Yes. “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3; emphasis added).
The Difference Between “Salvation” and Exaltation
Friends of other faiths should be informed that the vocabulary Mormons use can differ considerably from the vocabulary used by other Christian sects. Mormons see many different definitions in the word “salvation.”
One definition refers to resurrection, a free gift to all. Another refers to salvation from sin, which is a gift to us through Christ’s atonement, but which is conditional upon our faith and repentance. Another is salvation from the trials of mortality, which Christ’s atonement offers us through His continuing grace. Another is salvation from the “second death,” also called “spiritual death,” which is our separation from God. God dwells in the highest kingdom of heaven and to dwell forever in His presence is called “exaltation,” and is what Mormons seek. Sometimes in the Mormon scripture the Doctrine and Covenants, those who are not exalted are called “damned” or “destroyed,” but the verses still refer to those who dwell in heaven but not in the highest kingdom.
Those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ on earth and in the spirit world after death must suffer for their own sins. This is temporary and occurs in the spirit world. These may, however, inherit a kingdom of glory in heaven, but they are not exalted. The only ones who will suffer eternally, who are cast out with Satan and his angels, and who are called “Sons of Perdition,” are those with a perfect knowledge of Christ, who have partaken of His power, and who have then denied Him, thus crucifying Him anew. This is called the “sin against the Holy Ghost,” and it is unforgivable and unpardonable. All other people will be saved into some kingdom of heaven. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw a vision of the kingdoms of heaven, and said that even the lowest kingdom is glorious beyond all description.
What then is Salvation?
Salvation has two components: salvation from death, and salvation from hell. Salvation from death comes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He unlocked the grave for all mankind, regardless of who we are, where we are born, or when we lived on the earth. Salvation from permanent physical death through resurrection is a wondrous, free, and automatic gift from Jesus Christ. We have only to be born to qualify for it.
In contrast, salvation from hell is also a wondrous gift from Jesus, but it is not automatic; it involves meeting specific requirements that Jesus established and that his apostles carefully taught. For example, when Peter and the other apostles were preaching to a group of Jews and convinced them that the Jews had indeed crucified their Messiah,
“…[the Jews] were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. . . . Then they that gladly received his word were baptized . . . And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:37–38, 41–42).
These people were baptized by the power and authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood—the very priesthood that Jesus had received from his Father (Hebrews 5:5–7, 8–10) and by which Jesus had, in turn, ordained his apostles (John 15:16). If this priesthood authority had not been specifically required for the performance of baptisms, then the apostle Paul would not have re-baptized twelve persons whose baptisms Paul considered to be of questionable authority (Acts 19:1– 6 ).
Along with proper authority to baptize, Christ and his apostles also taught the proper manner in which to baptize—baptism by immersion, the same manner in which Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:13–16) and which the Apostle Philip used to baptize:
Then Philip . . . preached unto him Jesus. And . . . they came unto a certain water . . . and they went down both into the water . . . and he baptized him (Acts 8:35–36, 38).
Yet, according to Peter, even an authorized baptism by immersion did not (and does not) complete the requirements for salvation, for one must also “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” by proper authority (Acts 19:1–6). And what was the prescribed manner by which the gift of the Holy Ghost was to be conferred upon the new converts?
Now when the apostles . . . heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:14–17).
Even after having received a properly authorized baptism, followed by an authorized bestowal of the gift of the Holy Ghost, is a Christian “saved”? No, not yet; for according to Jesus, only
“…he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13).
In other words, the preparatory commandments of repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost are the beginning steps on the road to salvation and necessary for exaltation. They must be followed by learning and living the rest of Jesus’ commandments—“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). In doing so, the true follower of Jesus finds himself naturally obeying the Lord’s admonition: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
*This article was adapted from Mormons Under a Microscope, by D. Lauritsen, Cedar Fort, Inc., Springville, Utah: 2010, pp. 119, 120.