Deeply rooted in the psyche of Mormonism is the conviction of a second chance. “God will work it all out” Latter-day Saints breezily profess when a plain Biblical statement contradicts their worldview.
“Faith,” they say, “is the most important thing.” To the great frustration of born-again Christians, Latter-day Saints can ignore gospel appeals because, frankly, they don’t believe the Bible’s call to urgency (2 Corinthians 6:1–2). Everyone, they are taught, will have another chance to get it right and advance to Paradise.1
LDS resources, like True to the Faith, describe it this way:
A place called spirit prison is reserved for “those who [have] died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets” (D&C 138:32). The spirits in prison are “taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all the other principles of the gospel that [are] necessary for them to know” (D&C 138:33-34). If they accept the principles of the gospel, repent of their sins, and accept ordinances performed on their behalf in temples, they will be welcomed into paradise (46–47).
Furthermore, when LDS Scripture speaks of the three possible eternal destinations of mankind (the Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial Kingdoms), it too undercuts urgency.
Doctrines and Covenants 76 teaches that those who remain unrepentant to the very end (99–107) still inherit the lowest degree of glory, the Telestial Kingdom, whose glory shines like the stars (81) and “surpasses all understanding” (89). According to LDS Scripture, even the worst people are guaranteed an eternal destiny of glory and bliss, just not as much as others might have.
How Should You Respond?
What is a born-again Christian to say? Jesus says that sometimes good seed is plucked up before it ever has a chance to take root (Matthew 13:19).
For at least two reasons, the LDS conviction of a second chance has snatched away more good seed than perhaps any other doctrinal concept.
First, it asks the serpent’s oldest question, “Has God actually said?” In this case, it asks “Has God actually said, ‘it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment?’” (Hebrews 9:27).
Second, it paralyzes the person sowing the seed. How can a born-again Christian proceed when the overwhelming attitude is, “whatever you’re about to tell me really doesn’t matter because God will give us both a second chance?” How does a born-again Christian penetrate that sort of thinking?
The short answer is this, “You can’t.” But the news is better than you think, for “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27). In this regard, the Bible directs us to at least two concepts: patient waiting and divine opening. Let’s tackle them in that order.
Waiting is a biblical discipline frequently lauded in the Psalms (see, for example, Psalm 37), which is far more active than one might assume. While we wait, God wants us to use the time to gather our courage and strength: “wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).
Yes, born-again Christians must wait for God to supply gospel opportunities with their LDS friends. And while they wait, they must strengthen themselves for the spiritual warfare that can “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
For example, in the case of the “the Second Chance Theory,” they should know several things.
- First, many leading LDS apostles and Prophets have opposed the theory.2
- Second, the LDS Scripture that teaches about second chances is itself contradictory.3
- Third, the doctrine, by its own LDS canonical admission, is an attempt to correct the Bible.4
- Last, the New Testament offers multiple, easy-to-remember verses that utterly dispel any notion of a second chance.5
Patient waiting is also prayerful. The writer of Psalm 130 carries on a conversation with God while he waits for the LORD “more than watchmen for the morning.”
Once the light breaks, his call is directed outward, “O Israel, hope in the LORD. For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (v. 7-8). As we wait on the LORD, we should be asking him for the second part of our equation, a divine opening.
Born-again Christians often pray for open doors of opportunity. And they should, for the Apostle Paul famously asks, “pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).
But Christians ought also to ask God to open the heart. In Acts 14:27, the disciples rejoice at how God “had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” Just as God opened the heart of Lydia to receive the gospel (Acts 16:14), so He promises that His Messiah will open the eyes of the blind (Isaiah 42:67).
Even though the world is blinded by Satan and his minions (2 Corinthians 4:4), God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
We, who were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), can rejoice that God Himself makes us alive together with Christ by His grace (Ephesians 2:5). Just as Paul prayed that God would awaken the hardened hearts of his Jewish brethren (Romans 10:1), so we ought to pray that God would do the work of redemption only He can do (John 6:44).
The great temptation of knowledge is pride. And the ugly stepsister of pride is always quick to follow — anger. To any born-again Christian who knows just how deep the LDS error runs and is frustrated by it, “know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20).
Just as Jesus loved us while we walked in darkness, just as Jesus spoke gracious forgiveness into our error, so we should direct our LDS friends to the same love and grace (1 Timothy 1:12–14). Let us wait on the LORD to open doors and revive hearts. While we wait, let us equip ourselves for the day when God’s mercy and opportunity meet.
Paradise is a technical term in LDS theology referring to the destination of the righteous between the time of their death and final judgment. According to LDS theology, upon death, everyone goes to the Spirit World, a place with two parts. The righteous go to Paradise and the unrighteous to Prison where both await the resurrection of the body. The concept of Paradise is unabashedly unbiblical. The LDS Dictionary of theology, under the heading Paradise, reads as follows: “However, the Scriptures are not always consistent in the use of the word [Paradise], especially in the Bible. For example, when Jesus purportedly said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:43), the Bible reading is incorrect. The statement would more accurately read, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in the world of spirits’ since the thief was not ready for ‘paradise’ (see HC 5:424–25).” HC stands for “History of the Church” and refers to a multi-volume set by Joseph Smith (the quote can be found at the following link). There, Joseph Smith says, “King James’ translators make it out to say paradise. But what is paradise? It is a modern word it [sic] does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. Find the original of the word paradise. You may as easily find a needle in a haymow. Here is a chance for battle, ye learned men. There is nothing in the original word in Greek prose which this was taken that signifies paradise; but it was—This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits: then I will teach you all about it and answer your inquiries.” Joseph Smith did not know Greek. Had he known Greek, his words may not have been so demonstrably false, for the Greek word in question is both well-known and easy to say: παραδείσῳ (paradeiso). Paradeiso came over to Greek from Persian many centuries before Jesus used it; it had long been used by Greek-speaking Jews to refer to the garden of Eden (see the Septuagint, it is used 13x in Genesis 2–3, a translation Jesus frequently quoted) or to “a transcendent place of blessedness” (BDAG, 761). Jesus uses the word both in Luke 23:43 and in Revelation 2:7 as a synonym for heaven. ↩
Apostle Bruce McConkie in an address entitled Seven Deadly Heresies, delivered 1 June 1980 concluded, “There is no such thing as a second chance to gain salvation. This life is the time and the day of our probation. After this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” Prophet Spencer Kimball said, “After a person has been assigned to his place in the kingdom, either in the telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial, or to his exaltation, he will never advance from his assigned glory to another glory. That is eternal! That is why we must make our decisions early in life and why it is imperative that such decisions be right” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 243–44). But probably the greatest point against the Second Chance Theory comes from Joseph Smith himself. In D&C 132:4–6 when, speaking about “the new and everlasting covenant,” which was, of course, the command to engage in plural marriage (see verses 31-40), he said “for behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned. … he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned saith the Lord God.” ↩
As mentioned before, Doctrines and Covenants 76 is the primary source for teaching on the Telestial Kingdom and second chances. Verse 104 says that those in the Telestial Kingdom are “they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.” But that begs the question, how can the fire be “eternal” when it comes to an end? ↩
Joseph Smith’s preface to D&C 76 reads as follows: “Upon my return from Amherst conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body, the term Heaven, as intended for the Saints’ eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision ….” ↩
A few examples include Hebrews 9:27; 2 Peter 2:4-9; Revelation 20:12-14; Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:1-13; Matthew 25:41-46; and Luke 13:23-27. ↩