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as fit subjects for remission or forgiveness, are freely offered to all men; but the prescribed conditions must be complied with or the incubus of sin can not be lifted.
Salvation is not to be had for the mere asking. It is too precious a pearl to be wantonly cast at the feet of the unrepentant and unregenerate who, heedless of its eternal worth, would fain tread it into the mire wherein they wallow. Christ's plan for saving the souls of men contemplates no universal and unconditional remission of sins. That would be justice travestied and mercy corrupted. So far as I am personally responsible for sin, I, and I alone am accountable. This is just. But though I make all material restitution possible to my brother whom I may have wronged, I cannot alone wipe the stain of guilt from my soul. To obtain remission from God whose laws I have violated, to be again reconciled to Him through expiation for my transgression, I am in dire need of help. That help is provided through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not left without hope; but on the contrary have the Divine assurance of possible emancipation. This is mercy, indeed.
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:16). So spake the Christ. The belief here specified must mean that active, vital, potent belief which we distinctively designate faith. A mere assent of the mind to any proposition, without application and action, remains a mental concept and nothing more. Our Lord's association of belief with baptism is proof that no empty or idle belief can avail to save. Genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ naturally leads to obedience to His commands; and the firstfruits of faith are embodied in repentance. None but the truly repentant believer is an acceptable subject for baptism.
Thus no man can consistently hope for salvation in the Kingdom of God except through the Atonement of Jesus Christ; and the Atonement is made operative for the remission of sins through individual compliance with the conditions explicitly set forth by "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." (Heb. 5:9). Christ's method of saving souls is that of providing definite means, which any one may accept or reject to his own eternal gain or loss.
Universal amnesty for crime may serve to increase crime. God's system of benevolence, which comprises and exceeds all that we call charity, consists in helping sinners to help themselves. Indiscriminate giving fosters pauperism in both the temporal and the spiritual sense. Man alone can
not save himself; and just as truly, Christ alone cannot save him. Obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel is the price of salvation.
An ancient Hebrew prophet thus set forth in simplicity the plan of salvation dependent upon the Atonement of Christ: "His blood atoneth for the sins of those who have fallen by the transgression of Adam, who have died, not knowing the will of God concerning them, or who have ignorantly sinned. But, wo, wo unto him who knoweth that he rebelleth against God; for salvation cometh to none such, except it be through repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:11-12).
In these latter days the Lord hath given this commandment unto the Church: "Thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior and remission of sins by baptism and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost." (Doctrine and Covenants 19:31.)
Graded Conditions in the Hereafter
HE destiny of souls in the hereafter is a subject of persistent interest and concern in human belief and speculation. Even pagan literature and the languages of heathendom testify to a general though ofttimes vague conception of two widely separated places or strongly contrasted states of future existence, which are in the main equivalent to the heaven and the hell of dogmatic theology.
The Holy Scriptures generalize the future estate of the righteous as heaven, and the opposite as hell, without giving warrant, however, for the belief that but two places or kingdoms are provided, to one or the other of which every soul is to be consigned according to the balance-sheet of his life's account, and perhaps on a very small margin of merit or guilt. Equally unscriptural is the inference that the state of the soul at death determines that soul's place and environment throughout eternity, forever deprived of opportunity of progression.
When left to his imagination, without the guidance of revelation, man conjures up a heaven and a hell to suit his fancy. Thus, to the mind of the savage, heaven is a hunting-ground with game a-plenty; to the carnal, heaven promises perpetual gratification of senses and passions; to the lover of truth and the devotee of righteousness, heaven is the assurance of limitless advancement in wisdom and achievement. And to each of these, hell is the eternal realization of deprivation, loss, disappointment and consequent anguish.
Divine revelation is the only source of sure knowledge as to what awaits man beyond the grave, and from this we learn that at death the spirits of all men pass to an intermediate state, in which they associate with their kind, the good with the good, the wicked with the wicked, and so shall endure in happiness or awful suspense until the time appointed for their resurrection. Paradise is the dwelling place of relatively righteous spirits awaiting the glorious dawn of the resurrection. The final judgment, at which all men shall appear before the bar of God, is to follow their resurrection from the dead. We shall stand in our resurrected bodies of flesh and bones to receive from Jesus Christ, who shall judge the world, the sentence we individually merit, whether it be "Come ye blessed of my Father" or "Depart from me ye cursed." (See Matt. 25:31-46.)
In His solemn discourse to the Apostles immediately prior to the betrayal our Lord sought to cheer their saddened hearts with the assurance, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2, 3.)
Here is conclusive proof of varied conditions in the world beyond; and the teachings of Paul are incisive as to the state of resurrected souls: "There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead." (1 Cor. 15:40-42.)
Latter-day revelation avers even more explicitly the fact
of numerous and graded states provided for the souls of men. There is a Celestial Kingdom, into which shall enter all who have won not alone Salvation, but Exaltation. And who are these blessed ones?
"They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given; that by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit." (Doctrine & Covenants, 76).
Next in order is the Terrestrial Kingdom, in which shall be saved those who, though honorable according to the codes of men, have failed in valiant and aggressive service in the cause of God, and also those who have died in ignorance of the prescribed "laws and ordinances of the Gospel."
"Behold, these are they who died without law, and also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh; who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it. These are they who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men."
Yet lower is the Telestial Kingdom, and of its inhabitants we read:
"These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus. These are they who deny not the Holy Spirit. These are they who are thrust down to hell. These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil, until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb shall have finished his work. But behold, and lo, we saw the glory and the inhabitants of the telestial world, that they were as innumerable as the stars