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To understand the LDS view of salvation it is helpful to first understand these LDS views:

Pre-earth Life

Mormonism teaches that humans exist first as spirit babies: the offspring of God the Father and his wife(s). Spirit babies are sent down to earth and given a body through the conception of human parents.
Doctrine and Covenants Man was also in the beginning with God...
Doctrine and Covenants 93:29

Further complicating this doctrine is the notion that God has populated other planets with his children.
Joseph Fielding Smith We are not the only people that the Lord has created. We have brothers and sisters on other earths. They look like us because they, too, are the children of God and were created in his image, for they are also his offspring.

Joseph Fielding Smith - Mormon prophet
Doctrines of Salvation 1:62

Lucifer Rebels

Mormonism teaches that Jesus Christ, the first born spirit baby, was appointed to be the Savior of mankind. Lucifer, the second born spirit baby (thus the brother of Jesus Christ) rebelled as he wanted to be the Savior. This caused a split: those who followed God and Jesus were permitted to come to earth and experience mortality; those who followed Lucifer were expelled and forever denied a physical body.
  • The name Lucifer comes from an improper translation in the King James Version, which name only appears once in Isaiah 14:12. Modern translations correct this, as the passage does not refer to the devil, but to the King of Babylon. That the Book of Mormon repeats the KJV error (2 Nephi 24:12) is evidence against its alleged ancient origin and inspired "translation".

In LDS doctrine, the punishment of being denied a physical body is severe, as a body is a prerequisite to receive exaltation. See Doctrine and Covenants 93:33-34
  • Since a physical body is necessary to receive exaltation, it creates an inconsistency in LDS doctrine, as Jesus Christ was (a) god before his physical conception through Mary. Another difficulty is how the Holy Ghost is a god without a body of flesh and bones.

Atonement at Gethsemane

Citing Luke 22:44, Mormonism teaches that the atonement began in the garden of Gethsemane, contrary to Christ's apostles who teach that the atonement was on the cross. See [Gethsemane:]

Three Heavens: Three Degrees of Glory

Citing 2 Corinthians 12:2, Mormonism teaches that there are three heavens, with each level constituting a higher degree of glory. After death, but before the resurrection and day of judgement, the dead wait in either spirit prison (hell) or paradise. Those who reject Jesus Christ suffer eternal separation in perdition.
  • Post-death, pre-resurrection temporary dwellings
    After death, mankind waits for judgement day and the resurrection in one of two places:
    • Paradise
      A temporary abode for Mormons full of happiness and peace.
    • Spirit prison (hell)
      A temporary abode for non-Mormons. Occupants can accept Mormonism and transfer to Paradise. Transferring is contingent on being baptized by proxy. Note: this is contrary to the Book of Mormon, which teaches there are no second chances.
  • Judgement day/Resurrection
    On the day of judgement mankind will reside for eternity in one of two places:
    • Heaven
      There are three degrees of glory in heaven:
      • Celestial Glory
        Reserved for the most obedient Mormons, those who were priests, married in LDS temples, etc., among other works. This level has full access to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Mormons who obtain this level become their own gods: conceiving spirit babies and populating planets.
      • Terrestrial Glory
        Reserved for good people, including Mormons who did not quite live up to expectations. There is no access to Heavenly Father here, only Jesus Christ.
      • Telestial Glory
        The lowest of glories reserved for those who come out of spirit prison.
    • Perdition
      Reserved for those who reject Jesus Christ, including Lucifer and his followers.

The LDS Plan of Salvation Plan of Salvation, Three Heavens, Three Glories

Saved by Works

Mormonism teaches that in order to obtain the highest degree of glory (Celestial), one must perform various works (i.e. obtain the priesthood, temple endowments and temple weddings, etc.) and be obedient to rules (i.e. tithing, word of wisdom, etc.).
Joseph Smith We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
Article of Faith #3
Book of Mormon For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
2 Nephi 25:23
  • How do we know if we have done all we can do?

Salvation through Joseph Smith

Mormonism teaches that salvation comes through Joseph Smith.
Brigham Young No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith... every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are.
Orson Hyde I tell you, Joseph holds the keys, and none of us can get into the celestial kingdom without passing by him... If brother Joseph is satisfied with you, you may pass. If it is all right with him, it is all right with me.

Orson Hyde - Mormon apostle
Journal of Discourses 6:154-155
Brigham Young Every spirit that confesses that Joseph Smith is a Prophet, that he lived and died a Prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true, is of God, and every spirit that does not is of anti-Christ.

Brigham Young - Mormon prophet
History of the Church 7:287
Brigham Young Every intelligent person under the heavens that does not, when informed, acknowledge that Joseph Smith, Jun., is a Prophet of God, is in darkness, and is opposed to us and to Jesus and his kingdom on the earth.
Brigham Young - Mormon prophet
Journal of Discourses 8:223
Joseph Young Believe in God, believe in Jesus, and believe in Joseph his Prophet, and in Brigham his successor. And I add, “If you will believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph was a Prophet, and that Brigham was his successor, you shall be saved in the kingdom of God,” which I pray, in the name of Jesus, may be the case. Amen.

Joseph Young - Mormon Seventy
Journal of Discourses 6:229
Doctrine and Covenants Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.
Doctrine and Covenants 135:3


Salvation in Christ alone

Jesus Christ and His apostles taught that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. They fail to mention that any man, let alone one named Joseph Smith, will approve of those who enter heaven.
Jesus Christ Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."
— John 14:6

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
— Acts 4:12

Salvation by faith not works

Jesus Christ's apostles teach that salvation is a gift obtained through faith alone in Jesus Christ, and that good works are a natural response to this gift.
Holy Bible For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
— Ephesians 2:8-10

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
— Romans 3:28

He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.
2 Timothy 1:9

Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."
— John 6:28-29

For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
— Romans 10:10

The apostle Paul teaches that some Jews did not receive salvation because they tried to earn it through their works, whereas Gentiles are saved through faith. A person who attempts to obtain salvation from their own good works becomes a Christ to themselves.
Holy Bible What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone... Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
— Romans 9:31-32, 10:1-4

Atonement on the Cross

The apostles of Christ's time taught that the atonement took place on the cross. There is no teaching that the atonement started in the garden of Gethsemane.
Holy Bible And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
— Colossians 1:20

And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness...
— 1 Peter 2:24

Whom God displayed publicly* as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.
— Romans 3:25-26
*Note: Christ's weeping in Gethsemane was not a public event.

Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
— Colossians 2:14

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
— 1 Corinthians 1:18
  • Note: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price do not mention Gethsemane.

Created not Conceived

The apostles and prophets of biblical times, and Jesus Christ Himself, teach that man was created (not conceived by spiritual parents).
Jesus Christ He was saying to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world."
— John 8:23

"He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all."
— John 3:31

...Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
— Zechariah 12:1

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
— Genesis 2:7

There was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad...
Romans 9:10-12
  • Furthermore, the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price do not mention Heavenly mother(s).

Jesus created Satan (Lucifer)

The apostles of biblical times teach that Jesus is creator of all. That Lucifer is the spirit brother of Jesus is heretical.
Holy Bible For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.
— Colossians 1:16

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
— John 1:3

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things to Him be the glory forever. Amen.
— Romans 11:36

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
— 1 Corinthians 8:6

Three Heavens

The apostles and prophets of biblical times do teach that there are three heavens. However their definitions are not the same as modern Mormonism.
  • The First Heaven: Earth's atmosphere
    Holy Bible God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
    — Genesis 1:7-8

    I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled.
    — Jeremiah 4:25

    ...He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit...
    — Deuteronomy 11:17

    ...He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons...
    — Acts 14:17
  • The Second Heaven: the Universe
    Holy Bible ...I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore...
    — Genesis 22:17

    They will be exposed to the sun and the moon and all the stars of the heavens...
    — Jeremiah 8:2

    For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises and the moon will not shed its light.
    — Isaiah 13:10
  • The Third Heaven: God's Throne and Kingdom
    The scriptures teach that God transcends Heaven.
    Holy Bible ...Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You...
    — 1 Kings 8:27

    He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.
    — Ephesians 4:10
    Heaven is used symbolically as the place of God's throne.
    Holy Bible The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD'S throne is in heaven.
    — Psalm 11:4

    Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne.
    — Revelation 4:2

New Heaven and New Earth

Jesus Christ and his apostles teach that a new Earth will be the residence of God and His believers.
Jesus Christ "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
— Matthew 5:18

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away."
— Matthew 24:35

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
— 2 Peter 3:10-13

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them."
Revelation 21:1-3

Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ

Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ