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Second chances

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Arturo make this comment on a thread regarding non-LDS Mormon scholars:
Then I see non-LDS scholars saying friendly things about the LDS church, I often chuckle to myself about them going to hell because they are lukewarm; they learned the truth but won't make the covenants. (Of course, I chuckle because the prospect is ridiculous, not because of any vindictive gloating.)
One of the doctrines that I like in the church is that the Lord will not punish those that haven't had an opportunity to hear his message. These people will get a chance in the afterlife, many say. Or, similarly, if they would have accepted the gospel on Earth, then they will have the rewards in the afterlife.

But it also provides me with a few head-scratching thoughts. First, how much does one have to know or have heard before they no longer have the safety net? I agree with Arturo that the above situation (with non-LDS Mormon scholars) is a bit ridiculous. But if so, where can we draw the line? Will I not have the afterlife option since I know a substantial bit about the church and generally have positive feelings toward it but will not accept the covenants?

I'm tempted to go with the old stand-by non-committal answer and say that we just can't know. Which is fine, I guess, but then it seems like an empty doctrine in practice.

Second--and it seems that this will help answer the first--what type of knowledge is required? If someone has a testimony but later leaves the church, will they get another chance? What about someone who intellectually accepts much of the church but hasn't felt "the Spirit"? Or, what if that same person has felt the Spirit but hasn't recognized it as such?

For some reason, I have a conceptual link between this doctrine and talk of being a "son of perdition." Are these related--that is, would one have to literally deny the Holy Ghost to not have the afterlife chance? And, if the bar is set that high (assuming that denial of the Holy Ghost is very rare (which seems to be part of the folklore)), what good does it do for us in practice?

I guess what I'm saying is: I like that LDS theology has the second chance option, but it seems to mean nothing to us, except as a comforter.

8 Responses to “Second chances”

  1. Blogger D-Train 

    Pris, you're onto something here. I always assume that what this means is that everyone will get the same chance to hear the gospel. How many "knowledge points" you have or someone that took three discussions has, I don't know.

    I think it's just an affirmation of God's justice. Nobody will get screwed over, so there are provisions made in the next life to see that justice is brought to pass.

    Also, I don't know too many Mormons with minds that don't have a problem with at least some principle of the gospel. I've accepted the gospel at baptism, but surely that ordinance can't save me in ignorance or a lack of testimony. In LDS doctrine, each member is still progressing and gaining and strengthening testimonies of particular principles. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to say that members don't need more chances to hear. Isn't that what the Church is all about? Giving us a shot to understand doctrine by providing a place where it can be readily taught and lived?

    I'll bet that tons of non-Mormons have accepted lots of principles of the gospel. We even agree to that when we say that other churches have some truth. So I don't think it's right to see "accepting the gospel" as a dichotomy, especially given the infinite number of variations on testimonies and the strength thereof.

  2. Blogger Arwyn 

    When I was a kid, I was always very hesitant to share the Gospel, thinking that if I told my friends about it and they didn't join the church (which I knew they wouldn't, having no confidence in my missionary abilities whatsoever), I'd be damning them for all eternity.

    Heavy thoughts, when you're nine, and you want to tell your best friend this cool story about the 2,000 boys who went into battle and didn't get hurt.

    As for the scholars? I'm not sure knowing is enough. There's a lot of intellectualizing you can do about any subject -- I think the experiential knowledge of having the Spirit testify is part and parcel of the "chance" that everyone gets.

    I have to wonder, though -- does that mean that if, say, one of these scholars feels the Spirit and ignores it, does that mean he's had his chance and that's that?

    That seems a little harsh to me, which I guess may be where D-Train's provisions in the next life come into play?

  3. Blogger Mike 

    As to whether these scholars or others who have felt the spirit and ignored it- I have to echo Pris in his statement that he feels makes it an empty doctrine "we just can't really know."

    I don't think it makes the doctrine empty- I think it just means we can't really make the judgment call.

    I do recall hearing (or reading) a McConkie talk where he mentioned a man he knew who refused to accept the gospel covenants or do good things because he was certain that after he died his wife would do the work for him. The man died, the wife did the work- and McConkie said he believed that absolutely all of it was in vain.

    I think that being a son of Perdition requires having taken those covenants on in the first place- though I'm not sure of the reason for that belief.

  4. Blogger Arwyn 

    Mike, the example you cite is of someone who didn't accept the gospel and didn't do good things in the knowledge that his wife would have his work done after he died.

    What bothers me about that one is that he refused to "do good things." What about people who do lots of good things -- who are wonderful people who serve every moment of their lives -- but who have decided that they simply don't want to be baptised into a church? Is it different for them?

    Or is it ultimately futile to consider this sort of thing since none of us have died and we don't really know how it works?

  5. Anonymous Susan M 

    I think what you mention about sons of perdition springs from this scripture:

    D&C 132: 27
    The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and assent unto my death, after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant, saith the Lord God; and he that abideth not this law can in nowise enter into my glory, but shall be damned, saith the Lord.

    I don't remember where I heard this, but I've heard the shedding of innocent blood in this particular scripture refers to Christ. Basically, it means you'd have to have an absolute knowledge of Christ and who he is, as in spoken to him face to face, and then denied him. Not only denied him, but consented unto his death--been willing to pound the nails in yourself. And obviously there aren't many in that particular position.

    As for how we'll be judged in the afterlife on how much we knew and accepted here in this life, I think it's a very personal thing. I've always thought we'd mostly be judged by ourselves. I think those who aren't worthy to reside with God won't want to, they'll be happier elsewhere. But I think there's gonna be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth when people realize the mistakes they've made.

    This has always been a sensitive topic for me, because I'm a convert and come from a family of screw ups, crazy people, people who make really poor choices. I have both a sister and a brother who have died. And I really wonder about how they're doing on the other side, and how things will end up in eternity. Neither of them made the greatest choices in their lives (or maybe I should say, they both made some very bad ones), but who's to say how much weight thei particular circumstances and burdens they faced will carry? Not me. I don't even know what those circumstances really were (but I know enough to realize they didn't have it easy). If they'd been given better opportunities in life, how would they have fared? It's not anything I should be judging, that's for sure. (Although I often find myself doing so.)

  6. Blogger Pris 

    Susan: that's pretty much my understanding of "son of perdition" as well. The tricky part is what constitutes "absolute knowledge".

    All other things being equal (i.e. both are good people), who has a better shot in the after life: Person A who heard but never accepted the gospel; or Person B who accepted the gospel but later apostitized?

    Mike: what I mean by it being an "empty doctrine" is that it has no perscriptive or descriptive power.

  7. Anonymous Susan M 

    Well, just to speculate for fun, I'd say person A, because I'd assume that they had greater light and knowledge than person B did, which they are turning against.

    But it doesn't really seem worth speculating about to me, because there may be so many other factors that come into play.

  8. Blogger Mike 


    I've always been kind of bothered by those verses- that those who had kind of a chance will inherit the terrestrial. Those hearing the gospel after death for the first time will be able to receive of Celestial Glory.

    This and the "strait is the way" belief seems a bit in conflict with our belief that everyone will get a chance to really see and then accept or reject- and our belief that God is more merciful and liberal in his views than we can imagine.

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