This is Part 2 of a review of Spencer W. Kimball’s “The Miracle of Forgiveness” Part 1 can be found here.
One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation. Along with all the other works necessary for man’s exaltation in the kingdom of God this could rule out the need for repentance. It could give license for sin and, since it does not require man to work out his salvation, could accept instead lip service, death-bed “repentance,” and shallow, meaningless confession of sin. [page 206]
The above quote would have most Evangelicals barring the doors and rejecting Mormonism in total. I noticed something in it though that may indicate how Kimball could so utterly reject the plain words of Paul. Indeed Kimball seemed to recognize the tension himself and acknowledges:
Of course we need to understand terms. If by the word “salvation” is meant the mere salvation or redemption from the grave, the “grace of God” is sufficient. But if the term “salvation” means returning to the presence of God with eternal progression, eternal increase, and eventual godhood, for this one certainly must have the “grace of God,” as it is generally defined, plus personal purity, overcoming of evil, and the good “works” made so important in the exhortations of the Savior and his prophets and apostles. [page 207]
I wonder how Kimball was taught that the word “salvation” could be synonymous with the word “exaltation”. It seems a considerable amount of confusion would be cleared up if he recognized that the words mean different things. In fact he agrees that the “grace of God” (as people call it) IS enough for salvation. But then he adds a number of rewards to it as if there is “Salvation Jr.” and “Real Salvation.” This conversation has come up in this space before and now more than ever I’m curious where this started in Mormon thought. Kimball quickly departs from this “mere salvation” and consistently uses the word “salvation” to mean “exaltation” in the rest of the book.
I think he does this to the detremint of his own understanding of Mormonism. Late in the book he struggles to help a woman who had committed adultery and has given up hope for salvation because of something Joseph Smith stated in the disciplinary council against Harrison Sagers. Smith stated:
If a man commit adultery he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial kingdom.
Kimball clearly wrestles with this himself and presents over a dozen Mormon scriptures that indicate that adultery can be forgiven. He asserts that words should be inserted into the quote so that it insteads says:
If a man commit adultery (and remain unrepentant) he cannot receive the celestial kingdom of God. Even if he is saved in any kingdom, it cannot be the celestial kingdom.
But this is clearly not what Joseph Smith stated. He was in no way saying adultery can’t be forgiven and salvation is lost for any who sin in this way. He was quite clearly differentiating between salvation and exaltation. Kimball puts a fog over his own understanding of Mormonism by equating the two.
D&C 76:103 agrees with Smith in his condemnation of adultery and his pronouncement that adulterers will not enter the Celestial Kingdom.
This is not the first time I’ve encountered this confusion. Does anyone know or understand when “salvation” and “exaltation” began to mean the same thing for Mormons?
You can read part 3 of my review of “The Miracle of Forgiveness” here.