Salvation History and Requirements
“The great plan of salvation is a theme which ought to occupy our strict attention, and be regarded as one of heaven’s best gifts to mankind. No consideration whatever ought to deter us from showing ourselves approved in the sight of God, according to His divine requirement. Men not unfrequently forget that they are dependent upon heaven for every blessing which they are permitted to enjoy, and that for every opportunity granted them they are to give an account.”
- Joseph Smith1
In the previous chapter we discussed the fact that Christianity was cast in the mold of Jewish Apocalyptic thought. And according to Hennecke and Schneemelcher:
The outstanding characteristic of the apocalyptic thought-world is determinism. God has fore-ordained everything: all that happens happens precisely according to the fixed plan of God, which human plans and actions can neither advance nor hinder.2
It is not surprising, therefore, that early Christian documents such as the Epistle of the Apostles speak of “the plan of the Father.”3 We have already seen that early Christianity, as well as the Prophet Joseph Smith, preached that this plan was formulated in the great councils in heaven before the creation of the world, and that the final purpose of the plan is the deification of God’s children.
But it is not sufficient to know that there exists such a plan and what the end result of it will be. Of more immediate concern to those of us working out our salvation are the specifics of the plan. That is, we must know what will happen to us between birth and our final state, as well as how to make sure our final state is that which God intended for us. Therefore, the purpose of this chapter will be to map the way to salvation, as taught by Christ, as believed by the early Christians, and as restored by Joseph Smith.
Adam and the Fall
Adam and Eve–the First Members of the Human Family
Salvation history must necessarily begin with Adam, the first man, and Eve, his wife. And as it turns out, Joseph Smith restored two points4 of doctrine concerning the first man that are supported by early Christian evidence, but which are completely at odds with the interpretations of modern mainstream Christianity.
Adam and Michael
First, according to Joseph Smith, Adam was Michael the Archangel in the premortal existence.5 Even now Adam retains his authority: “The keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the gospel is sent. When they are revealed from heaven, it is by Adam’s authority.”6 Consider the similarity of the preceding statement with that about Michael in an ancient Coptic Christian document:
And I answered and said unto the Cherubim, “How doth it come to pass that the name of Michael is written upon their garments? And wherefore do they cry out?” And the Cherubim answered and said unto me, “No angel is allowed to come upon the earth unless the name of Michael is written upon his garments, for otherwise the Devil would lead them astray.”7
Joseph Smith also taught that Adam, as Michael, helped the Father and Son in the creation. Similarly, Alan Segal reports that the ancient rabbis wrote polemics against various “Two Powers” heresies, which included Christianity, which taught that Adam had been a helper in the creation.8 Thus the Gnostic Christian Apocalypse of Adam taught that Adam “helps in creation and is higher in rank than the god who created him and Eve . . . .”9 And interestingly enough, some of these “heretics” believed that “Michael and Gabriel were associates of God in creation. “10Therefore, while I have found no direct evidence that Adam was equated with Michael, there are some tantalizing clues that indicate this might once have been the case. At any rate, certain aspects of Joseph Smith’s teaching on the matter are confirmed in the ancient literature.
The Necessity of the Fall
Second, Adam and Eve are important figures in all of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian theology because not only were they the parents of the entire human race, but it was their sin which caused the Fall of all humankind into this sinful world of pain and sorrow. This made necessary the atonement of Jesus Christ, to bring mankind back from this sinful condition into the blessedness, immortality, and peace our first parents enjoyed before the Fall in the Garden of Eden.
But Joseph Smith took a different view of the Fall from the rest of the Christian world. Consider his doctrine of deification, for example. Certainly Adam was no “god” when he lived in innocence. It was only after the Fall that God said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil . . . .” (Genesis 3:22) Joseph Smith looked on the Fall as a necessary step in the process of salvation, and Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience as a “transgression” of the law of the Garden rather than a “sin.” Thus, the prophet Lehi in The Book of Mormon explained:
And now, Behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (2 Nephi 2:22-25)
The writings of several early Christian writers agree with the Prophet that the Fall was “fortunate.” Clement of Alexandria exclaimed: “O mystic wonder! The Lord was laid low, and man rose up; and he that fell from Paradise receives as the reward of obedience something greater [than Paradise]–namely, heaven itself.”11 Referring to the Fall, Irenaeus wrote:
“Thine own apostasy shall heal thee;” God thus determining all things beforehand for the bringing of man to perfection, for his edification, and for the revelation of His dispensations, that goodness may both be made apparent, and righteousness perfected, and that the Church may be fashioned after the image of His Son, and that man may finally be brought to maturity at some future time, becoming ripe through such privileges to see and comprehend God.12
But while Willis Barnstone pegs this as a major theme of Gnostic Christianity, and we have shown it to have been present in early Catholic and Jewish Christianity, later Christian mystics such as Pseudo-Dionysius (sixth century) claimed that since partaking of the tree of knowledge was what got Adam and Eve into trouble in the first place, the true Christian should actually strive for ignorance!16
Original Sin and Original Guilt
The Mainstream Doctrine of Original Sin
Since mainstream Christians have essentially lost the doctrine of deification, they consider the Fall a wholly unfortunate event. Likewise, the loss of the doctrine of pre-existence has allowed many of them to adopt the view that even infants, newborn into the sinful world, are guilty of Adam’s sin, and may be excluded from the Kingdom of God if steps (completely beyond the infants’ control) are not taken to protect them.
The mainstream doctrine of “original sin” thus includes the following elements. 1) Adam’s Transgression had the effect of passing along a “sinful nature” to his posterity. 2) The “nature” spoken of includes both body and soul, so that an infant comes into the world not only with a body that is beset by animal passions, but a spirit that has a disposition to commit sin. 3) Not only is everyone affected by Adam’s transgression, but they are guilty of it since they were present “in Adam” when he sinned. 4) Some churches, notably those with a Calvinist background, actually believe that the fall of human nature has been so complete that humans are incapable of truly righteous actions without the aid of the grace of Jesus Christ.
Latter-day Saints and Original Sin
Latter-day Saints, on the other hand, reject this doctrine of “original sin” as it is taught by the churches and proclaim that the atonement of Christ automatically pays for those effects of the Fall that are beyond our individual control. “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” (Articles of Faith 2)17 However, the Fall did have an effect. Mankind has inherited a “fallen nature,” but that is not to imply the “total depravity” of the Calvinists because while the human body is subject to animal passions, the immortal soul comes from God pure and righteous. Thus, all people are innocent from birth, and (except for those with diminished intellectual and moral capacity) are equipped with the moral agency for choosing between good and evil..
The New Testament and Original Sin
Paul spoke of the effects of the Fall in three closely related passages in Romans 5. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12) ”Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression . . . .” (Romans 5:14) “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) It is clear from these passages that Paul believed that somehow Adam brought sin and death into the world, but it is not clear exactly what he believed was passed from Adam to his descendants. Elsewhere Paul explained, “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Romans 7:20) Therefore, it seems obvious that Adam was not just the first example of a transgressor, but his transgression actually had the effect of passing a fallen nature to his descendants. We shall see that the New Testament gives some clues about what exactly fallen nature is, but it must be admitted that it is not really explicit about the matter. In spite of this, it can easily be shown that the LDS view of original sin was in harmony with the earliest known Christian teachings.
The Sinful Nature
What exactly is the sinful nature of mankind? For Latter-day Saints it is closely linked to the mortal body. Thus the prophet Nephi lamented, “And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh?” (2 Nephi 4:27) The immortal soul is basically good18 and mortal life is a constant struggle between the desires of the flesh and spirit. However, the spirit can be marred and transformed as the desires of the flesh prevail, and indeed, all human souls except that of Jesus have sustained the damage of personal sin. In addition, the very environment of the fallen world and the temptations of the Devil and his angels combine with the flesh in its war against the soul. Bible-believing Christians have always believed in the fallen nature of the world and the reality of the devil, but they do not agree with the Latter-day Saints about the initial purity of the souls that come from God.
But Paul at least hinted that he held a view similar to that of the Latter-day Saints. For instance, in several passages he spoke of the war between the flesh and the soul. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:17; cf. Romans 8:1-4) “Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) Peter spoke of “fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)19 And little children were certainly considered innocent by Jesus, who told his disciples to let the children come to him, for “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) Many of the early Fathers were even more explicit in their beliefs.
For example, the Epistle to Diognetus asserted that “The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it . . . .”20 Clement of Alexandria elaborated:
This is the true athlete–he who in the great stadium, the fair world, is crowned for the true victory over all the passions. For He who prescribes the contest is the Almighty God, and He who awards the prize is the only-begotten: Son of God. Angels and gods are spectators; and the contest, embracing all the varied exercises, is “not against flesh and blood,” but against the spiritual powers of inordinate passions that work through the flesh.21
And the Clementine Recognitions preached the same doctrine:
For it is his duty to examine with just judgment the things which we say, and to understand that we speak the words of truth, that, knowing how things are, and directing his life in good actions, he may be found a partaker of the kingdom of heaven, subjecting to himself the desires of the flesh, and becoming lord of them, that so at length he himself also may become the pleasant possession of the Ruler of all.22
Barnabas preached that the new birth heals the spirit so that it can become as it was in childhood: “He hath made us after another pattern, [it is His purpose] that we should possess the soul of children, inasmuch as He has created us anew by His Spirit.”23 Papias wrote that the early Christians “called those who practised a godly guilelessness, children . . . .”24 Finally, the undeniably orthodox Pastor of Hermas taught that it is impossible for evil to originate in the heart of an infant:
And they who believed from the twelfth mountain, which was white, are the following: they are as infant children, in whose hearts no evil originates; nor did they know what wickedness is, but always remained as children. Such accordingly, without doubt, dwell in the kingdom of God, because they defiled in nothing the commandments of God; but they remained like children all the days of their life in the same mind. All of you, then, who shall remain stedfast, and be as children, without doing evil, will be more honoured than all who have been previously mentioned; for all infants are honourable before God, and are the first persons with Him.25
From these early witnesses we can infer that Christianity originally did not believe that the soul came from God already tainted by “original sin.” However, as the second century drew to a close, and the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls began to be lost, the situation changed. The great theologian, Tertullian, was the major player in this shift.
Tertullian believed a theory of the soul’s origin known as “traducianism,” which teaches that both the bodies and souls of all humans were contained in embryo within Adam, and new souls are created by the “psychic copulation” of the souls of the parents. Thus, when Adam’s soul was tainted with sin, so were ours, and so no human soul comes into the world in purity.26Tertullian dismissed the passages in the New Testament that speak of the war between the flesh and spirit by saying that the flesh is merely an instrument that does the bidding of the soul:
Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame. Now although the flesh is sinful, and we are forbidden to walk in accordance with it, and its works are condemned as lusting against the spirit, and men on its account are censured as carnal, yet the flesh has not such ignominy on its own account. For it is not of itself that it thinks anything or feels anything for the purpose of advising or commanding sin. How should it, indeed? It is only a ministering thing, and its ministration is not like that of a servant or familiar friend–animated and human beings; but rather that of a vessel, or something of that kind: it is body, not soul.27
Tertullian also explained the end result of the contamination of the soul:
All these endowments of the soul which are bestowed on it at birth are still obscured and depraved by the malignant being who, in the beginning, regarded them with envious eye, so that they are never seen in their spontaneous action, nor are they administered as they ought to be.28
It is interesting to note that even though Origen believed in the pre-existence of the soul, he still accepted the doctrine that the soul is tainted at birth.29 Origen was a Platonist who believed that immortal souls would not have voluntarily associated themselves with matter, so he reasoned that they must have had a “pre-cosmic Fall” where, because of various degrees of rebellion, they were thrust down into the material world.30
Throughout the various arguments associated with this doctrine, it was recognized by all that the question of original sin was intimately tied to the question of the soul’s origin.31 As was discussed above, this question was not a settled matter even as late as the fifth century, and Augustine himself was baffled by it to the end of his life. Augustine wrote in a letter to Jerome that the chief reason he could not decide between the various theories of the soul’s origin was that none of them really explained the transmission of “original sin”:
Some years ago, when I wrote certain books concerning Free Will, which have gone forth into the hands of many, and are now in the possession of very many readers, after referring to these four opinions as to the manner of the soul’s incarnation,–(1) that all other souls are derived from the one which was given to the first man [i.e. traducianism]; (2) that for each individual a new soul is made; (3) that souls already in existence somewhere are sent by divine act into the bodies; or (4) glide into them of their own accord . . . . Leaving, therefore, out of the question this heretical error, I desire to know which of the other four opinions we ought to choose. For whichever of them may justly claim our preference, far be it from us to assail this article of faith, about which we have no uncertainty, that every soul, even the soul of an infant, requires to be delivered from the binding guilt of sin, and that there is no deliverance except through Jesus Christ and Him crucified.32
Note that by this time Augustine could call the doctrine of the tainted nature of the soul an “article of faith.” Eventually, Augustine leaned toward traducianism, but he was still uncomfortable with this solution since it implied Tertullian’s belief in the corporeality of the soul.33
“Total Depravity” and Predestination
Whether they believed in the effect of original sin on the soul or not, Christians since the earliest times have maintained that human nature has elements of both good and evil, and hence people are capable of choosing either path. However, some theologians, notably the Reformer John Calvin and his followers, adopted the doctrine of “total depravity.” That is, the fallen nature is such that humans are not even capable of choosing good. John Calvin admitted that his doctrine was not preached by the Fathers, but he still claimed support from the Bible:
For under the second head, where [the early Fathers] treat of Original Sin, they declare that free-will, though impaired in its powers and biased, is not however extinguished. I will not dispute about a name, but since they contend that liberty has by no means been extinguished, they certainly understand that the human will has still some power left to choose good . . . . Therefore, if we believe them, Original Sin has weakened us, so that the defect of our will is not pravity but weakness. For if the will were wholly depraved, its health would not only be impaired but lost until it were renewed. The latter, however, is uniformly the doctrine of Scripture. To omit innumerable passages where Paul discourses on the nature of the human race, he does not charge free-will with weakness, but declares all men to be useless, alienated from God, and enslaved to the tyranny of sin; so much so, that he says they are unfit to think a good thought. (Rom. 3:12; 2 Cor. 3:5)34
But Calvin mischaracterized Paul’s teachings. Note the following passage: “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts . . . .” (Romans 2:14-15) Now, if men can obey the law of God “by nature,” then it seems certain that their “nature” is not entirely depraved.
Since Calvin himself admitted that the writings of the early Fathers did not support his arguments, the matter is not in dispute, but we will examine a portion of this evidence, anyway. In the second century we have the testimony of the Epistle to Diognetus, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and the Clementine Recognitions, (presented below, respectively) among others:
He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God.35
But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be.36
For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves . . . . But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made [originally].37
For believing and obeying are in our own power.38
Whether any one, truly hearing the word of the true Prophet; is willing or unwilling to receive it, and to embrace His burden, that is, the precepts of life, he has either in his power, for we are free in will. For if it were so, that those who hear had it not in their power to do otherwise than they had heard, there were some power of nature in virtue of which it were not free to him to pass over to another opinion. Or if, again, no one of the hearers could at all receive it, this also were a power of nature which should compel the doing of some one thing, and should leave no place for the other course. But now, since it is free for the mind to turn its judgment to which side it pleases, and to choose the way which it approves, it is clearly manifest that there is in men a liberty of choice.39
The following statement by Lactantius is representative of the attitude of the third-century theologians:
He devised an unspeakable work, in what manner He might create an infinite multitude of souls, which being at first united with frail and feeble bodies, He might place in the midst between good and evil, that He might set virtue before them composed as they were of both natures; that they might not attain to immortality by a delicate and easy course of life, but might arrive at that unspeakable reward of eternal life with the utmost difficulty and great labours.40
In the fourth century, Gregory of Nazianzus and Cyril of Jerusalem made the following comments:
For there are people so evilly disposed as to think that some men are of an utterly ruined nature, and some of a nature which is saved, and that others are of such a disposition as their will may lead them to, either to the better, or to the worse. For that men may have a certain aptitude, one more, another less, I too admit; but not that this aptitude alone suffices for perfection, but that it is reason which calls this out, that nature may proceed to action, just as fire is produced when a flint is struck with iron.41
The soul is self-governed: and though the devil can suggest, he has not the power to compel against the will. He pictures to thee the thought of fornication: if thou wilt, thou acceptest it; if thou wilt not, thou rejectest. For if thou were a fornicator by necessity, then for what cause did God prepare hell? If thou were a doer of righteousness by nature and not by will, wherefore did God prepare crowns of ineffable glory? The sheep is gentle, but never was it crowned for its gentleness: since its gentle quality belongs to it not from choice but by nature.42
Although Gregory indicated that by his time there were some heretics who entertained such notions, the majority of church thinkers rejected them. However, one later mainstream theologian, Augustine, did go beyond his forbears in this respect. He taught that while it is true that God’s grace can strengthen our will to do the right, we are utterly incapable of even willing to do good without the grace of Jesus Christ:
He operates, therefore, without us, in order that we may will; but when we will, and so will that we may act, He co-operates with us. We can, however, ourselves do nothing to effect good works of piety without Him either working that we may will, or co-working when we will. Now, concerning His working that we may will, it is said: “It is God which worketh in you, even to will.” [Phil. 2:13] While of His co-working with us, when we will and act by willing, the Apostle says, “We know that in all things there is co-working for good to them that love God.” [Rom. 8:28]43
But if so, then how can anyone be saved? Augustine, having lost the true knowledge of the preexistence, appealed to Paul’s references to “predestination” or “foreordination.” In his view, these passages implied that God predestines certain people to be saved and others to be damned, and therefore gives the grace necessary to accept Christ to those in the “saved” category. What about those who would never even hear the gospel in their lifetimes? Augustine reasoned that anyone who was predestined for grace would be given that chance:
Whosoever, then, are made to differ from that original condemnation by such bounty of divine grace, there is no doubt but that for such it is provided that they should hear the gospel, and when they hear they believe, and in the faith which worketh by love they persevere unto the end . . . .44
Against the charge that such a thing would make God unjust, Augustine defended his doctrine by saying that God’s election was based on some sort of “secret justice,” known only to God.45And what about Paul’s assertion that Jesus wills “all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth”? (1 Timothy 2:3-4; cf. 2 Peter 3:9) Of course, Augustine reasoned, Paul was only speaking of “all men” who had been elected:
And what is written, that “He wills all men’ to be saved,” while yet all men are not saved, may be understood in many ways, some of which I have mentioned in other writings of mine; but here I will say one thing: “He wills all men to be saved,” is so said that all the predestinated may be understood by it, because every kind of men is among them.46
The fundamental issue for Augustine was that if God “elected” someone to salvation before the foundation of the world, how could God’s election come to nothing as a result of human sin?
Those, then, are elected, as has often been said, who are called according to the purpose, who also are predestinated and foreknown. If any one of these perishes, God is mistaken; but none of them perishes, because God is not mistaken. If any one of these perish, God is overcome by human sin; but none of them perishes, because God is overcome by nothing.47
This interpretation was never accepted generally by Christianity, but centuries later John Calvin adopted the same belief.48 However, consider the logic of this position. If God creates all men out of nothing and if God has elected certain people to salvation by grace and others to condemnation, wouldn’t everything happen exactly according to His plan? If it all originated from God in the first place, how can His purposes be frustrated? Thus, strict Calvinism is logically consistent only if one ignores the belief that God wills all men to be saved. On the other hand, other mainstream Christian churches are consistent on this issue only if they ignore or water down the idea of “predestination” or “foreordination,” which is clearly taught in the Bible. Therefore, we can easily see how confusion arose during the early centuries of Christianity after the doctrine of the preexistence of man came into question and as the doctrine of creation out of nothing was adopted.
Mainstream Christianity has traditionally believed that not only are all human souls tainted by “original sin,” but as a consequence, they are also guilty of Adam’s transgression. Consequently, this has led those who believe in the absolute necessity of baptism to preach that infants who die without receiving the grace of baptism will be excluded from the kingdom of God.49 On the contrary, Latter-day Saints have been taught that “the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.” (Moses 6:54) Therefore, “all little children” and “those who are without the law” are “alive in Christ.” (Moroni 8:22) That is, any sins that are committed solely because of the negative effects of the transgression of Adam are automatically atoned for by Jesus Christ. Therefore, little children need no baptism to be redeemed, and neither do the mentally deficient who sin in ignorance.50
We have seen that Jesus preached the innocence of little children, for “of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14) And early writers like Barnabas and Hermas could not have believed in original guilt, for they believed that “all infants are honourable before God, and are the first persons with Him.”51 The Apologists of the second century concurred in this belief.52Similarly, Clement of Alexandria specifically stated that we come into the world without sin:
The righteous Job says: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there;” not naked of possessions, for that were a trivial and common thing; but, as a just man, he departs naked of evil and sin, and of the unsightly shape which follows those who have led bad lives.53
It is interesting to note that in Clement’s time the proponents of “original guilt” were the Gnostics54, and he argued strenuously against them:
It is for them to tell us how the newly born child could commit fornication or in what way the child who has never done anything at all has fallen under Adam’s curse. The only thing left for them to say and still be consistent, I suppose, is that birth is evil not just for the body but for the soul for which the body exists.55
We have seen that around the turn of the third century Tertullian did preach that the birth of the soul is tainted, but he did not preach “original guilt,” even though he approved of the practice of infant baptism:
The father should not bear the iniquity of the son, nor the son the iniquity of the father, but that every man should be chargeable with his own sin; so that the harshness of the law having been reduced after the hardness of the people, justice was no longer to judge the race, but individuals.56
The situation changed further as the third century progressed. For example, C.P. Bammel notes that the notion of the succession of original guilt is to be found in Origen’s Commentary on Romans57, yet Origen still did not believe that infants would be condemned because of it:
The words “I once lived without the law” in Romans 7:9 are explained as referring to the fact that every man lives without the natural law until he reaches the age of reason. During this time sin is dormant, but when he reaches the age to be able to distinguish right and wrong sin revives.58
By the middle of the third century, however, Cyprian connected the practice of infant baptism with the regeneration from original guilt:
But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted–and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace–how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins–that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another.59
This doctrine didn’t become general for some time, however, and in the fourth century Cyril of Jerusalem was still preaching the original dogma:
And learn this also, that the soul, before it came into this world, had committed no sin, but having come in sinless, we now sin of our free-will . . . . Remember also the Scripture, which saith, even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge: and, That which may be known of God is manifest in them; and again, their eyes they have closed.60
By the time Augustine wrote in the fifth century, the practice of infant baptism had become so commonplace that he could use it as proof positive that infants were born with the contagion of “original guilt.” According to him “the practice of infant baptism tells us that the infant soul, not merely its flesh, stands in need of cleansing.”61
Certainly there have been many different opinions within Christianity about the effects of Adam’s transgression, many of which with the Latter-day Saint and early Church belief that unbaptized infants would not be condemned.62 However, it should be clear by now that Joseph Smith’s doctrine of the preexistence of souls restored a crucial piece of the puzzle by showingwhat exactly is inherited from Adam. And the Prophet was in line with the early Church, as well as the more enlightened mainstream Christians63, when he preached that the effects of the Fall are freely atoned for by Jesus Christ.
The Road to Salvation in Mortality
Dispensations–a Gospel for All Ages
Whether one believes in “original guilt” or not, all Christians agree that there is only one way to undo the effects of the Fall, as well as save mankind from their own sins, and that is through the atonement of Jesus Christ. This is true for people who lived before the advent of Christ, as well as those who lived after, but mainstream Christianity has no consistent answer to the question of how those who lived before Jesus could take advantage of His atonement. For, if those before Christ could be saved by the law they knew, why was Jesus’ atonement needed?
Christianity Before Christ
Joseph Smith provided a novel answer: The gospel has been preached on earth since the beginning, starting with Adam and Eve. Thus, Adam could be termed the first Christian. (See Moses 6:52-60) Whenever the gospel has been preached, however, and the priesthood given, sooner or later apostasy has occurred and the authority and truth of God removed. Therefore, in periods of apostasy men were left with as much or as little truth for which, in God’s view, they could be morally responsible. As we are told in the Book of Mormon: “For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have . . . .” (Alma 29:8) But when a people is ready, God plants again the seed of the true gospel and Priesthood. As Joseph Smith stated, “It is in the order of heavenly things that God should always send a new dispensation into the world when men have apostatized from the truth and lost the priesthood . . . .”64
The dispensation inaugurated by the revelations and ordination of Joseph Smith is the last dispensation before the Second Coming of Christ, and is termed the “dispensation of the fulness of times” because it will “bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations; also other things that have not been before revealed.”65
According to non-Mormon scholar Heikke Raisanen wrote that the Prophet’s doctrine was to him a thing of “pure logic and downright beauty,” and he noted that similar concepts may be found in Clement of Rome’s (ca. 96 A.D.) letter and in the Pseudepigrapha.66 Indeed, Joseph Smith’s doctrine agrees with many early Christian writings. Paul insisted that the Lord had “preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Galatians 3:8) And Ignatius of Antioch agreed that the prophets knew of and preached Christ:
For the divinest prophets lived according to Jesus Christ. On this account also they were persecuted, being inspired by grace to fully convince the unbelieving that there is one God, the Almighty, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son, who is His Word, not spoken, but essential.67
Tatian, Theophilus, and Eusebius all agreed that the gospel was no recent invention, but, in fact, very ancient. “Let us, then, institute a comparison between them; and we shall find that our doctrines are older, not only than those of the Greeks, but than the invention of letters.”68
These periods, then, and all the above-mentioned facts, being viewed collectively, one can see the antiquity of the prophetical writings and the divinity of our doctrine, that the doctrine is not recent, nor our tenets mythical and false, as some think, but very ancient and true.69
If any one should assert that all those who have enjoyed the testimony of righteousness, from Abraham himself back to the first man, were Christians in fact if not in name, he would not go beyond the truth . . . . So that it is clearly necessary to consider that religion, which has lately been preached to all nations through the teaching of Christ, the first and most ancient of all religions, and the one discovered by those divinely favored men in the age of Abraham.70
Cardinal Daniélou mentions some of these early authors and admits that this was the position of “the earliest Christian theologians.”71
Degrees of Truth
Clement of Alexandria’s belief coincides with the philosophy found in The Book of Mormon that God gives as much wisdom and knowledge to a nation as it is capable of receiving:
It is He who also gave philosophy to the Greeks by means of the inferior angels. For by an ancient and divine order the angels are distributed among the nations. But the glory of those who believe is “the Lord’s portion.” For either the Lord does not care for all men; and this is the case either because He is unable (which is not to be thought, for it would be a proof of weakness), or because He is unwilling, which is not the attribute of a good being . . . . But in proportion to the adaptation possessed by each, He has dispensed His beneficence both to Greeks and Barbarians, even to those of them that were predestinated, and in due time called, the faithful and elect.72
And Eusebius taught that those who were not ready to accept the one true God were allowed to worship the heavenly bodies as a substitute:
There was but one way for those who failed of the highest religion of the Almighty to prosper, namely to choose the best of things visible in heaven . . . . So all the most beautiful visible created things were delivered to them who yearned for nothing better, since to some extent the vision of the unseen shone in them, reflected as in a mirror.73
The Law of Moses and the Gospel
Paul preached that the Law of Moses was a lesser or preparatory law, designed to lead Israel to Christ, added because of their transgression. “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Galatians 3:19) But Paul also insisted that the gospel was preached to the Israelites. “For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith.” (Hebrews 4:2)
Joseph Smith not only accepted Paul’s teachings on these matters74, he added a striking twist. According to a revelation the Prophet received as an inspired addition to the Bible, Moses received the full gospel law on the first set of stone tablets, but then received the lower law on the next set after he broke the first when he saw the Children of Israel had reverted to idolatry.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two other tables of stone, like unto the first, and I will write upon them also, the words of the law, according as they were written at the first on the tables which thou brakest; but it shall not be according to the first, for I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof, shall not go before them; for my presence shall not go up in their midst, lest I destroy them. But I will give unto them the law as at the first, but it shall be after the law of a carnal commandment.” (JST Exodus 34:1-2)
Consider the similarity of the preceding passage with this next one from the second-century Epistle of Barnabas, a thoroughly orthodox Christian work:
Yes [it is even so]; but let us inquire if the Lord has really given that testament which He swore to the fathers that He would give to the people. He did give it; but they were not worthy to receive it, on account of their sins. For the prophet declares, “And Moses was fasting forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai, that he might receive the testament of the Lord for the people.” And he received from the Lord two tables, written in the spirit by the finger of the hand of the Lord. And Moses having received them, carried them down to give to the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Moses, Moses, go down quickly; for thy people hath sinned, whom thou didst bring out of the land of Egypt.” And Moses understood that they had again made molten images; and he threw the tables out of his hands, and the tables of the testament of the Lord were broken. Moses then received it, but they proved themselves unworthy. Learn how we have received it. Moses, as a servant, received it; but the Lord himself, having suffered in our behalf, hath given it to us, that we should be the people of inheritance.75
The Loss of the Doctrine of Dispensations
At first the question of why Christianity abandoned this enlightening doctrine might seem baffling, considering how widespread it was in the first few centuries after Christ. However, since the doctrine of dispensations opened up the disconcerting possibility that the gospel may have been lost once again through all their innovations, it is understandable why later churchmen would reject it in favor of the theory of a “once for all” revelation in Christ, which affirmed their authority.76
Faith, Grace, and Works
When a person has the gospel of Christ preached to him, he alone has the responsibility to accept it in faith or reject it. Jesus preached that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) But what does this “saving belief or faith” imply? Conversations on this subject between Mormons and others, especially Protestants, often end up being futile exercises because many Protestants mistakenly think that Mormons believe in salvation by good works, rather than grace through faith, and many Mormons mistakenly think that all Protestants believe good works are completely unnecessary and superfluous to one’s salvation. Therefore, in this section we will carefully describe the interplay of faith, grace, and works as seen by Mormons, Protestants, and the earliest Christians. (The Mormon position essentially indistinguishable from the Catholic and Orthodox doctrines on this subject, so they need not be discussed in the context of this book.)
All Have Sinned
The scriptures make absolutely clear several facts about this subject. First, every person is a sinner, and therefore cannot by his own merits attain the glory of heaven. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of god” (Romans 3:23), said Paul. Similarly, John indicated that, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) And The Book of Mormon informs us that “if ye would serve [God] with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” (Mosiah 2:21)
Salvation by Grace
Consequently, all are in need of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to bring them back to the presence of God and cleanse them of their transgressions. This freely given gift of Christ Jesus is part of his “grace” or divine assistance, and no amount of good works on our part can save us without Christ’s help. Paul preached that, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) And Nephi wrote, “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)
By Grace Through Faith
Third, this saving grace is accessed by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul told the Galatians that,
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
Faith and Works
Fourth, saving faith is not mere belief or intellectual assent. True faith in Christ requires a change of heart–and a change of lifestyle. We must not only believe in Christ, but believe Christ concerning all the blessings promised the righteous. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20) Therefore, true faith carries with it the motivation to do good works. Such “good works” are not to be compared to the “dead works” Paul spoke of (Hebrews 6:1), any more than living faith is to be compared to the “dead faith” James preached against.
In the late first century, Clement of Rome illustrated the difficulty in expressing the relationship between faith and works when he exhorted the Corinthians to be justified by faith rather than works, and in another passage, by works rather than words:
And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men . . . .77
Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words.78
So far, Mormons and most Protestants would agree. While there are a few Protestants who believe faith does not entail any moral responsibility, nearly all of them consider good works as an essential product of faith. For instance Henry Halley:
Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith, and James’ doctrine of justification by works, are supplementary, not contradictory . . . . Paul preached faith as the basis of justification before God, but insisted that it must issue in the right kind of Life. James was writing to those who had accepted the doctrine of justification by faith but were not living right, telling them that such faith was no faith at all.79
Eternal Security? The Bible Says “No!”
Where do we differ? For one thing, many Protestants believe in “eternal security.” That is, after one truly accepts Christ into his life, one is saved and cannot ever become “unsaved.” Misinterpreting Paul’s assertion that no outside force “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39), they are persuaded that not even they themselves can reject God once they have accepted Him. Not only is this doctrine contrary to the New Testament, it was not taught in the early Church. No Christian writers can be found advocating it for centuries after the Apostolic era.
Paul insisted that salvation could be lost:
If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries . . . . Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29)
It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Paul entreated the Philippians to “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), and Peter exhorted the Saints to “give diligence to make [their] calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” (2 Peter 1:10) Peter also criticized certain Christians who had forsaken the faith: “They had once escaped the world’s defilements through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; yet if they have entangled themselves in these all over again, and are mastered by them, their plight in the end is worse than before.” (2 Peter 2:20 NEB) Paul counseled Timothy to “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Timothy 4:16) Indeed, Paul did not consider himself to be automatically saved:
It is not to be thought that I have already achieved all this. I have not yet reached perfection, but I press on, hoping to take hold of that for which Christ once took hold of me. My friends, I do not reckon myself to have got hold of it yet. All I can say is this: forgetting what is behind me, and reaching out for that which lies ahead, I press towards the goal to win the prize which is God’s call to the life above, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14 NEB)
Eternal Security? The Fathers Say “No!”
Similarly, the Church Fathers of the second century with one accord proclaimed that one must continue in righteousness or be condemned. Clement of Rome, for example, told the Corinthians:
Take heed, beloved, lest His many kindnesses lead to the condemnation of us all. [For thus it must be] unless we walk worthy of Him, and with one mind do those things which are good and well-pleasing in His sight.80
Later he asked: “For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith?”81 Likewise, Ignatius of Antioch entreated the Magnesians:
Lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the sour leaven, and be ye changed into the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ. Be ye salted in Him, lest any one among you should be corrupted, since by your savour ye shall be convicted.82
And Polycarp instructed the Philippians: “If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen.”83
Barnabas also exhorted the Church: “Be ye taught of God, inquiring diligently what the Lord asks from you; and do it that ye may be safe in the day of judgment.”84 He also added: “The way of light, then, is as follows. If any one desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works.”85 The author of 2 Clement made the same point:
But in what way shall we confess Him? By doing what He says, and not transgressing His commandments, and by honouring Him not with our lips only, but with all our heart and all our mind. For He says in Isaiah, “This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, “Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness.” Wherefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works . . . .86
The angel in Hermas’s vision explained that he must “endure to the end” to sit at the right hand of God:
While I was thinking about this, and feeling vexed that she did not let me sit on the right, she said, “Are you vexed, Hermas? The place to the right is for others who have already pleased God, and have suffered for His name’s sake; and you have yet much to accomplish before you can sit with them. But abide as you now do in your simplicity, and you will sit with them, and with all who do their deeds and bear what they have borne.”87
Paul made the same point in the apocryphal Acts of Paul: “Blessed are they who have kept their baptism pure, for they shall rest with the Father and with the Son.”88 Irenaeus quoted the “elders who knew the Apostles” as saying that Christians should watch themselves so as not to lose their salvation: “Therefore we should . . . ourselves fear lest, after the recognition of Christ, we should do something displeasing to God, and, no longer having remission of sins, be excluded from his kingdom.”89 And Jesus, in the Epistle of the Apostles, proclaimed that:
If any man believe on me and do not my commandments, although he have confessed my name, he hath no profit therefrom but runneth a vain race: for such will find themselves in perdition and destruction, because they have despised my commandments.90
This unanimous testimony of the early Church continued for centuries, and it appears the only ones who were preaching salvation by grace alone and eternal security in the early centuries of Christianity were the Gnostics.91 Therefore, it is perfectly clear that when Joseph Smith laid out the doctrines of faith, grace, and works, he was restoring the beliefs of the earliest Christians.
Beyond the generality of “good works,” Joseph Smith preached that there are certain ordinances or sacraments necessary for salvation. That is, certain rites must be performed wherein one makes covenants with God. Keeping these covenants entitles one to the grace of Jesus Christ, and hence, salvation. “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”92 First on the list of essential ordinances is baptism, and Joseph Smith accordingly affirmed Jesus’ teaching that one must be baptized to enter the Kingdom of God.
The Necessity of Baptism
In contrast, most Protestants have given up the idea that baptism is strictly “necessary” for salvation. For, although true faith carries with it the desire to perform good works, no particular good work, such as baptism, is necessarily required to show one’s faith. A minister representing the Presbyterian Church explained:
While baptism is urgently recommended in the Presbyterian Church, and while its omission is regarded as a grave fault, it is not held to be necessary for salvation. The Confession of Faith declares: “Grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it that no person can be regenerated or saved without it.”93
It must be admitted that the question of whether baptism is strictly “necessary” for salvation is not clearly answered in the Bible. Although there are two passages in the New Testament where Jesus seems to give baptism as a requirement, many Protestants feel that they can legitimately interpret them otherwise.
When the resurrected Lord appeared to the disciples in Mark’s account He announced: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:16) But Protestants who deny the necessity of baptism point out that Jesus never said that he who believes and is not baptized will be damned. To them, belief, not baptism, is the defining characteristic of the saved person, as opposed to the damned.
Likewise, Mormons see Jesus’ statement to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), as a proclamation that one must be baptized and sanctified by the Holy Spirit to be saved. On the other hand, many Protestants contend the “born of water” clause refers to birth from the water of the mother’s womb. Indeed, Jesus’ proclamation came in response to Nicodemus’s question: “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4)
Who is right? From a historical perspective, perhaps the only way to settle the question of how Jesus and the Apostles interpreted these statements is to discover how the early post-Apostolic Christian writers interpreted them. This method carries with it no guarantee, but one must grant that Christians who lived at times when there were still church members who had heard the Apostles speak, would be more likely to preserve the original teaching than some Reformer thirteen or fourteen hundred years later. And, indeed, we find that the early Christian writers unanimously insisted that to be “born of water” was to be baptized. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, the Clementine Homilies, and the Apostolic Constitutions all testified of this fact, and theConstitutions also considered Jesus’ statement at the end of Mark to be a command that everyone must be baptized:
For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”94
“And dipped himself,” says [the Scripture], “seven times in Jordan.” It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [it served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: “Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”95
And do not think, though you were more pious than all the pious that ever were, but if you be unbaptized, that you shall ever obtain hope. For all the more, on this account, you shall endure the greater punishment, because you have done excellent works not excellently. For well-doing is excellent when it is done as God has commanded. But if you will not be baptized according to His pleasure, you serve your own will and oppose His counsel. But perhaps some one will say, What does it contribute to piety to be baptized with water? In the first place, because you do that which is pleasing to God; and in the second place, being born again to God of water, by reason of fear you change your first generation, which is of lust, and thus you are able to obtain salvation. But otherwise it is impossible. For thus the prophet has sworn to us, saying, “Verily I say to you, Unless ye be regenerated by living water into the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”96
Nay, he that, out of contempt, will not be baptized, shall be condemned as an unbeliever, and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says: “Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And again: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”97
Baptism by Immersion
Therefore, it is certain that baptism was considered essential by the earliest Christians, but how was it done? Jesus commanded the disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19), and in general the Christian world has continued this practice. However, controversy has arisen over whether one is to be baptized by immersion or by pouring or sprinkling.
When John the Baptist restored the authority to baptize to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, he specified that baptism was to be by immersion. (D&C 13:1) And, it is clear that baptism in the New Testament was by immersion. After Jesus was baptized he “went up straightway out of the water” (Matthew 3:16), and John baptized in Aenon “because there was much water there.” (John 3:23) Paul also indicated that we are “buried with [Jesus] by baptism into death.” (Romans 6:4) The symbolism of the rite is clearly incomplete when pouring or sprinkling replaces immersion.
The rite of baptism began to be changed early on. Even in the first century certain communities had adopted the practice of pouring, but only when it was not possible to find enough water to immerse in. The Didache , which probably originated in Syria, suggests that one should be baptized in running water, but if none can be found, in still. Also, cold water is preferred over hot. “But if thou have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.”98 Perhaps in certain desert communities this eventuality was sometimes faced, and in time it became the practice of the Church in general to sprinkle or pour, especially when infants were baptized.
But the whole idea of baptizing infants, by immersion, sprinkling, or pouring, is seriously in question given the teachings of Christ about the innocence of children. And In fact, one could argue that such a practice betrays the very idea of the atonement. The prophet Mormon explained:
For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism . . . . Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy. (Moroni 8:15,19)
And indeed, there is significant evidence that it was not the original practice of the Church to baptize infants. Not only were no infants recorded to have been baptized in the New Testament, but Jesus commanded his disciples: “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.” (Matthew 19:14-15) Thus, Jesus merely blessed the children, and did not command them to be baptized, as he did adults. Mormon’s contention that children cannot be baptized because they cannot repent is significant, as well, because the way to baptism is always paved with repentance. “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” (Acts 2:38), Peter commanded.
Clement of Alexandria recorded a very ancient story about John the Apostle, where John entrusted a young boy to the care of a certain local Church leader: “[John] then departed for Ephesus. But the presbyter, taking home the youth committed to him, reared, kept, cherished, and finally baptized him.”99 If infants were to be baptized at that time, why did the cleric wait to baptize the child? Certainly he would not have neglected his duty toward this child, who had been entrusted to him by an Apostle of Jesus Christ!
The earliest reference to the practice of infant baptism was by Tertullian (ca. A.D. 200).100 But although Tertullian gave witness to this practice among Christians, he still insisted that it was preferable to wait for baptism:
And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary–if (baptism itself) is not so necessary–that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? . . . If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay: sound faith is secure of salvation.101
For centuries, believer baptism appears to have been the norm, even though infant baptism was practiced. For example, in the late fourth century Gregory of Nazianzus argued that baptism should be delayed until a child is accountable for his actions:
For this is how the matter stands; at that time they begin to be responsible for their lives, when reason is matured, and they learn the mystery of life (for of sins of ignorance owing to their tender years they have no account to give), and it is far more profitable on all accounts to be fortified by the Font, because of the sudden assaults of danger that befall us, stronger than our helpers.102
The Encyclopedia of Early Christianity notes that the inscriptions from this early time period which mention infant baptism place the date of baptism very close to the death of the children in question, therefore, “The principal impetus for the rise and spread of infant baptism may have been the desire that the child not depart life without the safeguard of baptism.”103 But this did not necessarily imply that unbaptized infants would be damned. For instance, in the fourth century an unimpeachably “orthodox” theologian such as John Chrysostom could say that “We do baptize infants, although they are not guilty of any sins.”104
By the fifth century, however, the rationale for infant baptism had changed. For example, Augustine saw its very existence as proof of his doctrine of original sin. But although he claimed all the unbaptized would be damned, he generously allowed that the damnation of unbaptized infants would be “the mildest punishment of all . . . .”105 Therefore, Catholic belief from Augustine onward has been that not only may infants be baptized, but if they die without baptism they will be denied the glory of the Kingdom of God.
The Laying on of Hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost
One more issue needs to be addressed in connection with baptism. Namely, the ordinance of baptism was not originally just a dunking. At first it included both immersion and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost, and only later did baptism become two separate rites. Likewise, Joseph Smith preached: “Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half–that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”106
Laying on of hands always accompanied baptism in the New Testament. For example, after Philip preached to the Samaritans and baptized quite a number of them, the Apostles came and conferred the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
Now when the Apostles which were at Jerusalem 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)
Certain post-Apostolic writers were anxious to preserve the form and meaning of these rites. Tertullian, for example, both confirmed that baptism was necessary and clearly defined the two parts of the ordinance:
When, however, the prescript is laid down that “without baptism, salvation is attainable by none” (chiefly on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, “Unless one be born of water, he hath not life”), there arise immediately scrupulous, nay rather audacious, doubts on the part of some . . . . Not that in the waters we obtain the Holy Spirit; but in the water, under (the witness of) the angel, we are cleansed, and prepared for the Holy Spirit . . . . In the next place the hand is laid on us, invoking and inviting the Holy Spirit through benediction.107
Cyprian not only recorded the form of the rites, he identified baptism and the laying on of hands with being “born of water and the Spirit”:
[After the baptisms by Philip in Samaria] that which was needed was performed by Peter and John; viz., that prayer being made for them, and hands being imposed, the Holy Spirit should be invoked and poured out upon them, which now too is done among us, so that they who are baptized in the Church are brought to the prelates of the Church, and by our prayers and by the imposition of hands obtain the Holy Spirit, and are perfected with the Lord’s seal.108
For then finally can they be fully sanctified, and be the sons of God, if they be born of each sacrament; since it is written, “Except a man be born again of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”109
And Bishop Cornelius of Rome disapproved of the practice of baptizing without laying on hands, for without it, how could one receive the Holy Ghost? It would only be “half a baptism,” as Joseph Smith said.
Being delivered by the exorcists, he fell into a severe sickness; and as he seemed about to die, he received baptism by affusion, on the bed where he lay; if indeed we can say that such a one did receive it. And when he was healed of his sickness he did not receive the other things which it is necessary to have according to the canon of the Church, even the being sealed [laid hands on] by the bishop. And as he did not receive this, how could he receive the Holy Spirit? . . .110
Baptism and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost are necessary to enter the Kingdom of God. Joseph Smith not only got the concept right, however, he also restored the proper forms of the ordinances and the knowledge that a merciful and just God would never condemn little children for sins they never committed.
From Death to the Resurrection
The World of Spirits
If one were to ask a mainstream Christian what happens to our spirits after death, most would probably say that they go directly either to heaven or hell, even though the Bible clearly teaches the final judgment will not occur until after the millennial reign of Christ. (See Revelation 20:7-13) However, Christ taught that there is an intermediate state of the soul between death and the resurrection. In this state of action there are two main divisions, which He called Paradise, or “Abraham’s bosom,” and hell. For example, “Jesus said unto [the thief], Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) The parable of Lazarus and the rich man makes clear that the gulf between the two divisions was impassable:
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom . . . . [Abraham says to the rich man] And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. (Luke 16:22,23,26)
But paradise, or “Abraham’s bosom,” cannot be equated with the kingdom of God, for at his resurrection Jesus told Mary: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” (John 20:17)
The Spirit World in LDS Thought
Joseph Smith not only restored this distinction, he added many other important elements about the world of spirits, which are not clearly taught in the Bible. The Book of Mormon teaches that the world of spirits is divided into two parts: paradise, which is where the righteous dwell, and hell, which is where the wicked receive punishment. (Alma 40:11-14) And yet, it is all one world of spirits. As Joseph Smith taught, “Hades, sheol, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits. The righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection.”111 Those who enter the spirit world are capable of being instructed, and great progress may be made there toward perfection.112 The punishment the wicked receive in hell, by which they may be purified of their sins, will have an end (D&C 19), though not until the wicked have “paid the uttermost farthing” (Matthew 5:26), as Jesus said. This world is located right here on the earth, according to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.113 The “great gulf” between hell and paradise was destroyed by Jesus Christ, who made it possible for the gospel to be preached to the spirits in hell, so that they may advance to paradise. (1 Peter 3:18-20; 4:6; D&C 138) Finally, when Christ was resurrected, the bodies of many of the righteous dead who had gone before were resurrected as well. (Matthew 27:52, Alma 40:20)
The Spirit World in Early Christian Thought
Several early Christian writers preached strikingly similar doctrines to the Prophet’s. For example, Justin Martyr held to the belief in the two-fold division of the world of spirits:
The souls of the pious remain in a better place, while those of the unjust and wicked are in a worse, waiting for the time of judgment. Thus some which have appeared worthy of God never die; but others are punished so long as God wills them to exist and to be punished.114
Irenaeus was emphatic that even believers must be taken to the underworld:
For as the Lord “went away in the midst of the shadow of death,” where the souls of the dead were, yet afterwards arose in the body, and after the resurrection was taken up [into heaven], it is manifest that the souls of His disciples also, upon whose account the Lord underwent these things, shall go away into the invisible place allotted to them by God, and there remain until the resurrection, awaiting that event.115
Tertullian not only preached that everyone must serve a term in the underworld, but he also taught that the spirit world is under the earth, and the fact that the souls of the wicked are punished there proves that the soul is material. He taught that the punishments in spirit hell will have an end, as well:
By ourselves the lower regions (of Hades) are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels; inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth . . . . Now although Christ is God, yet, being also man, “He died according to the Scriptures,” and “according to the same Scriptures was buried.” With the same law of His being He fully complied, by remaining in Hades in the form and condition of a dead man; nor did He ascend into the heights of heaven before descending into the lower parts of the earth, that He might there make the patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself. (This being the case), you must suppose Hades to be a subterranean region, and keep at arm’s length those who are too proud to believe that the souls of the faithful deserve a place in the lower regions.116
Therefore, whatever amount of punishment or refreshment the soul tastes in Hades, in its prison or lodging, in the fire or in Abraham’s bosom, it gives proof thereby of its own corporeality. For an incorporeal thing suffers nothing, not having that which makes it capable of suffering; else, if it has such capacity, it must be a bodily substance. For in as far as every corporeal thing is capable of suffering, in so far is that which is capable of suffering also corporeal.117
All souls, therefore; are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? (It is true, whether) you say yes or no . . . . Why, then, cannot you suppose that the soul undergoes punishment and consolation in Hades in the interval, while it awaits its alternative of judgment, in a certain anticipation either of gloom or of glory? . . . What, then, is to take place in that interval? Shall we sleep? But souls do not sleep . . . . Or will you have it, that nothing is there done whither the whole human race is attracted, and whither all man’s expectation is postponed for safe keeping? . . . Now really, would it not be the highest possible injustice, even in Hades, if all were to be still well with the guilty even there, and not well with the righteous even yet? . . . In short, inasmuch as we understand “the prison” pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, and as we also interpret “the uttermost farthing” to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides.118
Origen not only taught about the division in the spirit world, but called it both a place of learning and of punishment, and indicated that it was located on the earth. The inhabitants of Paradise will receive instruction, while the inmates of hell will be punished to purify them from their sins. And if their souls can be purified, this punishment must have an end, just as Joseph Smith said.
Those who, departing this world in virtue of that death which is common to all, are arranged, in conformity with their actions and deserts–according as they shall be deemed worthy–some in the place which is called “hell,” others in the bosom of Abraham, and in different localities or mansions.119
I think, therefore, that all the saints who depart from this life will remain in some place situated on the earth, which holy Scripture calls paradise, as in some place of instruction, and, so to speak, class-room or school of souls, in which they are to be instructed regarding all the things which they had seen on earth, and are to receive also some information respecting things that are to follow in the future . . . .120
We find a certain confirmation of what is said regarding the place of punishment, intended for the purification of such souls as are to be purified by torments, agreeably to the saying: “The Lord cometh like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and of gold.”121
An End to the Torments of Hell
Jerome quoted a passage from Origen wherein he more specifically stated that hellfire would have an end, and that afterward any further punishment would consist of remorse over lost opportunities:
Hellfire, moreover, and the torments with which holy scripture threatens sinners he explains not as external punishments but as the pangs of guilty consciences when by God’s power the memory of our transgressions is set before our eyes. “The whole crop of our sins grows up afresh from seeds which remain in the soul, and all our dishonourable and undutiful acts are again pictured before our gaze. Thus it is the fire of conscience and the stings of remorse which torture the mind as it looks back on former self-indulgence.”122
Origen’s teacher, Clement of Alexandria, apparently taught exactly the same doctrine in the second century:
For God’s righteousness is good, and His goodness is righteous. And though the punishments cease in the course of the completion of the expiation and purification of each one, yet those have very great and permanent grief who are found worthy of the other fold, on account of not being along with those that have been glorified through righteousness.123
This belief seems to have died out slowly. For example, J.N.D. Kelly reports that although Basil of Caesarea (late fourth century) himself believed in the eternity of hell, he lamented that “most ordinary Christians” did not, and indeed his colleagues Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa were among them.124
By the early fifth century a wide variety of opinions seems to have been in vogue. While some believed in an everlasting hell, others believed it would have an end, and still others believed that it could have an end if a saint interceded on one’s behalf. And while some believed that all who had ever partaken of the Catholic sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist would be saved no matter what, others believed that only those who actually remained Catholics would be saved, even if they had lived a morally despicable life.125 However, by the end of the fifth century, probably due to the influence of Augustine, nearly everyone had accepted the stern doctrine that hell would have no end.126
Bridging the Gulf of Separation
As was mentioned above, Jesus indicated that there was an inseparable gulf fixed between the two regions of the spirit world. However, according to both LDS and some early Christian teachings, Jesus broke down those barriers when he entered the world of spirits. For example, Ignatius taught that when Christ descended to the spirit world, he tore down the wall separating its two regions and arose from the dead accompanied by a multitude:
“Many bodies of the saints that slept arose,” their graves being opened. He descended, indeed, into Hades alone, but He arose accompanied by a multitude and rent asunder that means [lit. "fence" or "hedge'] of separation which had existed from the beginning of the world, and cast down its partition wall.127
This type of imagery is common in early Christian descriptions of Christ’s descent into the spirit world. The descent is always represented as an utter sacking of the place where Christ rips apart the gates, throws down the partition walls, and leaves with the righteous dead. Thus Athanasius:
He burst open the gates of brass, He broke through the bolts of iron, and He took the souls which were in Amente [the Egyptian name for the underworld] and carried them to His Father . . . . Now the souls He brought out of Amente, but the bodies He raised up on the earth . . . . And the Lord died on behalf of every one, in order that every one should rise from the dead with Him.128
A Coptic apocryphal document attributed to Bartholomew, as well as the apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew , the Letter of Jesus to King Abgar, and the Gospel of Nicodemus describe the descent in nearly identical terms:
He broke in pieces the doors, and smashed their bolts, and dragged away and destroyed the door-posts and frames. He overthrew the blazing furnaces of brass and extinguished their fires, and, removing everything from Amente, left it like a desert . . . . So Jesus went down [into Amente, and] scattered [the fiends], and cast chains on the Devil, and redeemed Adam and all his sons; He delivered man, and He shewed compassion upon His own image; He set free all creation, and all the world, and He treated with healing medicine the wound which the Enemy had inflicted on His Son. He brought back into His fold the sheep which had gone astray–He the holy and faithful Shepherd.129
Then did I enter in and scourged [Hades] and bound him with chains that cannot be loosed, and brought forth thence all the patriarchs . . . .130
He humbled himself, and died and debased his divinity and was crucified, and descended into Hades, and burst the bars which from eternity had not been broken, and raised the dead; for he descended alone, but rose with many, and thus ascended to his Father.131
There came, then, again a voice saying: Lift up the gates. Hades, hearing the voice the second time, answered as if forsooth he did not know, and says: Who is this King of glory? The angels of the Lord say: The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. And immediately with these words the brazen gates were shattered, and the iron bars broken, and all the dead who had been bound came out of the prisons, and we with them. And the King of glory came in the form of a man, and all the dark places of Hades were lighted up.132
And we shall see that Joseph Smith’s doctrine that the gospel is now being preached to the spirits in hell was widespread in early Christianity, as well.
The Preaching to the Spirits in Prison
Peter, in his first general epistle, made some very strange remarks about Christ’s descent to the spirit world which have haunted the Christian world for centuries:
For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah . . . . (1 Peter 3:18-20)
For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Peter 4:6)
Most commentators admit the plain meaning of these passages is that after Christ died, but before He was resurrected, He visited the spirits of the disobedient of Noah’s day in hell and preached the gospel to them. He did this so that they could be judged like other men who had heard the gospel, too, and be given the chance to live a godly life in the spirit.
Mainstream Christian Avoidance of the Issue
Since other Christian commentators have no knowledge of such a concept, they often try often try to come up with various alternative explanations which harmonize with their established beliefs. For example, the NIV Study Bible lists two other possible interpretations of this scripture:
Some hold that in his preincarnate state Christ went and preached through Noah to the wicked generation of that time . . . . Others argue that between his death and resurrection Christ went to the prison where fallen angels are incarcerated and there preached to the angels who are said to have left their proper state and married human women during Noah’s time (cf. Ge. 6:1-4) . . . .133
James Moffatt offers the following translation of 1 Peter 3:19, “It was in the Spirit that Enoch also went and preached to the imprisoned spirits . . . .”134 He justifies this blatant change in the wording by postulating that the text probably originally said “Enoch” , but was changed to read “in (or by) which also” (Greek en ho kai) by “a scribe’s blunder in dropping some repeated letters.”135 In other words, a translation is true if you drop the “anslation” and add the “ue.” (Moffatt also ignores the fact that Enoch wasn’t even on the earth during Noah’s lifetime, see Genesis 5:22-29, so his emendation not only is completely arbitrary and out of context, but it is demonstrably untrue.)
As for 1 Peter 4:6, the translators of the New International Version are also guilty of inserting extra words in the text to suit their preconceptions. They translate the verse, “For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.” Why do they add the word “now”? A text note explains:
The word “now” does not occur in the Greek, but it is necessary to make it clear that the preaching was done not after these people had died, but while they were still alive. (There will be no opportunity for people to be saved after death; see Heb. 9:27.)136
But the verse they cite as proof only says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.” (Hebrews 9:27) Clearly this says nothing about the time between death and the judgment, since the judgment will not take place until after the Millennial reign of Christ and the resurrection of the dead. (see Revelation 20) And wasn’t it precisely Peter’s point that the gospel had to be preached to the dead so that everyone could be judged on equal terms? If “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34), how could he condemn people for not accepting the gospel, when the vast majority of the people who have lived on the earth have never even heard of Jesus Christ?
The Early Christians on the Preaching Mission
We will find that the early Christian writers held no such narrow view, insisting that the gospel had to be preached to the spirits in prison. And they did not stop at the pitifully small amount of information Peter gave. They preached a doctrine remarkably similar to the Latter-day Saint belief that the gospel was not only preached by Christ in the spirit world, but by His disciples, as well, after they died.
Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria insisted that it wouldn’t be right for God to condemn those who hadn’t heard the gospel:
Since those who did that which is universally, naturally, and eternally good are pleasing to God, they shall be saved through this Christ in the resurrection equally with those righteous men who were before them, namely Noah, and Enoch, and Jacob, and whoever else there be, along with those who have known this Christ, Son of God . . . .137
For it is not right that these should be condemned without trial, and that those alone who lived after the advent should have the advantage of the divine righteousness. But to all rational souls it was said from above, “Whatever one of you has done in ignorance, without clearly knowing God, if, on becoming conscious, he repent, all his sins will be forgiven him.”138
And Peter, in the Clementine Recognitions, derided the God of Simon Magus because he could only save those who knew of Him!
Then said Peter [to Simon Magus]: “He saves adulterers and men-slayers, if they know him; but good, and sober, an merciful persons, if they do not know him, in consequence of their having no information concerning him, he does not save! Great and good truly is he whom you proclaim, who is not so much the saviour of the evil, as he is one who shows no mercy to the good.”139
If the definition of eternal life is to “know . . . the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3), how can those who have not even heard of them be saved? Paul had the answer when he said that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The only answer consistent with an all-loving and merciful God is that the gospel has to be preached to those who have not been given the chance to accept Christ in mortality. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Hermas all testified of the fact that Jesus did, indeed, preach to the spirits in prison, some even claiming that the departed disciples of Jesus continued the preaching work:
It was for this reason, too, that the Lord descended into the regions beneath the earth, preaching His advent there also, and [declaring] the remission of sins received by those who believe in Him. Now all those believed in Him who had hope towards Him, that is, those who proclaimed His advent, and submitted to His dispensations, the righteous men, the prophets, and the patriarchs, to whom He remitted sins in the same way as He did to us, which sins we should not lay to their charge, if we would not despise the grace of God. For as these men did not impute unto us (the Gentiles) our transgressions, which we wrought before Christ was manifested among us, so also it is not right that we should lay blame upon those who sinned before Christ’s coming.140
And it has been shown also, in the second book of the Stromata, that the Apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades . . . . For it was suitable to the divine administration, that those possessed of greater worth in righteousness, and whose life had been pre-eminent, on repenting of their transgressions, though found in another place, yet being confessedly of the number of the people of God Almighty, should be saved, each one according to his individual knowledge . . . . If, then, the Lord descended to Hades for no other end but to preach the Gospel, as He did descend; it was either to preach the Gospel to all or to the Hebrews only. If, accordingly, to all, then all who believe shall be saved, although they may be of the Gentiles, on making their profession there . . . .141
When He became a soul, without the covering of the body, He dwelt among those souls which were without bodily covering, converting such of them as were willing to Himself, or those whom He saw, for reasons known to Him alone, to be better adapted to such a course.142
These Apostles and teachers who preached the name of the Son of God, after falling asleep in the power and faith of the Son of God, preached it not only to those who were asleep, but themselves also gave them the seal of the preaching. Accordingly they descended with them into the water, and again ascended.143
This belief in Christ’s preaching mission to the dead was not some incidental folk belief, but a central part of the Christian message. It was so central, in fact, that Justin Martyr accused the Jews of having removed a passage from Jeremiah about the descent and preaching to weaken the scriptural support for Christianity.
Here Trypho remarked, “We ask you first of all to tell us some of the Scriptures which you allege have been completely cancelled.” [Justin quotes some passages which the Jews evidently removed from Esdras and Jeremiah.] And again, from the sayings of the same Jeremiah these have been cut out: ‘The Lord God remembered His dead people of Israel who lay in the graves; and He descended to preach to them His own salvation.’144
The Odes of Solomon preserve a beautiful account of the preaching work of Christ to the dead. In one of the Odes the Savior says:
Sheol saw me and was made miserable: Death cast me up and many along with me. I had gall and bitterness, and I went down with him to the utmost of his depth . . . . And I made a congregation of living men amongst his dead men, and I spake with them by living lips: Because my word shall not be void: And those who had died ran towards me: and they cried and said, Son of God, have pity on us, and do with us according to thy kindness, and bring us out from the bonds of darkness: and open to us the door by which we shall come out to thee. For we see that our death has not touched thee. Let us also be redeemed with thee: for thou art our Redeemer. And I heard their voice; and my name I sealed upon their heads: For they are free men and they are mine.145
God is merciful and He is just. He doesn’t save some and give others no opportunity to be saved. His hand goes out to all nations and all people at all times, and Jesus’ atonement breaks the bands of death and hell, so that all mankind can choose Him, and live. This is the message of Christ’s preaching mission to the dead, which mainstream Christianity has lost, and God has restored through Joseph Smith.
Baptism for the Dead
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” How does one reconcile Jesus’ statement with the fact that the unbaptized dead can be saved in the kingdom of God? Joseph Smith had an answer that shocked the rest of Christianity–the living can be baptized as proxies for the dead. In this ordinance, one is baptized in behalf of a dead forbear, so that if that person decides to accept the gospel in the spirit world, the ordinance for the entrance into the kingdom of God will have been done for him.
Baptism for the Dead According to Paul
Paul mentioned this ordinance in passing as part of his argument for the reality of the resurrection: “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:29) Commentators have long recognized that the plain meaning of the passage is that living people were being baptized for dead friends or relatives, but they usually try to get out of it by placing some other, more dubious interpretation on this verse. Thus Henry Halley:
This seems to mean vicarious baptism, that is, baptism for a dead friend. But there is no other Bible reference to such a practice, and no evidence that it existed in the Apostolic Church. Perhaps a better translation would be “baptized in hope of the resurrection.146
But Paul’s statement itself is evidence that baptism for the dead existed in the Apostolic Church! The NIV Study Bible admits that, “The present tense suggests that at Corinth people were currently being baptized for the dead.”147 And if “baptized for the dead” really means “baptized in hope of the resurrection,” it is an idiom of which translators have no knowledge, or they would have used it to sidestep the obvious meaning of the passage.
Another popular argument is that “Paul mentions this custom almost in passing, using it in his arguments substantiating the resurrection of the dead, but without necessarily approving the practice.”148 But why would Paul use some heretical practice in his arguments for the resurrection? Couldn’t he find some more firm foundation for this all-important Christian doctrine? And if he mentioned it in passing, wouldn’t that mean that his audience, the Corinthians, were thoroughly familiar with the practice and its implications?
A wide variety of such strange interpretations of this verse have been propagated over the centuries.149 The basic premise of all these arguments, however, is that since they have no more information concerning the practice, it must either be illegitimate, or the verse must be interpreted in some other way, because Christianity certainly couldn’t have lost such an important practice. But the information concerning this strange doctrine has been lost, and it took a prophet to restore it. In a recent study of the verse in question, Richard DeMaris of Valparaiso University admits that despite dozens of proposed interpretations, “the reference itself is simply so obscure and our knowledge so limited that we cannot discern just what this rite actually involved or meant.”150 However, his article makes it clear that such a rite did exist, even though he contends that it was probably confined to the area of Corinth.
Baptism in the Spirit World
Related to the practice of baptism for the dead is the idea that the spirits of the dead must be baptized in the spirit world after accepting the gospel there. According to Kirsopp Lake, “The idea that hearing the gospel and baptism is necessary for the salvation of the righteous dead of pre-Christian times is common . . . .”151 For example, the Pastor of Hermas related that the Apostles baptized the righteous dead after preaching to them:
“They were obliged,” he answered, “to ascend through water in order that they might be made alive; for, unless they laid aside the deadness of their life, they could not in any other way enter into the kingdom of God. Accordingly, those also who fell asleep received the seal of the Son of God. For,” he continued, “before a man bears the name of the Son of God he is dead; but when he receives the seal he lays aside his deadness, and obtains life. The seal, then, is the water: they descend into the water dead, and they arise alive.152
Jesus preached the same doctrine in the Epistle of the Apostles:
For to that end went I down unto the place of Lazarus, and preached unto the righteous and the prophets, that they might come out of the rest which is below and come up into that which is above; and I poured out upon them with my right hand the water [of] (baptism) . . . of life and forgiveness and salvation from all evil, as I have done unto you and unto them that believe on me.153
But if the dead receive their baptism in the world of spirits, why do they need vicarious baptism? Clement of Alexandria brought up an interesting point after quoting the passage from Hermas:
“They went down therefore into the water and again ascended . . . . But those who had fallen asleep, descended dead, but ascended alive . . . .” Then, too, the more subtle substance, the soul, could never receive any injury from the grosser element of water . . . .154
Of course you can’t baptize a spirit in real water–such a physically oriented ordinance must be performed in mortality. Although not strictly an official doctrine, many Latter-day Saints believe that such ordinances must be performed in the spirit world to effectualize the ordinances performed vicariously in the world of the living. After all, a spirit must accept the ordinances done for him. For instance, in a report requested by the First Presidency of the LDS Church, Heber Q. Hale, president of the Boise stake, related that in a vision he had seen, “Ordinances [were] performed in the spirit world effectualizing in the individual recipients the same principles of the Gospel vicariously performed here.”155
Indeed, the idea that spirits are baptized in the spirit world may be quite relevant to our case in light of what J.R. Porter calls “the well-known [Jewish] idea of the correspondence and the simultaneity of the earthly and heavenly ritual . . . .”156
Baptism of Resurrected Beings–A Variation on the Theme
In the Gospel of Nicodemus the concept was taken somewhat further. Two brothers were resurrected in this story after hearing Christ preach in the spirit world. Then, in their resurrected form, they were baptized in the Jordan.
And after they had thus spoken, the Saviour blessed Adam with the sign of the cross on his forehead, and did this also to the patriarchs, and prophets, and martyrs, and forefathers; and He took them, and sprang up out of Hades . . . . All these things we saw and heard; we, the two brothers, who also have been sent by Michael the archangel, and have been ordered to proclaim the resurrection of the Lord, but first to go away to the Jordan and to be baptized. Thither also we have gone, and have been baptized with the rest of the dead who have risen.157
Baptism for the Dead Among the Cerinthians and Marcionites
Was baptism for the dead practiced in the early Church? Aside from Paul’s reference there is only mention of a few heretical groups who preserved the practice. According to Fillion, the Cerinthians and Marcionites, two “heretical” sects, practiced baptism for the dead on behalf of deceased friends and relatives.158 Epiphanius described the practice of the Cerinthians in Corinth and Galatia:
Among them there also exists the tradition of which we have heard, namely that when some of them die before being baptized, others are baptized in place of them in their name, so that when they rise in the resurrection they may not pay the penalty of not having received baptism and become subject to the authority of the one who made the world. And this is the reason, so the tradition of which we have heard states, that the holy Apostle said, “If the dead are not raised at all, why are they baptized for them?”159
John Chrysostom similarly described the practice of the ancient Marcionites:
Or will ye that I should first mention how they who are infected with the Marcionite heresy pervert this expression? And I know indeed that I shall excite much laughter; nevertheless, even on this account most of all I will mention it that you may the more completely avoid this disease: viz., when any Catechumen departs among them, having concealed the living man under the couch of the dead, they approach the corpse and talk with him, and ask him if he wishes to receive baptism; then when he makes no answer, he that is concealed underneath saith in his stead that of course he should wish to be baptized; and so they baptize him instead of the departed, like men jesting upon the stage.160
Baptism for the Dead as an Esoteric Rite
Why wasn’t this practice preserved in the “orthodox” branches of the Church?161 Peter, in the Clementine Recognitions, may give us a clue:
When he had thus spoken, I answered: “If those shall enjoy the kingdom of Christ, whom his coming shall find righteous, shall then those be wholly deprived of the kingdom who have died before His coming?” Then Peter says: “You compel me, O Clement, to touch upon things that are unspeakable. But so far as it is allowed to declare them, I shall not shrink from doing so . . . for not only shall they [the righteous dead] escape the pains of hell, but shall also remain incorruptible, and shall be the first to see God the Father, and shall obtain the rank of honour among the first in the presence of God.”162
Was baptism for the dead an esoteric rite in the early church? Peter seemed to indicate that the entire subject of salvation for the dead was off limits in casual conversation.163 However, it is certain that if the dead were to be saved, their salvation had to include baptism. In another passage, Peter intimated that the unbaptized righteous would obtain some reward in the present life, but that future rewards were reserved for those who wrought righteousness after baptism. “But so well pleasing . . . is chastity to God, that it confers some grace in the present life even upon those who are in error; for future blessedness is laid up for those only who preserve chastity and righteousness by the grace of baptism.”164
The subject of secret rites and doctrines within the early Church will be discussed more fully in a later chapter, but for now it will suffice to point out that all the sacraments of the Church were veiled in secrecy until the third century. According to Davies, in the first two centuries of Christianity there are plenty of references to baptism and the Eucharist, but no detailed descriptions, because “the observance of the disciplina arcani [secret discipline] inhibited full descriptions of these rites.”165 Indeed, Tertullian’s On Baptism (ca. 200 A.D.) is the only extant treatise on any of the sacraments from before the fourth century.166
Therefore, it is hardly surprising that baptism for the dead was lost early on, if it was never revealed to everyone. This is unfortunate, however, since this doctrine and practice are essential to an understanding of God’s mercy and justice in action.
Objections to the LDS Practice of Baptism for the Dead
Before we move on, however, we should deal with the various objections mainstream Christians have had to the LDS practice of baptism for the dead. Although many mainstream Christian critics never bother to deal with the LDS doctrine or its justification from early Christian sources, one Catholic author, Bernard Foschini, did comment after reading Hugh Nibley’s classic study, “Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times.”167
Foschini cites various scriptures (e.g., Hebrews 9:27, Matthew 25:13, and Luke 16:19-31) which seem to indicate that it is not possible for one to change one’s ways after death.168 But he fails to note that baptism for the dead is not considered effective for those who have already rejected Christ–only for those who have never had a proper chance to accept or reject the truth; the audiences to whom the passages he quotes were directed had heard the Good News.
Ignoring the LDS belief that vicarious works must be accepted or rejected by the beneficiary, Foschini erects a straw-man argument that baptism for the dead would take away free-will:
If we, independently from the dead, can decide or change their eternal destinies, then the fact that they are damned or saved can no longer be attributed to their faults or their merits, but to ours. It would be our responsibility! It would be impossible, if we willed it, that anyone should go to hell!169
But this contradicts Paul’s testimony that the righteous dead of Israel could not be made perfect without the Christians of his day: “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:40) Therefore, the salvation of the dead must depend in some measure upon us.
Postulating that the condition of the dead is unalterable, Foschini then reasons that Christ preached the gospel to the dead only “as an announcement of the Redemption already accomplished.”170 In other words, Christ merely went to the unbaptized dead to tell them they were damned to hell. And yet Peter insisted that the gospel was preached so that they could “live according to God in the spirit” (1 Peter 4:6), so apparently the dead can change their ways!
Finally, Foschini objects to Nibley’s use of passages from the writings of the early Christian fathers to support the LDS belief. For, if an apostasy had occurred, as Mormons believe, why quote men who had lost the truth?
Finally, if after the passing of the Apostles, the bankruptcy of the Church and of her true doctrine became glaringly apparent in her struggle with the gnostic so-called, why does Nibley now stress so much the words of men who had lost the Lord’s doctrine? Why does he choose a few words of the Fathers who lived in the general disaster of the Church and hold them as true?171
Here Foschini entirely misses the point. No Latter-day Saint ever argued that the writings of the post-Apostolic Christians were to be considered scriptural. Rather, our point is that in many cases these documents preach doctrines that are at odds with mainstream Christian interpretation, but strikingly similar to those revealed to Joseph Smith. In light of this fact, the LDS claims about the apostasy and restoration are entirely plausible. And if one admits that the LDS claims are plausible, he will be that much more likely to ask God whether they are, in actuality, true.
As was indicated above, the spirit world is merely a waiting place for souls during the interim between death and the resurrection. The Bible is absolutely clear that the destiny of all mankind is to be resurrected and judged, as a consequence of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus Paul told Felix that “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15) Nearly all Christian denominations accept this hope. However, it should be pointed out that the type of resurrection Joseph Smith preached is somewhat different from that taught by many Christians.
The Resurrection Body in the New Testament
What will the resurrection body be like? The answer one gives to that question depends on how the seemingly contradictory scriptural passages relating to the resurrection are interpreted. For example, Paul indicated that the “natural body” would die, and a “spiritual body” would be raised up in the resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:44) But what is a “spiritual body”? The only example of a resurrected body given in the Bible is that of Jesus, and that body was evidently very physical. He made it clear to the Apostles that he had a corporeal body by letting them touch him and watch him eat: “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” (Luke 24:39; see also John 20-21) Nevertheless, Paul insisted that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:50)
Christian Confusion About the Resurrected Body
It is no wonder that the Christian world lies in confusion with regard to the nature of the resurrected body. Given the presupposition that something “spiritual” is non-material, these scriptures are a confusing mess. Consequently, some mainstream Christians admit that the “spiritual body” must be material, but are noncommittal about what exactly that means, while others insist that the resurrected body is incorporeal and Jesus’ resurrection body remained physical only temporarily, for evidentiary purposes. For example, Presbyterian leader John S. Bonnell explains:
With a few exceptions, Presbyterians do not interpret the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed “the resurrection of the body” as meaning the physical body. Saint Paul writes: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” They understand “the resurrection of the body” as a reference to the spiritual body of the resurrection. Paul writes: “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” . . . . Saint John in his Gospel suggests that the resurrected body of Jesus for evidential purposes retained certain physical properties.172
Joseph Smith on the Nature of the Resurrected Body
In contrast, Joseph Smith revealed that the body raised up in the resurrection will be essentially the same as the mortal body: “As concerning the resurrection, I will merely say that all men will come from the grave as they lie down, whether old or young; there will not be ‘added unto their stature one cubit.’”173 And yet the human form will be perfected: “The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time . . . .” (Alma 11:43) These resurrected bodies will be “spiritual” by virtue of “having spirit in their bodies, and not blood.”174 That is, they will be bodies of flesh and bone, animated by spirit alone, and not sustained by blood.
The Early Christians on the Nature of the Resurrected Body
Certainly this in an interesting solution to the problem of how a body of “flesh and bone,” as the resurrected Jesus had, could inherit the kingdom of God, and it explains how a “spiritual” body could be physical, as well. However, the test of this explanation lies with how the early Christian writers interpreted this apparent paradox.
First of all, throughout the second century, it was unanimously affirmed by mainstream Christianity that the resurrected body was essentially the same as the mortal body. Ignatius, for example, insisted that Christ not only had a physical body at his resurrection, but has one now, and will have one still at his final coming. He also testified that we will be raised up in exactly the same manner:
And I know that He was possessed of a body not only in His being born and crucified, but I also know that He was so after His resurrection, and believe that He is so now. When, for instance, He came to those who were with Peter, He said to them, “Lay hold, handle Me, and see that I am not an incorporeal spirit.” “For a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have . . . .” Nor was this all; but also after He had shown Himself to them, that He had risen indeed, and not in appearance only, He both ate and drank with them during forty entire days . . . . But if they say that He will come at the end of the world without a body, how shall those “see Him that pierced Him,” and when they recognise Him, “mourn for themselves?”175
He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life.176
Justin, Irenaeus, and Tatian all preached the resurrection of the physical body, as well. “Since we expect to receive again our own bodies, though they be dead and cast into the earth, for we maintain that with God nothing is impossible.”177 ”Then, again, how can they say that the flesh, which is nourished with the body of the Lord and with His blood, goes to corruption, and does not partake of life?”178
And on this account we believe that there will be a resurrection of bodies after the consummation of all things . . . . Even though fire destroy all traces of my flesh, the world receives the vaporized matter ; and though dispersed through rivers and seas, or torn in pieces by wild beasts, I am laid up in the storehouses of a wealthy Lord. And, although the poor and the godless know not what is stored up, yet God the Sovereign, when He pleases, will restore the substance that is visible to Him alone to its pristine condition.179
In the same vein, Tertullian preached that “souls are to receive back at the resurrection the self-same bodies in which they died.”180 And Jesus, in the Epistle of the Apostles, preached that “the resurrection of the flesh shall come to pass with the soul therein and the spirit.”181 The author of 2 Clement was even more emphatic:
And let no one of you say that this very flesh shall not be judged, nor rise again. Consider ye in what state ye were saved, in what ye received sight, if not while ye were in this flesh. We must therefore preserve the flesh as the temple of God. For as ye were called in the flesh, ye shall also come to be judged in the flesh. As Christ the Lord who saved us, though He was first a Spirit, became flesh, and thus called us, so shall we also receive the reward in this flesh. 182
Although the early Christian writers preached the physical resurrection of the flesh, they did not teach that the dead would be raised with all their former deformities and infirmities. For example, just as the Book of Mormon teaches the flesh will rise “in its perfect form” (Alma 11:43), Justin Martyr insisted that all deformities would be removed in the resurrection: “For if on earth He healed the sicknesses of the flesh, and made the body whole, much more will He do this in the resurrection, so that the flesh shall rise perfect and entire.”183 On the other hand, the resurrected flesh was not thought to be superfluous, and thus Papias could insist that “There will be enjoyment of foods in the resurrection.”184
One astonishing point in Joseph Smith’s favor comes from a passage in Athenagoras’ treatise on the resurrection. There he explained that the resurrected body is the same as the mortal body, except that it has no need of any type of fluids, such as blood or bile, which are strictly useful only in mortality. Compare this statement to the Prophet’s, quoted above, where he described a “spiritual” body as one sustained by spirit rather than by blood. As Athenagoras stated:
For the bodies that rise again are reconstituted from the parts which properly belong to them, whereas no one of the things mentioned is such a part, nor has it the form or place of a part. . . since no longer does blood, or phlegm, or bile, or breath, contribute anything to the life. Neither, again, will the bodies nourished then require the things they once required, seeing that, along with the want and corruption of the bodies nourished, the need also of those things by which they were nourished is taken away.185
The Power of Embodiment
One final fact should be noted about the doctrine of resurrection as revealed by Joseph Smith. That is, the resurrection of the flesh is not just an incidental detail in the plan of salvation, but a necessary step in the exaltation of mankind. For, if the “Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (D&C 130:22), and if “spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33), men must be clothed in a material body to become like their Father. And, evidently, the possession of a body entitles the bearer to greater power. “For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.” (2 Nephi 9:8)
This doctrine, we shall see, is entirely compatible with the worldview of ancient Judaism. And this is significant, since initially Christianity seemed indistinguishable from Judaism and was regarded by many as no more than another Jewish sect.186 According to the ancient Jews, the spirit and body are so united that the total essence of man must include both:
To the Hebrew man has not a body, he is a body. There is no rigid distinction between the physical and the spiritual, because body and soul are so intimately united that they cannot be distinguished; indeed they are more than united, for the body is regarded as the soul in its outward form. Man in his totality, therefore, is not a discarnate spirit but a spiritual-corporeal entity.187
Indeed, the doctrine revealed to Joseph Smith that the possession of a body imparts power to a spirit188 was also known to ancient Judaism and Jewish Christianity. For example, in theApocalypse of Abraham, the patriarch saw in vision that the angels in the sixth level of heaven, who have no bodies, must obey those in the seventh:
And I looked from the height where I stood to the sixth expanse; and there I saw a multitude of spiritual angels, without bodies–those, that is, who do the bidding of the fiery angels on the seventh firmament, on the heights of which I stood.189
Remarkably, the same doctrine was preached by Jesus in the Epistle of the Apostles: “And the Son shall become perfect through the Father who is Light, for the Father is perfect which bringeth to pass death and resurrection, and ye shall see a perfection more perfect than the perfect.”190
How was the truth about the resurrection lost? As we discussed earlier, Christianity rejected its early materialism in favor of a Neoplatonic belief system which defined the spiritual world as something completely transcending the material. The idea of a physical resurrection would have sounded extremely crass to any educated person in the Greek-speaking world.191 For example, when the Athenians “heard of the resurrection of the dead [from Paul], some mocked” (Acts 17:32), and the pagan Celsus objected that the Christian doctrine of resurrection is “such a hope [as] might be cherished by worms. For what sort of human soul is that which would still long for a body that had been subject to corruption?”192 Although the dogma of a physical resurrection has survived in some quarters of mainstream Christianity even down to the present time, many have rejected it in favor of the philosophies of men.
It is well known that Jesus preached the doctrine of His Millennial Reign. That is, Christ will come again to earth in glory, destroy the wicked, resurrect the righteous dead, and reign on the earth for a thousand years. John the Revelator saw this event in vision:
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. (Revelation 20:4-5)
A Literal Millennial Reign
Joseph Smith taught that the scriptural descriptions of this event were to be taken literally (see Article of Faith 10 in the Pearl of Great Price), and indeed, the Restoration of the gospel itself is a preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. While many Christians agree that the Millennium will be a literal event, many others see it as merely a symbolic representation of the future peace that will be brought to the earth by the teachings of Christ, or something similarly vague. However, we shall see that the earliest Christian writers believed in a literal Millennial Reign, and eschewed such allegorism, until this truth was rejected on dubious grounds in the third century.
Eusebius, in the fourth century, recorded that Papias had written down the tradition of the Millennium as he had heard it from the lips of the Apostles and others who had heard the Apostles:
The same person [Papias], moreover, has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition, amongst these some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature. Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.193
Eusebius also admitted that the great majority of second-century Christians even after Papias still expected a literal millennial reign, but he himself rejected such crass literalism and judged Papias to be mentally deficient as a result.
Papias reproduces other stories communicated to him by word of mouth, together with some otherwise unknown parables and teachings of the Saviour, and other things of a more allegorical character. He says that after the resurrection of the dead there will be a period of a thousand years, when Christ’s kingdom will be set up on this earth in material form. I suppose he got these notions by misinterpreting the Apostolic accounts and failing to grasp what they had said in mystic and symbolic language. For he seems to have been a man of very small intelligence, to judge from his books. But it is partly due to him that the great majority of churchmen after him took the same view, relying on his early date; e.g. Irenaeus and several others, who clearly held the same opinion.194
Indeed, before the third century the belief in the literal fulfillment of these promises was so widespread that Irenaeus could claim it was essential to orthodoxy:
Still in the late second century Irenaeus, who was both bishop of Lyons and a distinguished theologian, could quote Papias along with passages from the Scriptures–and even insist that it was an indispensable part of orthodoxy to believe that these things [i.e. the Millennium] would come to pass.195
However, even in Justin Martyr’s day doubt was beginning to spring up about this doctrine, probably because of the disillusionment of those who expected immediate fulfillment of the promises. Justin and most others still believed in the Millennium, but he could report that there were others who rejected this teaching, even though Peter warned not to expect the Second Coming immediately, for “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 3:8)
I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and [believe] that such [the Millennium] will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.196
Spiritualizing the Millennium
According to Davies, the widespread belief in the Millennial reign was brought into general disrepute on account of its acceptance by the Montanists, and was thereafter transformed into the doctrines of purgatory and the exemption of faithful Christians from a period of waiting after death before their final appointment to the bliss of heaven.197 Thus, without revelation, Christianity rejected a perfectly orthodox doctrine just because a heretical sect accepted it.
The extent to which the belief in a literal Millennium fell into disrepute can be illustrated by the fact that those passages which defended this doctrine in Irenaeus’s Against Heresies, were removed from most of the manuscripts now extant by scribes in the middle ages. Roberts and Donaldson explain:
The five following chapters [Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:32-36] were omitted in the earlier editions, but added by Feuardentius. Most MSS, too, did not contain them. It is probable that the scribes of the middle ages rejected them on account of their inculcating millenarian notions, which had been long extinct in the Church.198
What a shame this glorious hope was lost. But its enemies could never completely drive it from Christianity, and it has had a tendency to crop up from time to time, especially during periods of political strife. Therefore, Joseph Smith’s acceptance of this doctrine is not particularly remarkable, but certainly it adds weight to the already sizable mass of evidence we have collected for his claims to inspiration.
Three Degrees of Glory and Outer Darkness
The Bible makes clear that all mankind will be “judged. . . according to their works.” (Revelation 20:12) And if so, won’t everyone’s rewards be different one from another? Jesus insisted that in His “Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2), and Paul wrote that in the judgment a person’s works might be added to his reward or burned up, but either way he might still be saved: “If any man’s work abide which he hath built [upon the foundation of Jesus Christ], he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:14-15) Paul also indicated that he had seen a vision of “the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:2) Therefore, one might logically conclude from these passages that recipients of salvation will be allotted varying rewards within at least three different “heavens” or “degrees of glory.” However, it must be admitted that this fact is not really made explicit in the Bible, so it is understandable that the Christian world has for many centuries been content with the doctrine of one heaven and one hell.
The LDS Doctrine of Degrees of Glory
While pondering the significance of certain of the aforementioned passages in the Bible, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were given a most striking vision of the fate of mankind after the general resurrection and judgment, which included a description of the three principal kingdoms of glory. (D&C 76) They found that the first kingdom, called the Celestial, will be inhabited by those who have overcome by faith in Jesus Christ (D&C 76:50-70, 92-96), including children who have died and those who would have accepted the gospel in this life, but were not given the chance until they reached the spirit world. (D&C 137:1-10) The second kingdom, called the Terrestrial, will be inhabited by good people who were just and kind, but were not valiant in their testimony of Jesus. Those who rejected the gospel in this life, but afterwards received it will be given a reward in this kingdom, as well. (D&C 76:71-80, 91, 97)199 The third, or Telestial, kingdom will be given to the generally wicked masses of the earth who spent their entire residence in the Spirit World in Hell, and so were not worthy of any higher glory. (D&C 76:81-90, 98-112)
Another distinction between these kingdoms is that those who receive Celestial glory will reside in the presence of the Father Himself, while those in the Terrestrial kingdom will receive the presence of the Son, and those in the Telestial will have the Holy Ghost to minister to them. (D&C 76:62, 77, 86)
Sun, Moon, and Stars as Types of the Degrees of Glory
What marvelous light this vision has thrown upon obscure Bible passages! For example, what good does it do to know that there are three heavens if one does not know anything about them? Another example of a passage illuminated by this revelation is Paul’s description of the glory of the resurrected body:
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 Corinthians 15:40-42)
In the vision of the kingdoms of glory, the Lord revealed that this passage is not just a comparison of earthly bodies with heavenly, but also a reference to the fact that there are three different major levels of glory to which a body can be resurrected:
And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one. And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one. And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differeth from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world. (D&C 76:96-98)
Origen, in the early third century, revealed that the early Church interpreted this passage in essentially the same way:
Our understanding of the passage indeed is, that the Apostle, wishing to describe the great difference among those who rise again in glory, i.e., of the saints, borrowed a comparison from the heavenly bodies, saying, “One is the glory of the sun, another the glory of the moon, another the glory of the stars.”200
He further explained that the highest of the three degrees is associated with the Father, and the second degree with the Son:
And some men are connected with the Father, being part of Him, and next to these, those whom our argument now brings into clearer light, those who have come to the Saviour and take their stand entirely in Him. And third are those of whom we spoke before, who reckon the sun and the moon and the stars to be gods, and take their stand by them. And in the fourth and last place those who submit to soulless and dead idols.201
We shall see that Origen’s doctrine of a fourth degree for the very wicked is fairly consistent with LDS belief, as well.
John Chrysostom was another witness to the fact that the early Church considered this passage to be a reference to degrees of reward in the afterlife:
And having said this, he ascends again to the heaven, saying, “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon.” For as in the earthly bodies there is a difference, so also in the heavenly; and that difference no ordinary one, but reaching even to the uttermost: there being not only a difference between sun and moon, and stars, but also between stars and stars. For what though they be all in the heaven? yet some have a larger, others a less share of glory. What do we learn from hence? That although they be all in God’s kingdom, all shall not enjoy the same reward; and though all sinners be in hell, all shall not endure the same punishment.202
More Ancient Witnesses to the Three Degrees of Glory
This doctrine goes back much further than Origen and Chrysostom, however. Irenaeus preserved the same tradition which had supposedly come from the elders who knew the Apostles. Many think he received it from Papias:
And as the presbyters say, Then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour shall be seen according as they who see Him shall be worthy. [They say, moreover], that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold: for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second will dwell in paradise, the last will inhabit the city; and that was on this account the Lord declared, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” For all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place; even as His Word says, that a share is allotted to all by the Father, according as each person is or shall be worthy. And this is the couch on which the guests shall recline, having been invited to the wedding. The presbyters, the disciples of the Apostles, affirm that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved, and that they advance through steps of this nature; also that they ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father, and that in due time the Son will yield up His work to the Father, even as it is said by the Apostle, “For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”203
Clement of Alexandria also expressed belief in the three degrees, and echoed the Lord’s revelation to Joseph Smith that those in the highest degree “are gods, even the sons of God.” (D&C 76:58)
Conformably, therefore, there are various abodes, according to the worth of those who have believed . . . . These chosen abodes, which are three, are indicated by the numbers in the Gospel–the thirty, the sixty, the hundred. And the perfect inheritance belongs to those who attain to “a perfect man,” according to the image of the Lord . . . . To the likeness of God, then, he that is introduced into adoption and the friendship of God, to the just inheritance of the lords and gods is brought; if he be perfected, according to the Gospel, as the Lord Himself taught.204
Clement also preached that the three gradations of glory are procured by virtue of three types of actions:
[Clement of Alexandria] reckons three kinds of actions, the first of which is . . . right or perfect action, which is characteristic of the perfect man and Gnostic alone, and raises him to the height of glory. The second is the class of . . . medium, or intermediate actions, which are done by less perfect believers, and procure a lower grade of glory. In the third place he reckons sinful actions, which are done by those who fall away from salvation.205
Other Systems of Multiple Heavens
Actually, there were several schemes for the structure of the heavens, with different numbers of heavens which varied also in their contents.206 But even where three degrees were not specifically mentioned, it was maintained that various gradations of the elect exist. For example, Similitude 8 in the Pastor of Hermas discusses various types of elect. The editors of one collection of early Christian documents preface the chapter with this summary: “That there are many kinds of elect, and of repenting sinners: and how all of them shall receive a reward proportionable to the measure of their repentance and good works.”207
Jesus, in the Epistle of the Apostles, made a distinction between the “elect” and “most elect.”208 And consistent with this, the Jewish Christian Clementine Recognitions reduced the number of heavens to two.209
One of the most popular schemes was that of seven heavens. Daniélou asserts that the idea of seven heavens was first introduced by certain Jewish Christian groups and “derives from oriental, Irano-Babylonian influences,” while the older Jewish apocalyptic tradition and many other early Christian groups held to the three heavens scheme.210 However, it appears that the seven heavens may originally have been consistent with the three heavens doctrine. For example, we have seen that Irenaeus preserved Papias’s doctrine of three heavens, but in another passage he asserted that “the earth is encompassed by seven heavens, in which dwell Powers and Angels and Archangels, giving homage to the Almighty God who created all things . . . .”211As Daniélou points out, since the seven heavens were the dwelling places of angels, they probably were thought to have been gradations within the second of the three principal heavens.212
As we noted in the discussion of the nature of the spirit world, both the Latter-day Saints and the early Christians have taught that the “hell” associated with the spirit world will have an end. It should be noted here, however, that there will be an everlasting hell after the resurrection, and the promise of eternal punishment is very real for those who in this life and the next not only reject Christ and His Kingdom, but who consciously fight against it once they have received a witness of its truth. The Lord revealed to the Prophet that those who deny the Holy Ghost, and thus committing the unpardonable sin, will be given a kingdom of totally without glory called “outer darkness”:
Thus saith the Lord concerning all those who know my power, and have been made partakers thereof, and suffered themselves through the power of the devil to be overcome, and to deny the truth and defy my power–They are they who are the sons of perdition, of whom I say that it had been better for them never to have been born; For they are vessels of wrath, doomed to suffer the wrath of God, with the devil and his angels in eternity; Concerning whom I have said there is no forgiveness in this world nor in the world to come–Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame. (D&C 76:31-35)
Similarly, both the gnostic Christian Gospel of Philip and the Pastor of Hermas describe the denizens of “outer darkness” as those who have made a conscious and specific choice to rebel against God:
An Apostolic man in a vision saw some people shut up in a house of fire and bound with fiery chains, lying in flaming ointment . . . . And he said to them, “[Why are they not able] to be saved? [They answered], “They did not desire it. They received [this place as] punishment, what is called ‘the [outer] darkness,’ because he is [thrown] out (into it).”213
From the first mountain, which was black, they that believed are the following: apostates and blasphemers against the Lord, and betrayers of the servants of God. To these repentance is not open; but death lies before them, and on this account also are they black, for their race is a lawless one.214
Origen taught that the wicked in outer darkness would be devoid of intelligence, and possessed of bodies stripped of all glory.
But the outer darkness, in my judgment, is to be understood not so much of some dark atmosphere without any light, as of those persons who, being plunged in the darkness of profound ignorance, have been placed beyond the reach of any light of the understanding . . . . The wicked also, who in this life have loved the darkness of error and the night of ignorance, may be clothed with dark and black bodies after the resurrection . . . .215
Finally, the Lord told Joseph Smith that He never fully reveals to men the punishments of outer darkness, but only brief visions thereof. Consider the wording of this revelation as compared to that used by Jesus in the apocryphal Gospel of Bartholomew:
And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof; Nevertheless, I, the Lord, show it by vision unto many, but straightway shut it up again; Wherefore, the end, the width, the height, the depth, and the misery thereof, they understand not, neither any man except those who are ordained unto this condemnation. (D&C 76:45-48)
And the earth was rolled up like a volume of a book and the deep [hell] was revealed unto them. And when the Apostles saw it, they fell on their faces upon the earth. But Jesus raised them up, saying: Said I not unto you, “It is not good for you to see the deep.” And again he beckoned unto the angels, and the deep was covered up.216
The Loss of the Doctrine of Degrees of Glory
We have seen that the doctrine of degrees of glory was soon confused so that a number of schemes, notably that of seven heavens, were adopted, but it was always clear to everyone that there were different degrees of glory in the heavens. So how was this enlightening doctrine lost? Its fate is not completely clear, but the example of Jovinian, a monk from Milan who preached around the turn of the fifth century, may be instructive. Clark describes Jovinian’s teaching, and Jerome’s reaction to it: “Jovinian’s view, that there are only two categories, the saved and the damned, is assessed by Jerome as more akin to the philosophy of the Old Stoics than that of Christians.”217 Therefore, once again an older Christian doctrine was replaced by the speculations of a Greek philosophical school.
It is clear that Joseph Smith went far beyond the information found in the Bible concerning the degrees of glory in the resurrection. However, it is equally clear that many of those extra details he included are corroborated by the testimony of the early Christian writers–and this to such an extent that it is hard to explain the phenomenon as mere coincidence.
Can there be any doubt that Joseph Smith preached a legitimate early Christian worldview218, and correctly mapped out the way to salvation? This is the question that every reader must decide for himself, but in view of the evidence presented so far, it must be admitted that the suggestion is entirely plausible.
Note 1: Adam’s Vision of His Posterity
Both Joseph Smith and an early Jewish legend reported that Adam had been shown a vision of his posterity. According to the Jewish Haggadah, Adam saw the whole history of mankind in vision immediately after his creation. “God revealed the whole history of mankind to him. He showed him each generation and its leaders; each generation and its prophets; each generation and its scholars; [etc.]“219
This legend is similar to the revelation given to Joseph Smith, that three years prior to his death “Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation [of his extended family]; and . . . being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.” (D&C 107:56)
Note 2: Translated Beings
One final point of contact exists between the doctrine of three degrees as revealed to Joseph Smith and that preserved in ancient Christian circles. That is, Joseph Smith taught that the paradise of Eden was in a Terrestrial state, and also those persons who have been translated, or taken up to heaven without tasting death, are preserved also in a terrestrial state until they are resurrected. Compare the Prophet’s doctrine of translation220 with that preserved in another fragment attributed to Papias:
Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead.221
Where, then, was the first man placed? In paradise certainly, as the Scripture declares “And God planted a garden [paradisum] eastward in Eden, and there He placed the man whom He had formed.” And then afterwards when [man] proved disobedient, he was cast out thence into this world. Wherefore also the elders who were disciples of the Apostles tell us that those who were translated were transferred to that place (for paradise has been prepared for righteous men, such as have the Spirit; in which place also Paul the Apostle, when he was caught up, heard words which are unspeakable as regards us in our present condition), and that there shall they who have been translated remain until the consummation [of all things], as a prelude to immortality.222
Peter preached essentially the same doctrine in the Clementine Recognitions:
In like manner others were dealt with, who pleased His will, that, being translated to Paradise, they should be kept for the kingdom. But as to those who have not been able completely to fulfil the rule of righteousness, but have had some remnants of evil in their flesh, their bodies are indeed dissolved, but their souls are kept in good and blessed abodes, that at the resurrection of the dead, when they shall recover their own bodies, purified even by the dissolution, they may obtain an eternal inheritance in proportion to their good deeds.223
Note 3: Worlds Without End
The doctrine of multiple worlds is perhaps a minor point, but it emphasizes the fact that the worldview Joseph Smith taught would have fit quite nicely within the framework of early Christian thought.
The Lord gave a vision to Joseph Smith of what Moses saw when he was caught up to a high mountain. In it, the Lord explained, “And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.” (Moses 1:33) What was the purpose of all this? The Lord intimated that His eternal work and glory is to bring salvation to mankind:
And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:38-39)
Compare this worldview to that found in many early Christian and Jewish documents. In answer to the question, “What was God doing before this world began, if this world had a beginning in time?” Origen revealed that the ancient Church held the same belief:
We say that not then for the first time did God begin to work when He made this visible world; but as, after its destruction, there will be another world, so also we believe that others existed before the present came into being. And both of these positions will be confirmed by the authority of holy Scripture. For that there will be another world after this, is taught by Isaiah, who says, “There will be new heavens, and a new earth, which I shall make to abide in my sight, saith the LORD;” and that before this world others also existed is shown by Ecclesiastes, in the words: “What is that which hath been? Even that which shall be. And what is that which has been created? Even this which is to be created: and there is nothing altogether new under the sun. Who shall speak and declare, Lo, this is new? It hath already been in the ages which have been before us.”224
In the same vein, Clement of Rome rhapsodized: “The Creator and Father of all worlds, the Most Holy, alone knows their amount and their beauty.”225 Paul taught that the Father “made the worlds” through the agency of Jesus. (Hebrews 1:2) And an old Jewish creation legend states that: “When God made our present heavens and our present earth, ‘the new heavens and the new earth’ were also brought forth, yea, and the hundred and ninety-six thousand worlds which God created unto his own glory.”226
1 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 68.
2 NTA 2: 590-591.
3 Epistula Apostolorum 14, in NTA 1:198.
4 See also Chapter Note 1.
5 ”And also with Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days. . . .” (D&C 27:11.)
6 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 157.
7 The Mysteries of Saint John the Apostle and Holy Virgin, in E.A.W. Budge, Coptic Apocrypha (London: Longmans and Co., 1910), 246.
8 Segal, Two Powers in Heaven, 111, 113.
9 Segal, Two Powers in Heaven, 253.
10 Segal, Two Powers in Heaven, 137.
11 Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen 11, in ANF 2:203, brackets in original.
12 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:37, in ANF 1:521. Similarly, Origen taught that God is able to use the presence of evil to our advantage:
God does not create evil; still, he does not prevent it when it is displayed by others, although he could do so. But he uses evil, and those who exhibit it, for necessary purposes. For by means of those in whom there is evil, he bestows honour and approbation on those who strive for the glory of virtue. Virtue, if unopposed, would not shine out nor become more glorious by probation. Virtue is not virtue if it be untested and unexamined. Origen, Homilies on Numbers 14:2, in Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers, 192.
13 NTA 2:107.
14 Clementine Homilies 3:28 in ANF 8:241.
15 Clementine Homilies 2:52, in ANF 8:238.
16 Introduction to The Mystical Theology of Pseudo-Dionysius, in TOB, 719.
17 ”As in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins.” (Mosiah 3:16.)
18 ”Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.” (D&C 93:38)
19 See also Polycarp, Philippians 5, in ANF 1:34.
20 Mathetes to Diognetus 6, in ANF 1:27.
21 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7:3, in ANF 2:528.
22 Peter, in Clementine Recognitions 5:8, in ANF 8:145.
23 Barnabas 6, in ANF 1:140.
24 Papias, Fragment 2, in ANF 1:153, brackets in original.
25 The Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:29, in ANF 2:53. Hermas also speaks of a class of people who had been “born good”: “When the Lord, therefore, saw the mind of these persons, that they were born good, and could be good. . . .” The Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:30, in ANF 2:53.
26 Wagner, After the Apostles, 194. Since Jesus’ Father was God, Tertullian argued that Jesus’ soul was not tainted by original sin because he (Tertullian) considered women to merely be channels for the male sperm, which developed into a human being.
27 Tertullian, On the Soul 40, in ANF 3:220. Certainly modern genetic studies have confirmed the fact that the body has much more influence on human behavior than Tertullian was willing to give it credit for.
28 Tertullian, On the Soul 39, in ANF 3:219.
29 Origen, Commentary on Romans 5:1, in Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers, 204.
30 Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, 139; cf. Bammel, C.P., “Adam in Origen,” in Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy, 81.
31 Clark, The Origenist Controversy, 219.
32 Augustine, Letter 163:7 (addressed to Jerome,) in NPNF Series 1, 1:525.
33 ECD 345.
34 John Calvin, in Dillenberger, ed., John Calvin: Selections from His Writings, 159. It is less well-known that Martin Luther also taught this doctrine. See Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, translated by Henry Cole (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), especially 43-44, 70.
35 Mathetes to Diognetus 7, in ANF 1:27
36 Justin Martyr, First Apology 43, in ANF 1:177.
37 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:37:1-2, in ANF 1:518-519, brackets in original.
God therefore has given that which is good, as the apostle tells us in this Epistle, and they who work it shall receive glory and honour, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it; but those who do it not shall receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it in their power so to do. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:37:1, in ANF 1:519.
38 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7:3, in ANF 2:527.
And neither praises nor censures, neither rewards nor punishments, are right, when the soul has not the power of inclination and disinclination, but evil is involuntary. Whence he who prevents is a cause; while he who prevents not judges justly the soul’s choice. So in no respect is God the author of evil. But since free choice and inclination originate sins, and a mistaken judgment sometimes prevails, from which, since it is ignorance and stupidity, we do not take pains to recede, punishments are rightly inflicted. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 1:17, in ANF 2:319.
39 Peter, in Clementine Recognitions 5:6, in ANF 8:144.
40 Lactantius, Divine Institutes 7:5, in ANF 7:200. So also Origen:
We, however, who know of only one nature in every rational soul, and who maintain that none has been created evil by the Author of all things, but that many have become wicked through education, and perverse example, and surrounding influences, so that wickedness has been naturalized in some individuals. . . . Origen, Against Celsus 3:69, in ANF 4:491.
Now those who decide that man is not possessed of free-will, and affirm that he is governed by the unavoidable necessities of fate, and her unwritten commands, are guilty of impiety towards God Himself, making Him out to be the cause and author of human evils. Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins 8:16, in ANF 6:342.
41 Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 37:13, in NPNF Series 2, 7:341-342.
42 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 4:21, in NPNF Series 2, 7:24.
43 Augustine, On Grace and Free Will 33, in NPNF Series 1, 5:458.
44 Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace 13, in NPNF Series 1, 5:476-477.
45 Augustine, To Simplicianus 1:16, in Bettenson, The Later Christian Fathers, 211-212. See also Christopher Stead’s excellent discussion of Augustine’s doctrine of original sin. Stead concludes, “Whatever merits there may be in recognizing that men are corrupted by inherited defects and a sinful environment, there can be no excuse for the theory of inherited guilt, which makes even new-born infants into detested sinners in the eyes of God; nor is there any coherent defence of the view that we ourselves somehow participated in a sin committed by Adam many centuries before our birth.” Stead, Philosophy in Christian Antiquity, 232.
46 Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace 44, in NPNF Series 1, 5:489.
47 Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace 14, in NPNF Series 1, 5:477.
48 See Dillenberger, ed., John Calvin: Selections From His Writings, 31.
49 E.g. the Roman Catholics. See Rosten, ed., Religions of America, 48-49.
50 See Moroni 8. “Those who are without the law” do not include mentally capable unbelievers because “good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless; but he that knoweth good and evil, to him it is given according to his desires, whether he desireth good or evil, life or death, joy or remorse of conscience.” (Alma 29:5)
51 The Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:29, in ANF 2:53.
52 See Aristides, Apology 15, in ANF 10:278; Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho 88, in ANF 1:243; ECD 168. As for Irenaeus, he “nowhere formulates a specific account of the connexion between Adam’s guilty act and the rest of mankind.” ECD 172.
53 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 4:25, in ANF 2:439. See also the following: “What is involuntary is not matter for judgment. But this is twofold,–what is done in ignorance, and what is done through necessity. For how will you judge concerning those who are said to sin in involuntary modes?” Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 2:14, in ANF 2:361.
54 ECD 179-180.
55 Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 3:16, translated by J. Ferguson (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991), FC 85:319.
56 Tertullian, Against Marcion 2:15, in ANF 3:309; cf. ECD 176.
57 Bammel, C.P., “Adam in Origen,” in Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy, 81. Unfortunately, there is no English translation of Origen’s Commentary on Romans currently available.
58 Bammel, C.P., “Adam in Origen,” in Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy, 83. Compare the following:
We find in the prophet Isaiah, that the fire with which each one is punished is described as his own; for he says, “Walk in the light of your own fire, and in the flame which ye have kindled.” By these words it seems to be indicated that every sinner kindles for himself the flame of his own fire, and is not plunged into some fire which has been already kindled by another, or was in existence before himself. Origen, De Principiis 2:10:4, in ANF 4:295.
59 Cyprian, Epistle 58, in ANF 5:354.
60 Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures 4:19, in NPNF Series 2, 7:23-24.
61 O’Connell, The Origin of the Soul in St. Augustine’s Later Works, 233. See also the following: “Now, inasmuch as infants are not held bound by any sins of their own actual life, it is the guilt of original sin which is healed in them by the grace of Him who saves them by the laver [baptism) of regeneration." Augustine, A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins 1:24, in NPNF Series 1, 5:24.
62 E.g. see Rosten, ed., Religions of America, 203 for the example of the Presbyterians. See 29 for the example of the Baptists.
63 E.g. in Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism-see Charles P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1963), 418.
64 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 375.
65 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 193.
66 Haroldson, E., "Good and Evil Spoken of," Ensign 25 (August 1995): 10, translation from Raisanen, "Joseph Smith und die Bibel: Die Leistung des mormonischen Propheten in neuer Beleuchtung," Theologische Literaturzeitung (Feb. 1984): 83-92.
67 Ignatius, Magnesians 8, in ANF 1:62.
68 Tatian, Address to the Greeks 31, in ANF 2:77.
69 Theophilus, Theophilus to Autolycus 3:29, in ANF 2:120.
70 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 1:4:6-10, in NPNF Series 2, 1:87-88. Compare also the following:
The law and life of our Saviour Jesus Christ shows itself to be such, being a renewal of the ancient pre-Mosaic religion, in which Abraham, the friend of God, and his forefathers are shown to have lived. . . . Yes, and equally with us they knew and bore witness to the Word of God, Whom we love to call Christ. They were thought worthy in very remarkable ways of beholding His actual presence and theophany. Eusebius, The Proof of the Gospel, 1:5, vol. 1, 25-26.
71 Daniélou, J., The Lord of History: Reflections on the Inner Meaning of History, tr. Abercrombie, N., (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1958,) 2. Curiously, the Cardinal ascribes this doctrine to the "Greek idea of perfection as something which has always been the same." However, the fact that Jewish Christian writings like Barnabas and the Jewish Pseudepigrapha teach it refutes this interpretation.
72 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 7:2, in ANF 2:524.
73 Eusebius, The Proof of the Gospel 4:8, vol. 1, 177.
74 See Joseph Smith, in TPJS 60.
75 Barnabas 14, in ANF 1:146, brackets in original; cf. Barnabas 4, in ANF 1:138-139.
76 Paul did say that "we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10,) but that does not mean the world can't reject His message, as it has done so many times before.
77 Clement of Rome, 1 Clement 32, in ANF 1:13.
78 Clement of Rome, 1 Clement 30, in ANF 1:13.
79 Henry H. Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1965), 659.
80 1 Clement 21, in ANF 1:11, brackets in original.
81 1 Clement 31, in ANF 1:13.
82 Ignatius, Magnesians 10, in ANF 1:63.
83 Polycarp, Philippians 11, in ANF 1:35.
84 Barnabas 21, in ANF 1:152.
85 Barnabas 19, in ANF 1:148.
86 2 Clement 3-4, in ANF 7:518.
87 Pastor of Hermas, Vision 3:1, in ANF 2:13.
88 The Acts of Paul, in ANT, 273.
89 Irenaeus, quoting the Elders who knew the apostles in Grant, Second-Century Christianity, 80. See also Against Heresies 4:27:2
90 Epistle of the Apostles, in ANT, 494.
91 David W. Bercot, Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity (Henderson, TX: Scroll Publishing Co., 1989), 73-74. While Latter-day Saints can legitimately point to some Gnostic doctrines as possible remnants of the truth, it is ludicrous for the Protestants to do so. Protestants often loudly protest against the LDS that there never was a total apostasy. But if they want to provide evidence for this assertion, they must be able to point to an unbroken line of teachers who taught their doctrines. We put forward the challenge: "Where are they?" Perhaps the historical record is too spotty to expect this challenge to be met, but it serves to show how ridiculous it is for Protestant critics of Mormonism to denounce us as outside "historic Christianity."
92 Article of Faith 3.
93 Bonnel, J.S., in Rosten, Religions of America, 203.
94 Justin Martyr, First Apology 61, in ANF 1:183.
95 A fragment attributed to Irenaeus, in ANF 1:574, brackets in original.
96 Clementine Homilies 11:25-26, in ANF 8:289-290.
97 Apostolic Constitutions 6:15, in ANF 7:456-457.
98 Didache 7, in ANF 7:379.
99 Clement of Alexandria, in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3:23, in NPNF Series 2, 1:150-151.
100 Everett Fergusen, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (New York: Garland Publishing, 1990), 133.
101 Tertullian, On Baptism 18, in ANF 3:677.
102 Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 40:28, in NPNF Series 2, 7:370. However, it should also be said that Gregory believed that unbaptized infants, and presumably even baptized infants, would receive neither reward nor punishment in the afterlife. See Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 40:23, in NPNF Series 2, 7:367.
103 Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, 133. Perhaps Greek religious influence had some effect, also, since H.J. Rose reports that in Greek cults "a baby was put through a ceremonial corresponding in some measure to baptism." H. J. Rose, Ancient Greek Religion (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1995), 11.
104 John Chrysostom, To the Neophytes, in Bettenson, The Later Christian Fathers, 169.
105 Augustine, Enchiridion 93, in NPNF Series 1, 3:266; cf. ECD 485.
106 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 314.
107 Tertullian, On Baptism 12, 6, 8, in ANF 3:674-675, 672; cf. ECD 209.
108 Cyprian, Epistle 72:9, in ANF 5:381.
109 Cyprian, Epistle 71:1, in ANF 5:378.
110 Cornelius of Rome, in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6:43, in NPNF Series 2, 1:288-289.
111 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 310.
112 Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955), 2:18.
113 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 762.
114 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 5, in ANF 1:197; cf. Davies, The Early Christian Church, 100.
115 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:31, in ANF 1:560-561, brackets in original.
116 Tertullian, On the Soul 55, in ANF 3:231.
117 Tertullian, On the Soul 7, in ANF 3:187.
118 Tertullian, On the Soul 58, in ANF 3:234-235.
119 Origen, De Principiis 4:1:23, in ANF 4:372.
120 Origen, De Principiis 2:11:6, in ANF 4:299.
121 Origen, Against Celsus 6:25, in ANF 4:584.
122 Jerome (quoting Origen,) Letter 124:7, in NPNF 2, 6:240-241.
123 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:14, in ANF 2:505.
124 ECD 483.
125 ECD 484.
126 ECD 484. Augustine's main objection was as follows:
Then what a fond fancy is it to suppose that eternal punishment means long continued punishment, while eternal life means life without end, since Christ in the very same passage spoke of both in similar terms in one and the same sentence, "These shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal!" If both destinies are "eternal," then we must either understand both as long-continued but at last terminating, or both as endless. For they are correlative,--on the one hand, punishment eternal, on the other hand, life eternal. And to say in one and the same sense, life eternal shall be endless, punishment eternal shall come to an end, is the height of absurdity. Wherefore, as the eternal life of the saints shall be endless, so too the eternal punishment of those who are doomed to it shall have no end. Augustine, The City of God 21:23, in NPNF Series 1, 2:469.
This seems to be flawless logic, but the Lord gave another option in a revelation to Joseph Smith: "Eternal punishment is God's punishment. Endless punishment is God's punishment." (D&C 19:11-12) It is called this because "Endless is my name." (D&C 19:10) Therefore it could also be said that "Eternal life" is God's life, and hence the term "eternal" has no reference to the duration of "Eternal punishment" or "Eternal life," but rather to the eternity of the God who bestows punishment and life.
127 Ignatius, Trallians 9, in ANF 1:70.
128 Discourse of Apa Athanasius Concerning the Soul and the Body, in Budge, Coptic Homilies, 271-272.
129 Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle, in Budge, Coptic Apocrypha, 184, brackets in original.
130 The Gospel of Bartholomew, in ANT, 169, brackets in original.
131 From a Syriac appendage to a letter from Jesus to King Abgar, in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 1:13, in NPNF Series 2, 1:102.
132 The Gospel of Nicodemus, in ANF 8:438.
133 The NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 1893. John Calvin gave the following strange explanation. "He descended to hell. That signifies that he was afflicted by God, and felt the horror and severity of the divine judgment, so that he might stand between the wrath of God and satisfy his justice in our name." John Calvin, in Dillenberger, ed., John Calvin: Selections From His Writings, 291.
134 1 Peter 3:19, in James Moffatt, The Moffatt New Testament: Parallel Edition (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1922).
135 Text note to 1 Peter 3:19, in Moffatt, The Moffatt New Testament.
136 The NIV Study Bible, 1894.
137 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 45, in ANF 1:217.
138 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:6, in ANF 2:491.
139 Clementine Recognitions 1:58 in ANF 8:113.
140 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:27:2, in ANF 1:499, brackets in original.
141 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:6, in ANF 2:490.
142 Origen, Against Celsus 2:43, in ANF 4:448.
143 The Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:16, in ANF 2:49.
144 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 71-72, in ANF 1:234-235.
145 The Odes of Solomon 42:15-26 in Platt, ed., The Forgotten Books of Eden, 140.
146 Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook, 600. In the fourth century John Chrysostom also offered this interpretation of the passage. See John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 40:1-2, in NPNF Series 1, 12:244-245.
147 The NIV Study Bible, 1757.
148 The NIV Study Bible, 1757.
149 For instance, Jehovah's Witnesses are even so bold as to change the wording of the passage in their Bible: "Otherwise, what will they do who are being baptized for the purpose of [being] dead ones?” 1 Corinthians 15:29, The New World Translation, brackets in original. This is not justified by the Greek text.
150 R.E. DeMaris, “Corinthian Religion and Baptism for the Dead (1 Corinthians 15:29): Insights from Archaeology and Anthropology,” Journal of Biblical Literature 114 (1995): 661.
151 Lake, tr., The Apostolic Fathers, 2:263.
152 The Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:16, in ANF 2:49.
153 Epistle of the Apostles, in ANT, 494, brackets in original.
154 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:6, in ANF 2:491-492.
155 Heber Q. Hale, in Duane S. Crowther, Life Everlasting (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967), 221.
156 Porter, J.R., “Oil in the Old Testament,” in Martin Dudley and Geoffrey Rowell, eds., The Oil of Gladness: Anointing in the Christian Tradition (London: SPCK, 1993), 40.
157 The Gospel of Nicodemus, in ANF 8:438-439.
158 Fillion, La Sainte Bible commentee d’apres la Vulgate, translated in Barker, The Divine Church, vol. 1, 68.
159 Epiphanius, Panarion 28, in Philip R. Amidon, tr., The Panarion of St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990).
160 John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 40:1, in NPNF Series 1, 12:244.
161 I have been unable to ascertain when, exactly, baptism for the dead was lost to the Catholic Church. Hermas at least hinted at the practice in the second century, and by the fourth century Epiphanius and Chrysostom made it clear that they no longer believed in it. However, the writings from the late second and third centuries are conspicuously silent about the issue. The index of texts for ANF lists only two instances in the entire pre-Nicene period where 1 Corinthians 15:29 was even mentioned, and both of these were by Tertullian. Indeed, Tertullian’s comments are quite puzzling. In a treatise on the resurrection he seems to have simply assumed that the passage referred to vicarious baptism.
But inasmuch as “some are also baptized for the dead,” we will see whether there be a good reason for this. Now it is certain that they adopted this (practice) with such a presumption as made them suppose that the vicarious baptism (in question) would be beneficial to the flesh of another in anticipation of the resurrection; for unless it were a bodily resurrection, there would be no pledge secured by this process of a corporeal baptism. Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh 48, in ANF 3:581-582.
In his treatise against Marcion, however, he mentioned his recent treatise on the resurrection, and then put forward two contradictory means of explaining away the passage:
Let us now return to the resurrection, to the defence of which against heretics of all sorts we have given indeed sufficient attention in another work of ours. But we will not be wanting (in some defence of the doctrine) even here, in consideration of such persons as are ignorant of that little treatise. “What,” asks he, “shall they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not?” Now, never mind that practice, (whatever it may have been.) The Februarian lustrations will perhaps answer him (quite as well,) by praying for the dead. Do not then suppose that the apostle here indicates some new god as the author and advocate of this (baptism for the dead. His only aim in alluding to it was) that he might all the more firmly insist upon the resurrection of the body, in proportion as they who were vainly baptized for the dead resorted to the practice from their belief of such a resurrection. We have the apostle in another passage defining “but one baptism.” To be “baptized for the dead” therefore means, in fact, to be baptized for the body; for, as we have shown, it is the body which becomes dead. What, then, shall they do who are baptized for the body, if the body rises not again? Tertullian, Against Marcion 5:10, in ANF 3:449-450.
Perhaps the Catholics dropped the practice in reaction to its public acceptance by such heretical groups as the Marcionites, and this might explain Tertullian’s apparent struggle to explain it away.
162 Clementine Recognitions 1:52 in ANF 8:91. In another passage Peter assured Clement’s brother that even if his father died before receiving baptism, he would still be saved if he were one of the elect:
“My lord Peter, I say nothing against your right and good counsels; but I wish to say one thing, that thereby I may learn something that I do not know. What if my father should die within the year during which you recommend that he should be put off [from baptism]? He will go down to hell helpless, and so be tormented forever.” Then said Peter: “I embrace your kindly purpose towards your father, and I forgive you in respect of things of which you are ignorant. . . . For those who have lived righteously, for the sake of God alone and His righteousness, they shall come to eternal rest, and shall receive the perpetuity of the heavenly kingdom. For salvation is not attained by force, but by liberty; and not through the favour of men, but by the faith of God. Then, besides, you ought to consider that God is prescient, and knows whether this man is one of His. But if He knows that he is not, what shall we do with respect to those things which have been determined by Him from the beginning?” Clementine Recognitions 10:2, in ANF 8:192-193.
163 And the apostles, near the end of Jesus’ discourse in the Epistle of the Apostles, which included mention of the doctrine of salvation for the dead, said: “And we will preach it to those to whom it is fitting.” Epistula Apostolorum 40, in NTA 1:219. Note also that even though Chrysostom was contemptuous of the practice of baptism for the dead, he refused to discuss the subject openly:
But first I wish to remind you who are initiated of the response, which on that evening they who introduce you to the mysteries bid you make; and then I will also explain the saying of Paul: so this likewise will be clearer to you; we after all the other things adding this which Paul now saith. And I desire indeed expressly to utter it, but I dare not on account of the uninitiated; for these add a difficulty to our exposition, compelling us either not to speak clearly or to declare unto them the ineffable mysteries. Nevertheless, as I may be able, I will speak as through a veil. John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 40:2, in NPNF Series 1, 12:244.
164 Peter, in Clementine Recognitions 7:38, in ANF 8:165.
165 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 102.
166 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 121.
167 Nibley, “Baptism for the Dead in Ancient Times,” in Mormonism and Early Christianity, 100-167.
168 Bernard M. Foschini, “‘Those who are Baptized for the Dead’ 1 Cor. 15:29,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 13 (1951): 71.
169 Foschini, “Those who are Baptized for the Dead,” 71. It is ironic that a Catholic should raise this particular argument against baptism for the dead. Linwood Urban writes that Martin Luther had a similar objection to medieval Catholic practice:
Luther soon realized, however, that his objections to the sale of indulgences applied with equal force to Masses offered on behalf of the dead. Like indulgences, Masses were bought and sold in the belief that remission of penalty would be granted to individuals in purgatory without regard to the state of their souls. Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, 283.
170 Foschini, “Those who are Baptized for the Dead,” 71.
171 Foschini, “Those who are Baptized for the Dead,” 71.
172 Rosten, Religions of America, 205.
173 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 199.
174 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 200.
175 Ignatius, Smyrnaeans 3, in ANF 1:87.
176 Ignatius, Trallians 9, in ANF 1:70.
177 Justin Martyr, First Apology 18, in ANF 1:169. Justin admitted elsewhere that he knew of some Christians who denied the resurrection, but he did not consider them real Christians:
For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians, even as one, if he would rightly consider it, would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genistae, Meristae, Galilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews (do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think,) but are[only] called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. Justin, Dialogue With Trypho 80, in ANF 1:239, brackets in original; cf. Wagner, After the Apostles, 167.
178 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:18:5, in ANF 1:486. Consider also the following statement:
For He who in the beginning caused him to have being who as yet was not, just when He pleased, shall much more reinstate again those who had a former existence, when it is His will [that they should inherit] the life granted by Him. And that flesh shall also be found fit for and capable of receiving the power of God, which at the beginning received the skillful touches of God. . . . Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:3:2, in ANF 1:529, brackets in original.
179 Tatian, Address to the Greeks 6, in ANF 2:67; cf. Davies, The Early Christian Church, 100-101.
180 Tertullian, On the Soul 56, in ANF 3:232.
181 Epistle of the Apostles, in ANT, 493.
182 2 Clement 9, in ANF 7:519.
183 Justin Martyr, On the Resurrection 4, in ANF 1:295.
184 Papias, in Grant, Second-Century Christianity, 66.
185 Athenagoras, The Resurrection of the Dead, in ANF 2:152.
186 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 30.
187 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 58.
188 ”All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not.” Joseph Smith, in TPJS 181.
189 Apocalypse of Abraham 19, in Sparks, The Apocryphal Old Testament, 382. Notice also the following passage from the Clementine Homilies, which speaks of the desire of demons to obtain bodies:
But the reason why the demons delight in entering into men’s bodies is this. [Demons] Being spirits, and having desires after meats and drinks, and sexual pleasures, but not being able to partake of these by reason of their being spirits, and wanting organs fitted for their enjoyment, they enter into the bodies of men, in order that, getting organs to minister to them, they may obtain the things that they wish, whether it be meat, by means of men’s teeth, or sexual pleasure, by means of men’s members. Peter in Clementine Homilies 9:10, in ANF 8:277, brackets in original.
190 Epistle of the Apostles 19, in ANT, 491-492. It should be noted that this passage not only supports the LDS belief that one must be resurrected to be perfected, but also the doctrine of the subordination of the Son to the Father and the corporeality of the Father.
191 John Whittaker explains:
The almost universal Hellenistic rejection of the body and the identification of mind and man served to render the idea of the resurrection of the body thoroughly objectionable to the average Hellenistic mind. And indeed the idea of the resurrection was to cause considerable embarrassment to Christian Platonists. Whittaker, “Plutarch, Platonism, and Christianity,” in Blumenthal and Markus, eds., Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought, 56; cf. Daniélou, J., Gospel Message and Hellenistic Culture, 24.
192 Origen, Against Celsus 5:14, in ANF 4:549, brackets in original; cf. Davies, The Early Christian Church, 145.
193 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3:39, in ANF 1:154.
194 Eusebius, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, 3.39, 151-152. Even Jerome, who was strongly anti-millenarian, had to admit that such beliefs could not be condemned because so many of the earlier fathers and martyrs had held them. Bonner, G., “Augustine and Millenarianism,” in Williams, ed., The Making of Orthodoxy, 239.
195 Norman Cohn, Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), 199.
196 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 80, in ANF 1:239, first set of brackets in original.
197 Davies, The Early Christian Church, 133.
198 ANF 1:561.
199 Note also that the paradise of Adam and Eve was in a Terrestrial state, and translated beings dwell in this sphere awaiting the resurrection, as well. See Chapter Note 2.
200 Origen, De Principiis 2:10:2, in ANF 4:294.
201 Origen, Commentary on John 2:3, in ANF 10:324-325.
202 John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:4, in NPNF Series 1, 12:251.
203 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:36:1-2, in ANF 1:567, brackets in original.
204 Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:14, in ANF 2:506.
205 ANF 2:506.
206 Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 179.
207 The Lost Books of the Bible (New York: Bell Publishing Company, 1979), 240.
208 Epistula Apostolorum, in NTA 1:210.
209 Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 174; However, it is clear from the passages which mention two heavens in the Recognitions that the two heavens spoken of are the visible heaven, which men can see, and the invisible, where the angels, etc., dwell. See Clementine Recognitions 9:3, in ANF 8:183; Clementine Recognitions 3:27, in ANF 8:121; Clementine Recognitions 2:68, in ANF 8:116. There is no mention of any division in the invisible heaven, but the following passage may be an oblique reference to the three degrees: “Be this therefore the first step to you of three; which step brings forth thirty commands, and the second sixty, and the third a hundred, as we shall expound more fully to you at another time.” Peter, inClementine Recognitions 4:36, in ANF 8:143. The footnote to this passage makes clear that whatever it referred to was most likely part of the esoteric tradition.
210 Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 174.
211 Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 9, in ACW 16:53.
212 Daniélou, The Theology of Jewish Christianity, 176.
213 The Gospel of Philip, in , James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library in English (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1977), 140, brackets in original.
214 The Pastor of Hermas, Sim. 9:19, in ANF 2:50.
215 Origen, De Principiis 2:10:8, in ANF 4:296.
216 The Gospel of Bartholomew, in ANT, 173.
217 Clark, The Origenist Controversy, 131.
218 See also Chapter Note 3.
219 Jewish Creation Legend (Haggadah,) in TOB, 29.
220 It is also interesting to note that Hippolytus recorded a tradition that seems to support the LDS teaching that the apostle John was translated: “John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan’s time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.” Hippolytus, On the Twelve Apostles, in ANF 5:254-255.
221 Joseph Smith, in TPJS 170.
222 Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:5:1, in ANF 1:531, brackets in original.
223 Peter in Clementine Recognitions 1:52, in ANF 8:91.
224 Origen, De Principiis 3:5:3, in ANF 4:341-342.
225 Clement of Rome, 1 Clement 35, in ANF 1:14.
226 Jewish Creation Legend (Haggadah,) in TOB, 17.