Are some Universalist positions really Mormon doctrine?


I ran across something on the Mormon doctrine of Post Mortem Evangelism. It seems to me that this doctrine of theirs is very similar, if not identical to what I have heard from many Christian Universalists; that a necessary part of Universalism is that the end of our earthly life is not the end of our opportunity to be saved.

Are the rest of you Universalists aware of this, and if so, how do you handle that? (particularly you orthodoxy defenders).

Perhaps I should link the article I read for reference purposes:


I’m aware of it. I think historically it would have to be the other way around: Mormons picked up the doctrine (sort of) from Christianity.

(This is sort of like asking whether some Christian positions and language are really based on mystery religion doctrines and rituals, the existence of which we don’t have evidence of until the 3rd or 4th centuries CE…)

I should also add that not all Mormons accept second chance evangelization (although I’ve read some things from Mormons themselves which occasionally expect this); certainly not the Mormon theologian quoted in the article. He and other Mormons accept “divine perseverance” to deliver the Gospel the first time; as do some Protestants, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Once the offer is rejected, that’s it, the end. Usually when I read Mormons explaining their own eschatology they talk about various ‘levels’ of salvation plus hell, with no one (usually) getting out of hell.

At any rate, Mormons and I are going to have vastly more fundamental theological differences long before we get to the question of post-mortem salvation; precisely because I am an orthodox trinitarian theist and they, to put it bluntly, aren’t. (And they don’t really claim to be, either, some suggestive marketing efforts aside.)

There is exactly nothing in my universalism which even involves (much less requires) that the three persons of the trinity be three distinctly separate independent facts of reality (if a more transcendental cosmological tri-theistic Mormon theology is true) much less that they be three natural entities one of whom more or less ‘evolved’ up to godhood on some other planet and went off to maybe create this particular pocket of natural reality. There is certainly nothing in my universalism which involves the, let us say, unique historical claims of Mormonism either.

On the contrary, insofar as theology is concerned, I would consider Mormonism to be categorized (in my analysis of the importance of orthodox trinitarianism to universalism) as hypothesis 7 or (supposing I ignore the metaphysical implications of cosmological tri-theism pointing to an overarching Independent Fact reality) at the very best hypothesis 10 (and if 10, maybe also 9); such that “the ground of reality is at best irrelevant to the salvation of a person; and might offer less than no assurance of the salvation of a person” or at the very best “the ground of reality offers less assurance that a person may be saved, than if God’s own self-existence had intrinsically to do with unity between persons”.


Incidentally, the book reffed in the article featuring a three-way debate between Ronald Nash, John Sanders and Gabriel Fackre What About Those Who Have Never Heard? (the link goes to the Tektonics bookstore), is very interesting for several reasons, although it erroneously categorizes George MacDonald as only “divine perseverance” instead of as “universalism”; probably, considering how much the two less-restrictive authors reference Lewis, on the basis of Lewis’ presentation of MacD in The Great Divorce :wink:


I recognize that there are a great number of differences between Christian orthodoxy and Mormonism. I think it’s kind of funny that Holding accuses others of making the same type of mistake that you’ve pointed out with the mystery religions that Christianity is supposed to have copycatted.
JP Holding does a number of articles on his site regarding various “heresies”, although I find it interesting that universalism isn’t among them. (This in spite of the fact that Holding himself is not even remotely a universalist; He falls into the eternal separation camp (although not eternal “torment”))
It is interesting that the referenced book mischaracterizes Geo. MacD’s position though. You mentioned that the book in question is interesting for several reasons. Care to elaborate?


I’m pretty sure JPH (whom I’ve corresponded a little with in the past, though not on universalism) wasn’t charging that universalists are getting their universalism from Mormon doctrine.

I think I misunderstood the question in your topical title. Do Mormons really believe in post-mortem evangelization? Yes, at least some Mormons really do. Is PME typically affirmed by orthodox universalists? Yes, we do.

Is this universalist position “really” Mormon doctrine? When someone asks the question that way, I think in terms of transmission of ideas. For example, is Christian baptism “really” the criobolium/taurobolium ritual popular in some mystery religions? (In the criobolium, the initiate lays down on a slab beneath a suspended ram which is then cut upon so that the initiate is, loosely speaking, ‘washed in the blood’ of the ram. For the taurobolium, it would be a bull. Bulls were vastly preferred, but a ram could be used if cash was tight. Mystery religions weren’t known for trying to initiate poor people, though, as a rule.)

People who ask the question that way are trying to explain where Christians got our baptismal doctrine (or doctrines) from. The answer is blatantly, “no, Christian baptism isn’t ‘really’ the criobolium.” The two doctrines and practices are utterly distinct aside from some understandably similar language here and there–and even then, it was scholars of the old ‘history-of-religions’ theories, back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who tended to import the language to make the few distant similarities look more similar. If anything, the syncretistic mystery religions came up with the practice as competition to Christian baptism–the evidence for criobolia is much later than evidence for Christian baptism being described as “washed in the blood” of Christ i.e. the Lamb.

Similarly, no the post-mortem evangelism doctrine as a Universalist position, isn’t “really” Mormon doctrine. But it also is “really” a Mormon doctrine, too. So is the Resurrection of Christ: orthodox Christians (including orthodox universalists) share that doctrine with LDS Christians, and with Unitarian Christians, too.

JPH’s article is worth studying to some extent in its own right insofar as it addresses the topic of to what degree some scriptural references may or may not be reasonable testimony to post-mortem evangelization. I’d be glad to see someone comment on it from that angle. (I’d do it myself if I had the time; and may still do so. :wink: )


I didn’t have time this morning to do so (and don’t have much time now after lunch either); but I like the format of the presentation. Each scholar gets a chapter to make his presentation and each scholar gets a rebuttal analysis of each of the other guys’ presentation. A lot of scriptural material is discussed for such a relatively brief book. None of the debators are universalist, so it has some interest for me from that angle. Ronald Nash (the Calvinist Baptist professor and author arguing in favor of the idea that God will hopelessly condemn those who haven’t heard the gospel and also that God will take no steps to ensure that everyone hears the gospel) spends practically no time actually arguing for his own position but rather critiquing the other two positions–even in his own chapter. (This is interesting in a trainwreck sort-of way :mrgreen: ; although of course it also has some utility in itself as a set of critiques to be assessed. Nash died last year, if I recall correctly. I hope he’s learned better since then. :slight_smile: )

I keep thinking this is the book I read at about the same time I bought this one, wherein the two more inclusivist guys came to the conclusion among themselves that maybe they ought to look into MacDonald’s style of universalistic purgatory, which they had overlooked up until then. But I never find any reference to it in this book, and then I always remember that I only had enough cash to buy one book that day so I bought the one I hadn’t read in the store. :laughing: So my memory is bolloxed now: this book holds that reference slot in my head but I know the data is wrong but I have no way to remember what book I had read wherein the authors came to that conclusion. (Probably another book in this series of “X views on this topic” books. There are several; although this one may not in fact be a part of that series despite its similarity.)

I remember that detail, though, because I thought at the time: “hm, who is this MacDonald guy they’re talking about? Oh, yeah, I recall Lewis being hugely impressed with him, too. And picking up his own ideas of purgatory from him. I’ve been meaning to look into that guy…” :smiley:


Ok, I could see why that would be of some interest.

I have corresponded with JPH briefly in the past as well on the subject of (partial or “orthodox”) preterism.