By Lane Thuet
Check out a week-long Viewpoint on Mormonism series that aired July 7-11, 2014 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Exaltation according to Mormonism means gaining a fullness of all God has to offer. It includes reaching the “highest level” of the LDS heaven (called the celestial kingdom), attaining all knowledge available, and becoming a “God” over your own creation. Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote that those who attain exaltation “…inherit in due course the fullness of the glory of the Father, meaning that they have all power in heaven and on earth…” (Mormon Doctrine pg. 257). Doctrine and Covenants also teaches that “then shall they be gods, because they have no end…then shall they be gods, because they have all power…” (D&C 132:16-26). This is the ultimate goal in Mormonism.
One of the requirements to reach this goal is what Mormons call “celestial marriage.” Today celestial marriage is simply defined as a marriage in a Mormon temple designed to last not just until death but throughout all eternity. Couples joined in such marriages are considered “sealed” to each other. Their children afterward are automatically “sealed” to them as well. This, they believe, ensures that their family will continue in heaven eternally as a complete unit.
“Celestial marriage is the gate to exaltation, and exaltation consists in the continuation of the family unit in eternity. Exaltation is…the kind of life which God lives” (Mormon Doctrine pg. 257).
Celestial marriage is an absolute necessity to reach this desired goal. Its importance in the place of salvation and exaltation cannot be overestimated.
“The most important things that any member of (the LDS Church) ever does in this world are: 1) To marry the right person, in the right place, by the right authority; and 2) To keep the covenant made in connection with this holy and perfect order of matrimony…” (Mormon Doctrine pg. 118).
All Mormon men who desire Godhood are required to marry; if they do not, their leaders have taught that their actions will be displeasing to God. For instance, President Joseph Fielding Smith said,
“Any young man who carelessly neglects this great commandment to marry, or who does not marry because of a selfish desire to avoid the responsibilities which married life will bring, is taking a course which is displeasing in the sight of God…There can be no exaltation without it. If a man refuses…he is taking a course which may bar him forever from (exaltation).” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:74).
Those who choose to remain single or do not enter into the covenant of celestial marriage while on earth are no longer in obedience to God or to Mormon authorities. They will not advance to Godhood, but will be given menial tasks as angels for all eternity. As McConkie put it,
“Many who practice celibacy do so out of an excessive religious devotion and with the idea in mind that they are serving their Maker. In reality, they are forsaking some of the most important purposes of their creation…” (Mormon Doctrine pg. 119).
And Doctrine and Covenants 132;16-17 says,
“Therefore, when they are out of the world they… are appointed angels in heaven… to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law”.”
We have to wonder, then, about Paul or even Jesus Himself. Are they nothing more than “ministering angels” because they remained single here on earth? This would seem to be the case. However, to avoid this difficulty, LDS leaders have taught that both of them were married. In fact, some even taught that Jesus was a polygamist. (See Journal of Discourses 1:345, 2:82, 4:259 as well as The Seer, p.172.)
Despite the fact that there is no clear record that Apostle Paul was married, McConkie insisted,
“…it is interesting to note that it is to Paul that advocates of celibacy turn in a fruitless search to find scripture justifying this unnatural mode of living. Paul himself was married. Of this there is no question. He had the sure promise of eternal life; his calling and election had been made sure – which, according to God’s eternal laws, could not have been unless he had first entered into the order of celestial marriage.” (Mormon Doctrine pg. 119).
McConkie’s assertion is without biblical support. Unlike the LDS Church’s emphasis on marriage, Paul said it was good for a man not to marry because it allowed him to put all of his efforts into serving Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 7:7). He never connected singleness with disobedience but acknowledged that such a man would naturally be concerned about providing for his family. This responsibility would hinder him from focusing solely on serving the Lord. When Paul advocated marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, he did so within the context of man’s weakness. Since man is weak and often tempted to sin, it would be better that he marry and remain faithful rather than stay single and risk sinning sexually (1 Cor. 7:2-9). Due to the nature of man, then, it is better to marry-thereby becoming whole (Gen. 2:24, 1 Cor. 7:2,9).
While the Bible teaches that it is good for man to marry (Gen. 2:24, 1 Cor. 7:2,9), it is not a requirement for salvation, nor was marriage designed to last for all eternity (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25).