At theology school, I developed an interest in understanding Mormonism. I was particularly keen on the Mormon beliefs about the afterlife and their doctrines of salvation. Therefore, my research meant spending time in a Mormon community to really learn more about their beliefs. I spoke to their church leaders and the locals while reading all the sacred texts I could find. Last week, my college theology students asked me to explain what the Mormons think of the afterlife. Most of them were thinking of a reincarnation story of sorts. Based on my research, I was able to answer their questions comprehensively. So, how does the afterlife work in Mormonism?
Like other Christian religions, the teachers and leaders of the Mormon Church or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) believe in the afterlife. According to the Mormon doctrine of salvation, salvation grants the Mormon believers eternal life. They also believe that salvation is ideally living together as a family in the highest level of Heaven in the celestial Kingdom forever. Most importantly, the Mormons also believe in the ‘before life,’ noting that all humans lived as spirit children in their previous life.
In this article, I’ll share more insights into the concept of the afterlife in Mormonism and explore the Mormon doctrines of salvation. So, let’s get right into it.
What is the Mormon doctrine of salvation?
Mormons believe in salvation, and according to the teachings of the LDS church, salvation equals eternal life. In their ideal life, they believe that salvation represents being in communion with a forever family in Heaven or the highest celestial Kingdom.
To gain salvation, Mormons believe they must do the right things, like following the rules and through God’s grace. Additionally, they believe that most of the work around salvation was fulfilled through the atonement of sins by Jesus Christ. As a result, Mormons believe that all humankind is guaranteed resurrection upon Christ’s Second Coming – but to attain eternal life, they have to work hard at their salvation.
That said, the Mormons hold on to the belief that all humans arrived or were born without any sin, but they get into sin and engage in sinful behaviors, which is why humans require saving from their actions and the consequences.
Therefore, to attain salvation, they believe they have to do certain things, like believing in Jesus and being baptized in the LDS church. They also have to endure the many tests they go through on earth, repent sins, undo wrongs, receive the Holy Ghost’s gift when someone of priesthood authority lays their hands on them, treat others fairly, and follow Christ’s teachings. Another essential aspect of salvation for the Mormons would be the belief that humankind is saved through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and obedience to the Gospel’s ordinances and Laws.
It’s worth noting that the Mormons do not believe in the original sin, and so, despite the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, they believe that there wasn’t anything wrong with Eve eating the forbidden fruit. They believe that this was part of the bigger plan – that the Fall was necessary for God’s plan, and it’s what made it possible for human beings to attain a state of exaltation. So, with this belief system, human beings aren’t inherently evil or sinful, but they still choose to commit sins.
Finally, Mormons believe that God laid out a perfect plan for salvation, and all they need to do is to follow God’s plan and obey the laws he’s laid out. At the end of time, the believers will be judged and given a place in Heaven where they’ll lead life whose quality mirrors the kind of life they lived on earth.
Types of Salvation for the Mormons
Although Mormons consider salvation an important part of their beliefs and the key to attaining eternal life in the afterlife, they believe in two types of salvation – Salvation through one’s actions and individual salvation or exaltation. In the latter, humans gain salvation and become gods. Grace from Christ’s death and atonement also contribute to individual salvation.
Eternal Life For Mormons
Mormons believe in the existence of three stages of existence and that all human beings enjoy eternal life, either before or after life on earth. These beliefs coalesce into three stages: the pre-mortal existence that applies to humans as spirit children (before birth), probation time on earth, and finally, eternal life spent with God.
What are the three stages of Mormon heaven?
Mormons believe that after death and final judgment, the souls of humankind will go to any one of the three heavens of kingdoms of glory. They believe in the existence of a Celestial, Telestial, and a Terrestrial Heaven.
The Celestial Heavenly Kingdom
This is the highest Kingdom of Glory, and it is considered the heavenly home for the most obedient and valiant humans. These souls will enjoy the Lord’s presence and live alongside Jesus Christ. Mormons believe that the believers that go to the Celestial heaven are the ones who have lived their lives faithfully and have successfully overcome worldly sins through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. They believe in the words of Hebrews 12:21-23 and that all the believers who end up inheriting the Kingdom of God will be called the Church of the Firstborn.
Mormons also believe that the celestial Kingdom of Heaven is in three levels and that for anyone to make it to any of the levels, they must follow God’s commandments and be naturally good to receive exaltation.
It’s worth noting that for the Mormons, damned doesn’t represent hell but means that the person cannot progress further to a higher level of Heaven. This is according to the teachings from the Mormon sacred texts.
The Terrestrial Kingdom of God/ Heaven
The terrestrial Kingdom represents the second Heaven that the Mormons believe in. This level of Heaven is regarded as the eternal home for the good people who lived their lives guided by the basics but dint fully accepts Jesus Christ in their lives through baptism. This Heaven hosts the individuals who weren’t valiantly testifying of Jesus Christ. In other words, the individuals that made it to terrestrial Heaven didn’t receive the full glory of God.
The Telestial Kingdom
Mormons believe in the Telestial Kingdom of Heaven as the third Kingdom of Heaven (Glory). This is the last Kingdom of Heaven (Telos means last in Greek), and it’s open to the people who didn’t do any good on earth and didn’t receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ or testify of the Goodness of Jesus Christ. The Mormons consider this Kingdom the one for liars, adulterers, sorcerers, and other sinners. The souls in this Kingdom committed grievous sins and rejected Jesus Christ, so they are meant to suffer in agony – Revelation 20:3, Matthew 5:26.
How do Mormons get to Heaven?
To dwell in the Kingdom of God or go to Heaven, Mormons believe that all the Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that make it to Heaven must have faith in God and completely trust Him and follow his teachings. The reward for these actions would be living in a state of eternal joy and eternal life.
Some of the instructions that the Mormons are expected to follow for them to go to Heaven include:
- Atoning for their sins, following the teachings of Jesus Christ.
- Obeying God’s commandments.
- Repenting their sins.
- Undoing wrongs.
- Treating people right.
- Full belief in Jesus Christ.
- Receiving the Holy Spirit.
How is the concept of the Mormon afterlife different from the Christian belief?
Unlike other Christian beliefs, Mormons believe in the existence of a temporary place called the spirit world. The spirit world exists between mortality and immortality, where the people who acknowledge God’s existence and Christ’s power partially go. This place is some kind of middle-way, and the people who didn’t receive the Gospel’s ordinances like endowment, baptism, and sealings go. This is different from other heavens because the souls are in limbo here, and after the final judgment, their souls will go to the first or third heavenly Kingdom. Note that there is no punishment in the Spirit world, so it’s different from purgatory.
Can Christians go to Heaven if they follow the Mormon faith?
No, at least not going by the standard Christian teachings of Christianity and how Christians are expected to live. Christians who follow the Mormon faith don’t exactly follow biblical teachings and don’t believe in Heaven as mainstream Christians do. Notably, Mormons don’t believe in God as a powerful universal force who sent his Son down to earth from Heaven to save humankind. Instead, they believe that God is just an exalted man who earned his spot by doing good, which contradicts what the bible teaches in Revelation 1:8, Psalm 102:24-27, and 1 Timothy 6:15-17. They also believe they can be gods if they lead perfect lives, but the bible teaches that no man would ever be like God – Isaiah 43:10-11, Isaiah 2:2.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.