By Eric Johnson
Exaltation, which is synonymous with eternal life, is godhood achieved through complete obedience to all the commandments of God as defined by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Those who are exalted earn the right to eternal life in the celestial kingdom with their families.
Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball explained, “One may be saved in any one of three kingdoms of glory—the telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial—but one can reach exaltation only in the highest of the three heavens or degrees in the celestial glory” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 8). To enter this top kingdom of glory, a person must fully obey the commandments. As tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept. The word of the Lord is that they of the celestial world are those sanctified from all unrighteousness” (The Way to Perfection, p. 206).
Sixteenth President Thomas S. Monson declared, “It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned” (“An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1988, p. 56). A church manual reported, “As we are obedient to the commandments of God, we earn the right to live with him forever in the celestial kingdom” (Uniform System for Teaching Families, 1973, p. D-1). And another manual states, “Eternal life is living with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the celestial kingdom. This blessing—which is also called exaltation— comes only to those who keep the commandments and make the necessary covenants” (Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual, 1998, p. 4).
Thousands of similar quotes can be found to show that this view comes from the very beginning of this religion and continues into the 21st century. These works include work in the temple, as a Mormon must get married for time and eternity in one of the many dozens of LDS temples located around the world. A manual teaches, “To be exalted in the highest degree and continue eternally in family relationships, we must enter into ‘the new and everlasting covenant of marriage’ and be true to that covenant. In other words, temple marriage is a requirement for obtaining the highest degree of celestial glory” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, p. 93). Another manual puts it very concisely: “Consider this fact: Your marriage is a laboratory for godhood” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, p. 65).
The result is that qualified Latter-day Saints can have their families together forever, as this manual reports:
Families can be together forever. To enjoy this blessing we must be married in the temple. When people are married outside the temple, the marriage ends when one of the partners dies. When we are married in the temple by the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we are married for time and eternity. If we keep our covenants with the Lord, our families will be united eternally as husband, wife, and children. Death cannot separate us (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 209).
“Blessings” are reserved for “exalted people”:
1. They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62). 2. They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23). 3. They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase. 4. They will receive a fulness of joy. 5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20) (Gospel Principles, 2009, p. 277).
However, many Latter-day Saints will not reach this goal, as one church president explained:
There will not be such an overwhelming number of the Latter-day Saints who will get there. President Francis M. Lyman many times has declared, and he had reason to declare, I believe, that if we save one-half of the Latter-day Saints, that is, with an exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God, we will be doing well. Not that the Lord is partial, not that he will draw the line as some will say, to keep people out. He would have every one of us go in if we would; but there are laws and ordinances that we must keep; if we do not observe the law we cannot enter” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:15).
Those who are exalted will be allowed to have eternal increase. A church manual citing Joseph Fielding Smith stated,
Those who receive the exaltation in the celestial kingdom will have the “continuation of the seeds forever.” They will live in the family relationship. We are taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ that the family organization will be, so far as celestial exaltation is concerned, one that is complete, an organization linked from father and mother and children of one generation to the father and mother and children of the next generation, and thus expanding and spreading out down to the end of time (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 2013, p. 68).
Another church manual references how both a man and woman are needed in order for there to be eternal increase:
By definition, exaltation includes the ability to procreate the family unit throughout eternity. This or Father in heaven has power to do. His marriage partner is our mother in heaven. We are their spirit children, born to them in the bonds of celestial marriage (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, p. 129).
Because a man will need multiple women to populate his new world to create billions of spirit children, it appears that polygamy will be enforced throughout eternity. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, “Obviously the holy practice will commence again after the Second Coming of the Son of Man and the ushering in of the millennium” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 578).
What Does Christianity Teach
Nuclear families cannot continue into the next life, with the man becoming the “god” and the woman a “goddess.” While believers will receive glorified bodies, they will not become exalted to the same state as God. It is the same error that Satan made in the very beginning (“ye shall be as gods”–Gen. 3:5).