On November 9th (2007) an article by Mathew N. Schmalz appeared in Commonweal Magazine. The article, titled “Meet the Mormons: From Margin to Mainstream,” discussed some interesting aspects of Mormonism, from Kolob to BYU. But one comment really caught my attention:
“Smith’s vision of the afterlife was also distinctive. It foresaw a place divided into three levels: the ‘celestial kingdom,’ for faithful Mormons and those who receive the full gospel of Jesus Christ in the hereafter; the ‘terrestrial kingdom,’ for less faithful Mormons and righteous non-Mormon ‘Gentiles’; and the ‘telestial kingdom,’ for murderers, adulterers, and apostates. In this tripartite scheme, those in the celestial kingdom labor to achieve ‘exaltation.’ Some Mormon prophets and theologians have speculated that those who attain exaltation become gods of their own planets and give birth to spirit children who pass from preexistence through corporeal life to the afterlife.”
Is this basic definition of the LDS doctrine of exaltation merely “speculation” from LDS prophets and theologians? Take a look at the teachings of LDS authorities throughout much of the history of the Mormon Church:
• “Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters; indeed, there will be no end to the increase of his own children: for each father and mother will be in a condition to multiply forever and ever. As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits, and his Heavenly inheritance becomes too small, to comfortably accommodate his great family, he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world, after a similar order to the one which we now inhabit, where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones. Thus each God forms a world for the accommodation of his own sons and daughters who are sent forth in their times and seasons, and generations to be born into the same. The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited.” (Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, 37, March 1853)
• “Having fought the good fight we then shall be prepared to lay our bodies down to rest to await the morning of the resurrection when they will come forth and be reunited with the spirits, the faithful, as it is said, receiving crowns, glory, immortality and eternal lives, even a fullness with the Father, …Then will they become gods, even the sons of God; then will they become eternal fathers, eternal mothers, eternal sons and eternal daughters; being eternal in their organization, they go from glory to glory, from power to power; they will never cease to increase and to multiply, worlds without end. When they receive their crowns, their dominions, they then will be prepared to frame earths like unto ours and to people them in the same manner as we have been brought forth by our parents, by our Father and God.” (Second LDS Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 18:259, October 8, 1876)
• “We are the offspring of God, born with the same faculties and powers as He possesses, capable of enlargement through the experience that we are now passing through in our second estate… He has begotten us in His own image. He has given us faculties and powers that are capable of enlargement until His fullness is reached which He has promised — until we shall sit upon thrones, governing and controlling our posterity from eternity to eternity, and increasing eternally.” (Apostle Lorenzo Snow, Millennial Star 56:772, October 5, 1894)
• “So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.” (A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, Charles W. Penrose] and the Twelve, “The Father and the Son,” Improvement Era, June 1916, 942, quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, 131, 1976)
• “What do we mean by endless or eternal increase? We mean that through the righteousness and faithfulness of men and women who keep the commandments of God they will come forth with celestial bodies, fitted and prepared to enter into their great, high and eternal glory in the celestial kingdom of God; and unto them, through their preparation, there will come children, who will be spirit children. I don’t think that is very difficult to comprehend and understand” (Apostle Melvin J. Ballard, Three Degrees of Glory, 10, 1922).
• “An essential requirement for exaltation is celestial marriage, for exaltation depends upon the continuation of the family in eternity and the power to populate other worlds as our Father did this one.” (Principles of the Gospel, published by the LDS Church, 1976)
• “The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fullness of his kingdom. In other words, we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fullness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring.” (Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:48, quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual, 132, 1976)
• “Exalted parents are to their children as our Eternal Parents are to us. Eternal increase, a continuation of the seeds forever and ever, eternal lives — these comprise the eternal family of those who gain eternal life. For them new earths are created, and thus the on-rolling purposes of the Gods of Heaven go forward from eternity to eternity.” (Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah, 23, 1982)
With prophets, apostles, a Church-produced student manual and a doctrinal exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve of the LDS Church all teaching “that those who attain exaltation become gods of their own planets and give birth to spirit children who pass from preexistence through corporeal life to the afterlife,” I wonder how the Commonweal Magazine journalist came to think of this foundational LDS doctrine as “speculative.”
You see the first thing that we Ev. Christians have to realize is that this “doctrine” is plainly taught in the New Testament. It’s all over the place because this is what the apostles taught, believed and practiced (including plural marrage). The second thing we need to understand is that the Bible is subordinate to prophetic, on-going revelation. So progression to godhood could be changed or modified. But, on-the-other-hand, this teaching of progression to godhood, if it becomes too controversial, is just prophetic speculation and shouldn’t be considered official church doctrine. Anyway, all that I’ve said here proves that the Mormon church is true. Because, like any good Mormon will tell you, they prayed about it and got a good feeling, and that feeling came from God. Remember, you have to “think Mormon”.
Have the Mormons thought this doctrine through to its natual conclusion? We are all children of the same god sometimes with the same mother, more often with different mothers making us blood brothers and sisters, and we are supposed to mate and populate the earth. This is incest, my friends, and forbidden in Leviticus 18:6-20; specifically for brothers and sisters in Leviticus 18:9-11.
You know, for being just an “opinion” or “speculation” all of those statements are rather lengthy and paint a very vivid picture.
I know some of you accept those words as 100% truth, and you should because your prophet will never lead you astray. I applaud you for not being a picker and chooser when it comes to God’s supposed revelations to his mouthpiece. But for those of you who even start to think “thats just their opinion”, all I have to ask of you is “Are you serious?”
Did those statements start off as “I think” or “It is of my opinion that so and so..” They were written as if they were certain.
When you tell your child to do something, you just say it. You don’t just say “Honey, its my opinion that you don’t do that or else it will end up getting you into trouble.” You say “Don’t do that or you will get into trouble.”
I think an important question to answeris, what does it mean to “become like God?” This is an area that I feel that I need to study extensively in order to discuss it with our Mormon friends. The first two chapters of Ephesians speak of the wondrous spiritual blessings we have in Chirst. I need to do some research into the Greek words and background of those two chapters. Would anyone on here like to give some more insight into what it means to “become like Christ”? I have always taken it to mean that Christ covers our sins and makes us holy like him. But I know our Mormon friends on here view it as something quite different (ie., literally becoming gods ourselves). This forum has been so good for me because it has challenged me to know my theology backwards, forwards, and upside down.
The newest article said
Since Mormons believe this, and the Bible teaches this,
So who do I believe, The Word of God, the Bible, or the word of a prophet who does not trust the bible? Rick b
The word of a prophet, Rick, duhhh! :o)
I thought the Telestial kingdom wasn’t that bad, turns out there is a lake of fire in it now? Bah, whatever, the Bible is probably wrong.
“Lake of Fire” in the Bible probably really means a giant pool filled with Hot Tamale Candy, and the adulterers and murderers will all have “their part” in eating them. Yum! Telestial Kingdom once again doesn’t sound that bad :o)
You are seriously messed-up. There is no hell. John Calvin made it up! And he wasn’t a prophet. He was an apostate theologian who lived before there was a restored Gospel. Thinking that there is a hell makes people feel bad. A merciful God wouldn’t have a hell. Thinking that we can become a god with our own planetary system results in positive feelings.
Our Mormon friends while agreeing that we should all strive to become godly in the manner of being Christlike in our character, don’t stop there. They’re going to become a god. Why do you think they keep doing all of those temple rituals and other works. We rest on Christ’s finished work on the cross and trust totally in his sacrifice as paying the price for our sins. Our motive for godly living is in gratitude to God for what He did through His Son. I know you know this but I keep hoping it might eventually hit the switch in some Mormon’s brain out there.
You know, while I agree with the things you all are saying out there (often tongue-in-cheek), I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think that this is the attitude Christ would use when ministering to our Mormon friends. I mean, if I were to run into a Mormon on the street and tell him to check out this blog, and then he saw some of the fun some people poke at his religion, I have a hard time believing he would take you seriously. He would write it off as a bunch of anti-Mormon hate-speak, which I don’t think is what you are trying to convey. I enjoy following the comments on here (and like to jump in myself from time to time), but this is getting out of hand. Sorry to spoil the fun, but as I said, I don’t think some of the attitude that is being conveyed on here is very Christlike…
I agree 100% and admit that I sometimes (like my last post probably conveys) write the “bottom line” type statements found on oxymormonics.com video’s to just show how absurd some of the teachings are.
I know for a fact that it wont change any LDS person’s mind and I don’t expect it to. In fact, coming up with rather solid proof and evidence wont even change an LDS person’s mind. I think that is rather obvious. It takes much more than other human beings to change the mind of a person, it takes God.
Has there been any ex-LDS people here that left the church because of any of the topics of discussions found on this blog?.. I’m just guessing no. I do think that it may “start the ball rolling” but I doubt it would single-handedly bring a person to truth.
Daniel, I did not offended any body with acting out, I admit my approach is so hard line and in your face, I post on the Reach out trust board that I had almost every believer going off on my their, they claim it was in love, and it was not for poking fun, it was for saying things like, Your lying, your a false Prophet/teacher, your going to hell as Paul taught in Gal 1:8-9. I was told I was not being Loving to the Mormons. I guess no matter what I say or how I say it, some one will get upset and offended. Rick b
Rick, that comment was more directed at those making sarcastic jokes than being straight-up…and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m offended in any way, I just think sometimes we need a gut-check as to why we’re really here…is it to minister to mormons, or make fun of them? And believe me, I have quite the sarcastic sense of humor, so it’s difficult for me sometimes as well (although often more so face-to-face than on paper…it’s easier to hold back when I have a chance to re-read what I’ve written and feel the tone of it)
I think we evang. Christians need to be careful on here. We need to take what Mormons believe seriously. Why? Because they take what they believe seriously. I think it would be far more helpful to persuasively argue and cite evidence as to why many of their beliefs are unbiblical, as most of us do on here. They deserve our politeness and our respect. I am not saying at all that we should sugar-coat biblical truths. But the manner in which we deliver these truths should be in a loving (while honest) manner. I guess I have to agree with Daniel. Far too often on here I see others (sometimes including myself) have the attitude of “those Mormons…I can’t believe them…blah blah blah.” I’m glad Daniel brought this up, because it’s been bothering me lately.
By process of elimination, I figure that I must be the “those” you are referring to in your post. I went back and read what I’d written and I thought I was quite measured in pointing out the absurdity of what I see as the Mormon mind set and thought process. I teach part-time at a local college and I tell my students at the beginning of each semester that if they can go an entire term without being offended by something I say, I’ll give them ten bonus points. I’m looking to provoke the students out of lethergy and acceptance of the status quo political correctness or what passes for knowledge and truth in most colleges today. I think if someone is being unkind, mean or personal that’s unacceptable. But a little edgy humor spices things up. And is it our purpose to “minister” to Mormons here? I don’t think they need to be ministered to unless they’re miserable, hurting and trying to find their way out of the Mormon maze. I see our purpose here as to challenge the errors and inconsistency in Mormon doctrine, practice and thought. I don’t think that most hard core Mormons are all that fragile.
One question I have is why are you so uptight about the “speculative” remark in the journal article? The article was written by a NON-MEMBER and was published in a NON-LDS paper. So of course if they are writing about a different religion and belief system they would say that it is speculative rather than say that it is full and totally corect and true.
The journalist didn’t say that the article was speculative, but that some LDS prophets and theologians speculated about the specific nature of exaltation. I didn’t mean to seem “uptight” about it; I just think it’s curious that the journalist believes this doctrine is merely speculative in Mormonism. I wonder where he got that idea. Don’t you?
I just found your blog. Great post. I plan to comeback often.
Sharon, maybe “uptight” was the wrong word, but I failed English at high school. All I’m saying is that this is making a mountain out of a molehill because of a Non-LDS person saying that our ideology/doctrine is speculative. As I said, of course he would say that because he does not believe it himself.
But as for how you worded the question in your last comment, yes some of the things printed are ‘speculative’ or worded in our understanding of an eternal principle which we cannot hope to understand right now with our limited minds. Aaron and I have had this discussion before in another blog. I’ll try to make it understandable – just remember though, I failed high school english. For instance, in the quotes above, we as a church do teach and believe in them. We do believe that we can become gods and produce spirit children and create worlds for these children to populate. How this process occurs is what is termed ‘speculative’. The quotes from prophets and apostles say that the spirit children are ‘born’ to the exalted parents. Aaron said that because we believe that we have a physical body this IMPLIES that the process will be as it is on this earth. Yes its an implication – but I can implicate you in a murder, doesn’t mean that you did it until there is proof. But SPIRIT children to a PHYSICAL parent does not compute to me. So this ‘birthing’ process could be different to what is implied.
Look at it this way – From a Christian perspective, having a resurrected physical body with everything the same as it is now implies we will need to eat and rid ouselves of waste – but will we need to? I don’t know. Jesus ate for His apostles to prove He was a physical being not spirit, but that does not mean we will have to eat. Afterall we are told we will be immortal – so if we don’t eat we shouldn’t starve to death.
So that is what is meant by ‘speculative’ in our church – yes there is the doctrine of what will happen, but other comments about ‘HOW’ are speculation.
Sorry Rick, you’ve lost me here. Can you please explain this and/or give examples so I can try and answer.
One thing that needs to be brought out is that the lowest heaven is like hell a little bit…not “outer darkness…but it’s not heaven either…
the other comment I’d make is that we aren’t going to “argue someone into the kingdom”…we can present all of the facts we want showing how absurd the Mormon position is…but it won’t do any good…why do I say that?
Because the bible says it..
“The natural man does not accept the things of God…”
“All have turned away…”
“the natural man is at war with God”
Is it a surprise that these conversations go as they do?
What coverts the human soul?
“The law of the Lord is perfect in converting the soul”
“The law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ”…
So what will convert a Mormon? The same thing that converts any unregenerate person…the law of God and their realization that they are idolators and under God’s wrath at this very moment. And who will grant them that repentance? Only God himself.
my two cents
Ralph, I posted this above, you might have missed it, but here is the example again.
The newest article said
Since Mormons believe this, and the Bible teaches this,
So who do I believe, The Word of God, the Bible, or the word of a prophet who does not trust the bible?
then you went on to say this,
so I said to that, this,
RickB, I believe that you have misunderstood either the above article, or LDS teachings, or I still do not understand what you are saying – So I will try and answer what I think you are saying. The above article says that the murderers, adulterers apostates etc will go to the Telestial Kingdom, NOT the Celestial Kingdom. The Celestial Kingdom is where God (Heavenly Father) lives. All who do not make it into the Celestial Kingdom DO NOT get to see or live with God. This is what is termed ‘the Second Death’ or ‘Spiritual Death’ in the LDS church. If you read the verse you quoted above Rev 21:8 it discusses the Second Death. So all who get into the Terrestrial Kingdom, Telestial Kingdom and Outer Darkness are suffering Spiritual Death or the Second Death. No where in LDS teachings does it say that these are good places to be – although we do teach that one is better than the other and the Terrestrial Kingdom is better than this earthly life – we emphasise that the only place to be truly saved in is the Celestial Kingdom – ie living with God for eternity. Aaron has quoted a number of times one of our General Authorities stating that anything less than the Celestial Kingdom is damnation. So although we as LDS do not teach a 2 destination heaven and hell like Traditional Christianity do, we do teach that there is only ONE place where we are saved – and that’s the Celestial Kingdom –all other kingdoms are damnation. However they are segregated according to people’s beliefs and actions (ie those who believed in Jesus but were not LDS or the not so faithful LDS, go to the Terrestrial, while the murderers, etc go to the Telestial and the ones who deny the Holy Ghost go to Outer Darkness. So the 3 lower destinations can be categorised as analogous to Traditional Christianty’s hell.
Does that answer your question?
Yes it answers it, but I still see a problem. The Problem I see is, 1. their is a chance to move up from the lowest heaven or even the second heaven, and 2. it is still called heaven, IE, The 3 heavens. So it is still a form of heaven and this does not jive with what the bible teaches, But I understand what you said. Thanks, Rick b
OK RickB, I now see what you are having the problem with – it’s the use of the word ‘heaven’. Don’t know why some LDS use it to describe them, but most use the terms ‘Kingdom’ or ‘degrees of glory’ to describe them. The highest (ie Celestial Kingdom) is also known as the Kingdom of God. Again, this also fits in with the scriptures that you quoted.
As for working one’s way up through the kingdoms after resurrection, I don’t know where you got the idea from but the LDS church teaches that once one has been assigned a kingdom, that is where they remain for eternity. So if someone has been placed in the Telestial Kingdom there is no hope of ever reaching the Celestial Kingdom. Some church members (but not General Authorities and the majority of general membership) believe that one can work their way up, but this is only a small group and it is not a true teaching/doctrine of the LDS church.
Ralph, as you pointed out, I heard from many MM’s that they can work their way up into another kingdom.
they tell me this because, as I pointed out to Amanda, if your not married in the temple you stand no chance of ever getting into the highest heaven, So I ask the MM’s, why would I want to be an LDS member if while your on your Missions trip you get killed, you are not married and so all this work will be for nothing as you will not enter the highest heaven.
They tell me it’s not a problem as the can move up and make it their. Rick b
RickB, This is one of the common misconceptions of non-LDS about LDS doctrine of the after-life. In fact, some LDS do not have a full understanding of it themselves. The LDS church teaches that everyone who has lived will get ONE PROPER CHANCE to gain all of the necessary ordinances. This chance may be in the Spirit world after this life but before resurrection. We believe this because we believe that Heavenly Father is just and merciful, and it would not be just and merciful if He condemned someone to a lesser kingdom if they did not know at all about His plan nor about Him. So from your example, if someone has had the proper chance to get married – eg a 40 year old male LDS who has had many dates but decided that his work came first and didn’t marry – he WOULD NOT achieve the highest degree of glory and COULD NOT change his status in the next life and ‘move up’ in the degrees. However, your example of someone on a mission who is killed, since Heavenly Father knows that they did not have the proper chance to marry, if that person’s heart shows God that they are pure and would have married IF they had the chance, then that person will be exalted in the highest degree – how?, I don’t know but if you read the General Authorities’ talks to the single people of the church you will find this teaching. The same is for baptism and temple ordinances. Just remember though, once one has received that chance in this life, they DO NOT get another in the Spirit world before resurrection. For instance, a non-LDS Christian in Utah who learns about LDS doctrine but decides they disagree with it has had their chance and will probably end up in the Terrestrial Kingdom (not pointing anyone out). A 5th century Chinese who doesn’t know about Christ will get their chance in the spirit prison and IF their heart shows that they would have accepted in this life then they will be able to achieve the Celestial Kingdom, if their heart shows otherwise, then they will not.
Ralph, I appreciated your blunt comment.
Here are some relevant Mormon scriptures:
Aaron, When I first read your comment I thought you were offended, but after I heard your A/V response it cleared things up. Just remember though, I wasn’t pointing anyone in particular out in my comment. I was just using Utah as an example because it has one of the highest percentage of LDS per capita.
As for me being ‘blunt’, I don’t know about that, I just say what I have been taught and have learned from my own study.
BTW the A/V is a good idea, although I can’t send any. Great accent, sounds a little too American though?