Why are some Apostate Mormons ‘re-instated’ into the Church after their death and promised the Celestial Kingdom if all are to be judged according to their works in this life?
There have been many, some murderers, but I would like to focus on one man: an Apostle called by Joseph Smith, who was later ex-communicated for apostasy. After this man died, he was ‘restored’ to all his former blessings and one descendant was told by a prophet they would be with his family in the afterlife if they (the living family members) stayed worthy and that is only available in the Highest Degree of Glory in the Celestial Kingdom. This man was Amasa Lyman.
Lyman was a special counselor to Joseph Smith and was ordained an apostle by Brigham Young. He was married to Christina Partridge, (Daughter of Edward Partridge, First Presiding Bishop of the Church) and had other plural wives. Lyman was ordained an Apostle to replace Orson Pratt, but when Pratt repented and was restored, Lyman was bumped out of the Quorum.
Lyman followed Brigham Young to Utah, but began to believe in spiritualism and to deny the Atonement of Christ. Excerpts of a sermon given in 1859 show he believed that:
[Jesus] “was a good man.” He acknowledged that Jesus “died for the world,” but added, “and what man that ever died for the truth that he died for, did not die for the world? … Have we found redemption through them? … We may talk of men being redeemed by the efficacy of [Christ’s] blood; but the truth is that that blood had no efficacy to wash away our sins. That must depend upon our own action.” – JOD:7:297-299
Stripped of his Apostleship in 1867, he was finally excommunicated in 1870 after joining the “New Movement,” which was organized to oppose the political and economic control of Brigham Young in Utah. New Movement leaders [The Godbeites], who embraced spiritualism, named Lyman President of their Church of Zion.
Caroline left Amasa after this and was sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. As her daughter later recorded:
[she] “felt she must have the protection and the security of the Priesthood in her and her children’s lives. … Evidently in her dire circumstances she felt that the Prophet was the only secure anchor to be sealed to.” (source below)
After Lyman’s death and at Caroline’s funeral in 1908, Francis M. Lyman (President of the Quorum of the Twelve) told
“President [Joseph F.] Smith of my desire to do something for father. Told him of my dreams and my Sister Martha’s, how father had appeared to us and pied his cause. How President Snow told me that there was no doubt but that he could come out all right in the end.” (source below)
A short time later Francis M. told his son Richard (who later became another Apostle),
“This is one of the most important and happiest days of my life. In the temple today, President Joseph F. Smith placed his hands on my head, and by proxy restored my father to all his former blessings, authority and power.” (see, Loretta L. Hefner, “From Apostle to Apostate: The Personal Struggle of Amasa Mason Lyman,” in Mormon Mavericks, John Sillito and Susan Staker (eds.), Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002.) quoted from: http://www.signaturebookslibrary.org/Mormons/amasa_lyman.htm#lyman
“President Smith said during his talk that he was sure that Amasa Lyman had paid the penalty for his wrong doing & would have all his wives and children who were worthy in eternity. He also said that the celestial order of marriage, or polygamy could never have been carried out successfully had it not been for the Partridge sisters.” http://www.finarv.org/history/histcepl.htm
How can one pay the penalty for wrong doing after one has already died? Is President Smith saying that he had the power to judge Amasa Lyman?
Bruce R. McConkie states this about “Restoration of Former Blessings”:
“Temple and priesthood blessings, as well as all others pertaining to the Church, are lost upon excommunication. In the event of repentance and subsequent rebaptism, all or part of these former blessings — those pertaining to the priesthood, to endowments, and to sealings — may be restored by a member of the Council of the Twelve upon authorization of the President of the Church.” -Mormon Doctrine:634
But how does one ‘repent’ if one is dead? McConkie is strangely silent on this question. Spencer Kimball, after quoting D&C 132, says in The Miracle of Forgiveness that this life is all you get:
“’For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because you receive me not in the world neither do ye know me.
“‘But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also.
“‘This is eternal lives-to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.
“‘Broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths; and many there are that go in thereat, because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law.’ -D&C 132:22-25. (Italics his, bold mine)
“How impressive the Lord makes the time element! Why should he so emphasize it over and over if there were no significance to it? Would these phrases in the world and out of the world mean that one could go haphazardly through the years of mortality ‘eating, drinking, and being merry,’ ignoring all the commandments and failing to keep his life clean and still receive the blessings?” -MOF: Chapter 1, page 12 (bold mine)
Kimball is clearly in line with the Book of Mormon on this point. Alma 32:34 says:
“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.”
Joseph Smith said this regarding Apostates:
“All sins shall be forgiven, except the sin against the Holy Ghost; for Jesus will save all except the sons of perdition. What must a man do to commit the unpardonable sin? He must receive the Holy Ghost, have the heavens opened unto him, and know God, and then sin against him. After a man has sinned against the Holy Ghost, there is no repentance for him. He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it; and from that time he begins to be an enemy. This is the case with many apostates of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When a man begins to be an enemy to this work, he hunts me, he seeks to kill me, and never ceases to thirst for my blood. He gets the spirit of the devil—the same spirit that they had who crucified the Lord of Life—the same spirit that sins against the Holy Ghost. You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance; they make open war, like the devil, and awful is the consequence.” -Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:358 (bold mine)
Isn’t this just what Amasa Lyman did, who was an Apostle, a special witness to Jesus Christ? Why then, are these Restoration of Blessings performed? How can one Prophet say that an Apostate “had paid the penalty for his wrong doing & would have all his wives and children who were worthy in eternity,” while another says “You cannot save such persons; you cannot bring them to repentance”? Do the Mormon Prophets have the power to ‘grant dispensations’ and set aside the sins committed in this life like the Catholic Pope, or forgive sins like the Catholic Priests? Are they using their influence to ‘favor’ certain individuals and return their blessings?
Spencer Kimball intimated that there is such power in the Church and supported his understanding with a lengthy quote from J. Reuben Clark. At that time he was first counselor in the LDS First Presidency, and he said in part:
“There is in the Church… the power to remit sins, but I do not believe it resides in the bishops. That is a power that must be exercised under the proper authority of the priesthood and by those who hold the keys that pertain to that function.” -MOF:Chapter 21, page 333 (ellipsis in the original)
But do they have the power to do this after one is dead? How are these claims of restoration of blessings and forgiveness of sins after death justified in the light of Hebrews 9:27, John 14:6, Isaiah 53:12, Hebrews 7:25, & 1st Timothy 2:5?