 24:13, Mark 13:13). LDS believe in baptism by immersion (John 3:23, Mat. 3:16) by those who have been ordained in the priesthood (John 15:16) to perform the ordinance as the apostles did (Acts 8:5-17).
Baptism is so important that LDS members allow themselves to be baptized here on earth on behalf of those who have died (1 Cor 15:29), so that if they choose to accept the Gospel later, the ordinance will have already been performed for them.
LDS believe that immediately after we die we all stand before God in Paradise (Luke 23:43) who decides if we stay in Paradise or go into spirit prison to await the resurrection (1 Pet 3:19-20). Luke explaines the separation between Paradise and spirit prison in Luke 16:2-26. Those who are sent to spirit prison because they never had a fair chance to hear and accept the gospel while here on earth, will get that chance after they die. Peter tells how Christ went there Himself to begin the preaching efforts to those in spirit prison (1 Pet. 3:18-20; 4:6). Why would He do that if they could not have a chance to be saved? They must still be baptised however, and so the LDS members do that for them in our temples. Later on comes the resurrection of all mankind after which we are judged according to our works (Rev. 20:12-13) and are then assigned to a glory of heaven, which I will explain later.
JCRUTCH - "How is one "saved" in the Mormon Church? Meaning, How does one make it into heaven?"
JOEL - To most other Christians being "saved" is something that happens here in this life when one accepts Christ into his life. The LDS believe something similar happens to them when they recieve a testimony of the divinity of Christ and accept Him as their Savior, but they do not call that being "saved". To the LDS being "saved" is something that happens after we die and are judged by Christ and receive our heavenly reward. Mark 13:13 says, "...but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." It appears that we must endure to the end before a person can be saved. Being saved also means we have lived our lives the best we can according to Christ's Gospel, and that we have proven ourselves worthy to live in His presence in the highest kingdom of Heaven (Mat 5:48, Mat. 7:21).
One makes it into heaven by how well he has proven himself worthy enough to be there and through the grace of God. God's grace is very important (Acts 15:11) because without it we would all fall way short of reaching the goal. But at the same time we must also do the will of the Father (Mat 7:21) and patiently endure to the end (Mat 24:13).
JCRUTCH - "What about assurance of salvation? Can a well-meaning Mormon have promise of a place in heaven and then screw up somehow and lose his place there?"
JOEL - No one knows that his salvation in the highest kingdom of heaven is certain. We do our best and hope God's grace will make up the diffenence so we can get there. The final decision on that belongs to our judge, Jesus Christ. The LDS believe that there are different levels or glories of heaven; Telestial, Terresrial and Celestial(1 Cor. 15:40-42). LDS believe that almost all people will obtain some level of heaven, and they will go to the degree of heaven that they will fit best in according to how they lived their lives. Some who were very bad will Join Satan in his relm.
But even if one feels that he might have lived well enough to obtain salvation in the highest kingdom (Celestial), he could still slip up through sin and end up in one of the other kingdoms if he does not repent.
JCRUTCH - "How do you know if your relatives are in heaven? Or maybe you don't know?????"
JOEL - All of my dead relatives are either in Paradise or spirit prison right now, as I explained earlier. After the resurrection most of them will be in some level of Heaven, although I'm sure there are some that may not make the Celestial Kingdom. But there really is no way I can be the judge of that.
JCRUTCH - "Thanks you for your help. I am trying to sort this all out in contrast to Christian beliefs."
JOEL - Believe it or not, these are Christian beliefs. Since Christ himself revealed them to His latter-day prophets.
JCRUTCH - "Who do you mean by "His prophets"?"
JOEL - God spoke through His prophets in the Old Testament times (Abraham, Noah, Moses, etc) when He had important things to tell His children (Heb 1:1, Amos 3:7). He also spoke through prophets in the Book of Mormon (Lehi, Nephi, Benjamin, etc). And he now makes His will known to us through latter-day prophets, starting with the founder of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, down through to Gordon B. Hinckley, who is the prophet and president of Christ's Church today.
JCRUTCH - "This ties in with your summation that "these are Christian beliefs, since Christ himself revealed them to His latter-day prophets." Again, who are they?"
JOEL - When Christ decided to establish His Church on the earth again He chose to do this through a young man named, Joseph Smith. In 1820 God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph and explained to Him that he would be given the power and authority to retore the priesthood and Church of God on the earth, just as it was when Jesus Himself was on the earth (1 Cor 12:28, Eph 2:19-21; 4:11). During this process Joseph Smith received many revelations from God concerning the restoration of the Gospel and Church. Most of these are recorded in the LDS scriptures, "The Doctrine and Covenants". Following Joseph, God continued to inspire and reveal doctrines to succeding prophets that would be essential for the salvation and eternal life of everyone on the earth. God leads His Church through His prophet, President Hinckley and the twelve apostles today, and gives us direction and answers to questions that people are faced with in this ever changing world. Since Christ himself is the one who is teaching us and leading His Church the LDS beliefs would be considered Christian since they are coming directly from the source.
JCRUTCH - "What do you mean by "so many different Christian religions"?"
JOEL - Perhaps I phrased that wrong. By this I mean the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant organizations and the many offshoots from these (Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, etc.). The LDS believe that these other forms of Christianity, while bearing much truth and doing much good, are considered incomplete, lacking the authority of the priesthood of God, the temple ordinances, the comprehensive understanding of the Plan of Salvation, and an understanding of the true nature of the Godhead. A complete understanding of all of these concepts have been revealed to our prophets of today through revelation from God.
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