Doctrine and Covenants 131:6 — “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.”
My Awful Misinterpretation
When I first read this scripture as a youth, I thought it meant that “ignorant,” “slow,” and “uneducated” people were doomed.
I equated the three degrees of glory with the three college degrees. The celestial kingdom was reserved for those with Ph.D.’s. The terrestrial kingdom was for Master’s Degree holders. The telestial kingdom was for folks with Bachelor’s Degrees. I guess that left high school dropouts in outer darkness.
Now I am much older, and a little wiser. I realize that formal college degrees have little significance in the eternal scheme.
Compared to divine omniscience and eternal glory, a B.S. degree is exactly that, the stuff farmers use to fertilize crops. An M.S. degree means “more of the same.” A Ph.D. means “piled higher and deeper.”
The Probable Interpretation
I now believe that D&C 131:6 means that a person cannot be saved in ignorance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The first principle of the gospel is “faith in the Lord.” Either in this life, or the next, we must learn about Jesus, His atoning sacrifice, and the plan of salvation and happiness.
We must recognize Him, and accept Him, as our Savior, Lord, and Redeemer. Then, we must follow Him by keeping His commandments and continuing on His covenant path. We cannot do this if we are ignorant.
Moreover, it is not enough just to know about the Lord, we must also hear his voice and personally know Him.
- “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
- “If they know me, they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand… Then shall they that never knew me come forth … And then shall they know that I am the Lord their God… but they would not be redeemed… He that will not hear my voice … I will not receive at the last day.” (Mos. 26:24-28)
- “Vengeance cometh speedily upon the habitants of the earth . . . And upon my house shall it begin . . . First among those among you … who have professed to know my name and have not known me.” (D&C 112:24-26)
- “Many will say to me . . . have we not … in thy name done many wonderful works. And then will I profess unto them you never knew me, depart from me…” (Matt:21-23 JST)
- “[E]very soul who … cometh unto me and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments shall see my face and know that I am. (D&C 93:1)
If we don’t know the Lord, then it doesn’t matter whether we are experts in theoretical physics, cosmology, philosophy, or theology. We cannot be saved if we are ignorant of the Lord and His gospel. We cannot be saved if we don’t know Him. We cannot be saved in ignorance.
Another Possible Interpretation
Another interpretation of D&C 131:6 is that salvation and exaltation will not come as a surprise. We will not be ignorant of our eternal reward. “Salvation” is not like taking a test where we don’t know the outcome. There will be little surprise at the final judgement. It’s not like “Phew! I passed!”
This interpretation is bolstered when verse 6 is read in context and conjunction with verse 5. We will “know” when we are “sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy…” (D&C 131:5)
In short, we will inherit the celestial kingdom when we are celestial. “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.” To inherit the celestial kingdom, we must have a celestial spirit, celestial mind, and celestial body. (D&C 76:70; 1 Cor. 15:40-42; D&C 88:20-28)
I take great comfort in knowing that we have enough time necessary to become celestial. We have this mortal life, the spirit world, and the 1,000-year millennium before our final judgment.
But this does not mean we can procrastinate. Becoming perfect and celestial will require our strength, efforts, and our time and the enabling grace and help of the Lord. The Lord has repeatedly counseled that “now is the time to prepare.” The Lord has repeatedly warned us against procrastinating until it is “everlastingly too late.”