Universality in the Book of Mormon and the Restored Church
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
(Art credit: Jorge Coco Santangelo, Moroni Delivers the Plates to Joseph Smith (2017))
The universality of salvation of the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a theme that has often struck me. I hadn’t realized that it begins right on the Title Page by affirming that the book was written for ”the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.” “That statement tells us who Jesus is. He is God and has been active among the peoples of the world. He is not an absentee landlord.” (1 What the Book of Mormon Tells us About Jesus Christ by Robert J. Matthews) This idea is that the salvific message of His Word is for ALL nations and ALL people.
But, when I speak about Universality, I think it’s important to understand that I’m not speaking of the “Universalist” movement which was really strong in Joseph Smith’s time and still exists as Unitarian and Universalist sects today. This belief system held/holds that all will be saved. It offers a broad form of salvation without accountability for sin. "Unitarianism was founded on the belief that God is one and that Jesus was not of the same substance as God (as opposed to the orthodox Trinitarian view). Universalism's defining belief was universal salvation: A loving God would not condemn his children to eternal suffering. Distinct Unitarian and Universalist communities around the world share a common commitment to the belief that individuals must find answers to the great questions of human existence for themselves through the use of reason rather than blindly accepting dogma or unexamined tradition."(2 https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/christianity-unitarianism-and-universalism)
While Joseph Smith and his family were definitely affected by this movement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not “Universalist” in this sense. D&C 76 combines the mercy and lovingkindness of God while outlining the consequence of sin. Joseph Smith in describing D&C 76 said, “Nothing could be more pleasing to the Saints upon the order of the kingdom of the Lord, than the light which burst upon the world through the foregoing vision. Every law, every commandment, every promise, every truth, and every point touching the destiny of man, from Genesis to Revelation, where the purity of the scriptures remains unsullied by the folly of men, go to show the perfection of the theory [of different degrees of glory in the future life] and witnesses the fact that that document is a transcript from the records of the eternal world. The sublimity of the ideas; the purity of the language; the scope for action; the continued duration for completion, in order that the heirs of salvation may confess the Lord and bow the knee; the rewards for faithfulness, and the punishment for sins, are so much beyond the narrow-mindedness of men, that every honest man is constrained to exclaim: “It came from God.” (3 Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:252–53; brackets and emphasis in original.)
“When God revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that there was a place prepared for all, according to the light they had received and their rejection of evil and practice of good, it was a great trial to many, and some apostatized because God was not going to send to everlasting punishment heathens and infants, but had a place of salvation, in due time, for all, and would bless the honest and virtuous and truthful, whether they ever belonged to any church or not. It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it.” (4 Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1874–86), 16:42)
“The final great phase of the Prophet’s work consisted of bringing about a successful marriage of the munificent view of salvation given in the vision with the system of covenants and ordinances found in the ancient scriptures and revealed anew to the Prophet in our dispensation. When he learned that proxy work for the dead could be performed, a view of salvation was opened up that would allow all men who so desired to be saved, even if they had never heard the gospel or received the ordinances in this life. In essence, the revelations of the Restoration allowed for a merciful God, while not taking away from the need for order and justice. Joseph came to know God as a kind, fair being. His views may be best summed up in his own words: “Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be.” (5 https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/doctrine-and-covenants/universalism-and-revelations-joseph-smith#_edn3)
It’s this universal doctrine that is found in the Book of Mormon that became part of the restored Gospel. Here are some examples:
None are forbidden. 26:13 “And that he manifesteth himself unto all those who believe in him, by the power of the Holy Ghost; yea, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, working mighty miracles, signs, and wonders, among the children of men according to their faith. 28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden. 33 For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men, and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
He created all men. 2 Ne 29:7 “Know ye not that there are more than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? 8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. 9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever."
He commands all men. 2 Nephi 29:10 "Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. 11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written."
He speaks according to their understanding. 2 Nephi 31:3 "For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding."
He created all flesh. Jacob 2:21 "Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments."
He doesn’t, and we shouldn’t, esteem one over another. Mosiah 23:7 "But he said unto them: Behold, it is not expedient that we should have a king; for thus saith the Lord: Ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another; therefore I say unto you it is not expedient that ye should have a king."
He’s mindful of every people. Alma 26:37 "Now my brethren, we see that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth. Now this is my joy, and my great thanksgiving; yea, and I will give thanks unto my God forever. Amen."
All nations to teach His word. Alma 29:8 "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; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true."
All that hear His voice are numbered among His sheep. 3 Nephi 16:3 "But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them."
All to stand before judgement-seat. And all need to believe. Mormon 3: 20 "And these things doth the Spirit manifest unto me; therefore I write unto you all. And for this cause I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil 21 And also that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, which ye shall have among you; and also that the Jews, the covenant people of the Lord, shall have other witness besides him whom they saw and heard, that Jesus, whom they slew, was the every Christ and the very God. 22 And I would that I could persuade all ye ends of the earth to repent and prepare to stand before the judgment-seat of Christ."
All little children are alive in Him. Moroni 8:12 “But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism! 22 For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing.”
These universal scriptures teach us about the Celestial culture and doctrine that we as worldwide members of the Church of Jesus Christ are called upon to accept. It’s vital that we understand the difference between a “Mormon culture” and the “Celestial” culture. “One of the distinguishing marks of the restored church is its universality. Its mission is to make one of mankind and little by little provide the means for the elimination of dysfunctional cultural and other differences between men on this earth. To accomplish this, the restored church provides the institutionalized means for men not only to acquire the characteristics necessary to become equal citizens in the kingdom of God but also to eventually achieve even that unity and affinity which emphasizes cooperation and eliminates all competition between men. Thus, converts are faced with the demand not only to accept a universal standard but also to give up some of the dear national traditions which, after careful examination, might prove to be inconsistent with the values of celestial culture.” (6 The Universality of the Gospel by Arturo and Genevieve DeHoyos, Ensign, Aug. 1971)
And so begins 2020 where we can unite in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, live in Him, and spread the Word to the world!