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Progressing Toward Exaltation

by Sharon Lindbloom
1 October 2019

President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Russell M. Nelson, recently spoke to a worldwide audience of young adult Latter-day Saints. His topic was, “The Love and Laws of God,” focused on helping Mormons understand that all the rules that make up Mormonism have been given by God for their own protection, because He loves them. To his audience, President Nelson presented “five truths that I feel impressed to share with you.” Ranging from the nature of human beings (as children of God) to the nature of truth, these five points skim over a lot of ground. But President Nelson spent much of his address talking about divine law and a Mormon’s goal of exaltation.

In his third point, President Nelson said,

“The entire reason we are on this earth is to qualify to live with [God] forever. We do that by using our agency to find and stay on the covenant path that leads back to our heavenly home. …abiding by God’s laws will keep you safe as you progress toward eventual exaltation. Let me say it as succinctly as I can: As you abide by God’s laws, you are progressing toward exaltation.”

In his fourth point, President Nelson said,

“My dear young friends, exaltation is not easy. Requirements include a focused and persistent effort to keep God’s laws, and rigorously repenting when we don’t. But the reward for doing so is far greater than anything we can imagine, because it brings us joy here, and ‘never-ending happiness’ hereafter.”

Thus, according to Mormonism, the whole point of life is to work diligently to achieve exaltation; but what is it?

According to a definition posted on the church’s website,

“Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.”

An earlier version of the explanation quoted above more clearly defined what it means to “become like our Heavenly Father.” It said,

“We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.” (Gospel Principles, 1988, 290)

In his address, President Nelson included a very short explanatory note about exaltation:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that God ‘institute[d] laws whereby [we] could have a privilege to advance like himself.’

Joseph Smith made the quoted statement in a Conference address in 1844, in a sermon now called the King Follet Discourse. This sermon included additional clarifying remarks on the nature of exaltation (i.e., becoming like God). Joseph Smith taught,

“it is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the vail, so that you may see. …he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did…

“Here, then, is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, –namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one…”

Joseph Smith taught that before God was exalted he was “a man like us,” living on an earth. He was exalted to Godhood in the same way that we ourselves must be: by, in President Nelson’s words, his “focused and persistent effort to keep [His] God’s laws, and rigorously repenting” when he didn’t. President Nelson taught that the whole reason human beings are on this earth is to work hard to achieve this same exaltation for ourselves. Become Gods ourselves. Live in great glory. Be all knowing (that is, omniscient). Be all-wise. Be parents of spirit children. Be creators. Twelfth LDS President Spencer W. Kimball said it this way:

“After death we continue to learn. Exaltation means godhood, creatorship. ‘As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.’” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 53)

These days, I often hear people dismiss Mormonism’s doctrine of men becoming Gods (meaning the same kind of Being that Mormons worship). They try to redefine “godhood” to mean something different than what has been traditionally taught in Mormonism, or they say that it’s an old, outdated doctrine that’s not really taught anymore. But in truth, this doctrine remains the heart and soul of Mormonism. President Nelson’s citation from the King Follet Discourse makes clear that the traditional understanding of this doctrine continues in force.

This is a very inconvenient truth for those who want to put Mormonism under the umbrella of Christianity, for it clearly exposes the fact that Mormonism cannot be Christian. The God of Christianity has always been God. He has been and will always be the only true God, the only Creator God, the only omniscient God, the only wise God. (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 43:10-11; Colossians 1:16-17; 1 Kings 8:39; Romans 16:27)

Compare that to President Nelson’s stated “truth” that the entire reason we are on this earth is to achieve exaltation – to become Gods ourselves, the same as all Gods have done before us.

Mormonism and Christianity are incompatible, their respective truths about God irreconcilable. Which truth is true? Which do you choose?

“To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
-Romans 16:27-

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