“As Latter-day Saints use the words saved and salvation, there are at least six different meanings,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the April 1998 general conference.
These six types of salvation offered through Jesus Christ’s grace were the focus of Brad R. Wilcox’s BYU Education Week address on Aug. 25.
“Through the Savior’s grace, he offers victory over death, over sin, over our worst selves, over ignorance, over hell and ultimately the greatest victory of all in the form of exaltation,” explained Wilcox, an associate ancient scripture professor at Brigham Young University.
Salvation from death
Resurrection is a gift of grace, Wilcox said, as we cannot do it for ourselves.
“We can no more resurrect ourselves than we can perform our own eye surgery,” he said quoting Robert L. Millet, an emeritus BYU ancient scripture professor.
Individuals are blessed to know the Fall was part of God’s plan, Wilcox said. The Fall makes possible our resurrection, which is conditional upon our choice to come to mortality, he taught.
“Resurrection isn’t just something that helps move us forward, but it’s something that keeps us from moving backward,” Wilcox said.
Salvation from sin
Christ paid the debt to justice by shouldering the penalty of sin, which gives the ability to repent, Wilcox explained.
“Without Jesus and His grace, we would live in a world of unavoidable sin, never having a chance to repent, so we would live in a world where our choices could only bring regret and never bring reflection or learning,” he said. “Because Jesus gives us the chance for repentance, then not only are we tempted in this life but we can be taught in this life.”
It is important to recognize that there are many facets to Christ’s Atonement, Wilcox advised. He said beyond giving the chance to be forgiven, His Atonement gives the opportunity to progress through the repentance process.
“When we meet on Sundays to partake of the sacrament, what we’re telling God is that we’re going on a cross-country journey and that there’s no way we can make it on our own, so we promise to keep going, and He promises to fill the tank,” Wilcox said.
Salvation from our worst selves
Christ’s grace can save mortals from their worst selves by allowing them to be born again — to have a changed heart and nature, Wilcox said.
“Have you spiritually been born of God? Have you received His image in your countenance? Have you experienced this mighty change in your hearts? The opportunity to answer ‘yes’ to those questions is a gift of grace,” he said. “We have to depend on Him to be able to help us be born again.”
Salvation from ignorance
Christ saves mortals from ignorance by giving them a vision of who they really are, Wilcox said.
He shared the example of his experience attending middle and junior high school. Although he had to face the rejection of some of his peers, Wilcox simply saw this as evidence that they didn’t know him because he knew God knew him and loved him.
“Most of us look sideways for our self-esteem, for our sense of worth, but sideways can never be trusted,” Wilcox said. “We’ve got to look up, and we’ve got to receive that sense of worth from the very Being who can give us that sense of worth.”
Salvation from hell
Wilcox taught that through Christ’s grace, the opportunity to accept Him as one’s Savior does not end at death.
“We can continue to make good choices and progress even after this life,” he said. “In the spirit world, the place that we would call hell is really a place of rehabilitation rather than punishment. It’s a place for a state of mind in which people are able to learn and with just a little bit more hindsight, perhaps make better choices.”
Latter-day Saints believe in a heaven that is bigger than hell, Wilcox explained, because they know everyone who chooses to be rescued will be saved.
“We believe in a successful Heavenly Father, we believe in a successful Christ and we believe that the vast majority of God’s children will be saved from hell,” he said.
Finally, Christ’s grace enables mortals to become like Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, Wilcox taught.
“Grace is not just the way we get to heaven but grace is the way that we can ultimately become heavenly,” he said. “Salvation isn’t just getting to Jesus; salvation is becoming more like Him.”
This type of salvation helps mortals understand the worth of all the other types of salvation, Wilcox explained, because it allows them to discover and embrace their celestial potential.
“Latter-day Saints recognize that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is not just a favor He did for us — suffering so that we wouldn’t have to,” Wilcox said. “It’s an investment that He made in us because while we may be content to stay the way we are, He isn’t. His plans for us are so much grander than that.”