Friday, April 16, 2010

Salvation is Communal, Not Individual

Salvation as a group is as central to Mormonism as any concept I can imagine. The central concept of the temple is that the power of godliness binds people in a way that would make the very creation of the earth “wasted” without “communal salvation”. Although we use the term "exaltation" to refer to the Celestial Kingdom, I have no problem using "salvation" when talking about the greatest gift God bestows, especially in the context of how other Christians use that term and not "exaltation."

Also, Joseph was a Zion builder, not simply an individual saver. Our great mortal target is to replicate the City of Enoch, not the scholar in the tower or the monk in the monastery.

I'm not arguing that salvation is not individual, in a very real and important way. What I am saying is that it isn't completely individual - that you can't gain the fullest blessings of salvation (exaltation, in our terminology) by sitting in a monastery and getting to know Jesus on an individual level. (I actually have heard it called "chillin' with Christ" and extolled as the ultimate form of worship.) According to everything Jesus is credited with saying and doing, that isn't compatible with what he wants.

What I believe he wants is for us to lose our individual lives in the service of others - specifically those who are down-trodden and victimized and shunned and marginalized - socially and economically and politically and in any other way. If they have no voice, we are to be their voice; if they have no food, we are to provide it; if they are naked, we are to clothe them. Otherwise, He will say to us, "Depart from me."

It seems painfully clear to me that there is a "work of salvation" that includes the temporal condition of humanity. Seriously, go through the Gospels and tally up the instances of Jesus "preaching" and "ministering". I think it is an enlightening exercise, and it leads me to believe that salvation in fact is NOT an individual thing, but rather a communal thing spread by individuals. I can't be exalted by myself, as an individual. According to everything we teach, that simply isn't possible - assuming I have enough accountability to understand my responsibility to others. Even in the most limited cases, exaltation comes at the very least as a couple.


Last Lemming said...

I'm going to emerge from my self-imposed exile from your blog to promote one of my personal campaigns--namely to make clear distinctions between the concepts of salvation and exaltation. In two recent conferences, Elder Nelson has been careful to make the distinction, and the individual vs. communal aspect is the key to doing so.

In the April 2008 conference, he stated:

"In God’s eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter."

He repeated the line almost verbatim in the October 2008 conference:

"While salvation is an individual matter, exaltation is a family matter."

I find Elder Nelson's declarations to be fully consistent with what you are describing in your post (taking a broad view of "families.") In fact, they would constitute a strong endorsement of your position, if you modified the language so that it was exaltation that was communal instead of salvation. That seems, after all, to be your intent.

I know. If I want to promote my pet causes, I should get my own blog.

Papa D said...

LL, I added a sentence in the opening paragraph to draw that distinction more clearly. Thanks! (and I love your last statement. lol)

Mark D. said...

The idea that "salvation is an individual matter" strictly speaking is the Pelagian heresy, i.e. the proposition that one can be saved without At-one-ment, grace, or reconcilation.

Supposing that heaven consisted of only two persons, Jesus Christ and the person that was saved, that is still a community of two. Not exactly an individual matter at all.

And one must consider that a heaven with only two people in it is not exactly the sort of salvation and eternal life spoken of in the scriptures. A heaven that is not a society isn't much of a heaven at all.