Our webmaster Aaron decided to play a joke on April Fools Day (2008) that really had some people choking on their morning bowl of Cheerios. The almost-believable story posted on the Mormon Coffee blog site said LDS Church leaders had decided to ban Spencer Kimball’s book The Miracle of Forgiveness, a classic LDS work showing how salvation depends on a person’s own works. Trying is not good enough, Kimball actually wrote in his book, because the requirements are clear as well as do-able. Instead of just realizing that Christ’s followers are supposed to obey the commandments for their hoped-for salvation, Kimball explained that people needed to be successful in their efforts if they ever hoped to attain exaltation.
When reading the May 2008 issue of the Ensign magazine, I can only wonder if the Mormon leaders had read the gag blog. In fact, on April 5, 2008—only four days after the post—Apostle Russell M. Nelson stepped up to the General Conference podium to give a speech following the confirmation of new prophet Thomas Monson. In a clear tone, Nelson delivered a “get-to-work” address titled “Salvation and Exaltation” that left nothing to the imagination. It was brutally clear and to the point, as were many of the messages in this particular conference.
After explaining the difference between general salvation (something all humankind received thanks to the “Resurrection of Jesus Christ”) and individual exaltation (which includes “living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, and by serving Him”), Nelson stated, “The time to prepare for our eventual salvation and exaltation is now.” The endnote Nelson attached to that statement is Alma 34:32-33, which states,
“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. And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye no not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.”
Keep reading Nelson’s sermon and you’ll see Kimball’s philosophy everywhere. For instance, Nelson explained how “eternal life, or celestial glory or exaltation, is a conditional gift,” as attested by D&C 14:7. What must a person do? he asks. Faith, repentance, baptism, temple marriage, and “remaining faithful to the ordinances and covenants of the temple” are required. Indeed, this means one will never be able to “know” that he or she has eternal life, even though 1 John 5:13 says this is possible. Toward the end of sermon, Nelson taught that “the blessings of exaltation” are only given to those who are “worthy.”
Then, in a later conference speech titled “The Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Apostle L. Tom Perry quotes from former apostle Bruce R. McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine:
“But only those who obey the fullness of the gospel law will inherit eternal life….It is ‘the greatest of all the gifts of God’…, for it is the kind, status, type, and quality of life that God himself enjoys….” (2nd ed. , p. 237, ellipses his).
Obviously this is nothing close to the “justification by faith alone” doctrine taught by Reformation leader Martin Luther almost five centuries ago. As these conference speeches attest, the ideas found in Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness continue to thrive in the current Mormon leadership. President Monson’s men continue to guide the LDS ship in the same direction as previous leaders, regardless of those claiming that Mormonism in recent years is moving in a biblical direction. I can only ask, “How?”