Nature of exaltation

One of my pet peeves is when we talk about exaltation as though it were merely a reward or merely a location. We speak about “getting into the celestial kingdom” or use “reward” analogies like Stephen Robinson’s parable of the bicycle. I do not doubt that the celestial kingdom is a location and that receiving it is a reward (or is it a gift? cf. D&C 14:7), and these analogies have value. The problem I have with them is when we imagine that these analogies comprehensively explain how salvation works (also known as the “Now I understand how it works!” reaction). These analogies are missing something very important that is articulated in the scriptures.

The celestial kingdom is not like an amusement park where you just need a ticket to get in and if you can’t pay the full entrance fee, Jesus pays the rest. In addition to being a location and a reward (or gift), it is a state of being. For example, note the following scriptures (emphasis mine):

Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am. (3 Nephi 27:27)

And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one. (3 Nephi 28:10)

I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one. (D&C 35:2)

And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God. (Mosiah 27:25-26)

These (and many other) scriptures make it clear that exaltation requires that we become like Christ, and this is where the “location” and “reward” analogies seem to break down. Does “admittance” into the celestial kingdom make someone like Christ? It seems to me that this cannot be the case, or everyone could be exalted merely by admitting them into the celestial kingdom. It seems to me that “admittance” requires first that we become the kind of person who can be admitted.

Does the atonement somehow “make up the difference” by making me fully like Christ even when I’m not? Not in this life, as far as I can tell. What about the next? Well, Amulek taught:

That same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world (Alma 34:34)

The Doctrine & Covenants adds:

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come. (D&C 130:18-19)

If the atonement somehow transforms us into fully Christlike beings, regardless of what level of character we have attained in this life, I cannot see how these scriptures apply. And it seems also to run counter to Joseph Smith’s teaching that:

When you climb a ladder you must begin at the bottom run[g] until you learn the last prin[ciple] of the gospel for it is a great thing to learn Sal[vatio]n. beyond the grave & it is not all to be com[prehended] in this world. (Thomas Bullock report of King Follett Discourse, Words of Joseph Smith, pp. 349-352)

In other words, there’s still a lot of work to do beyond the grave — exaltation is a process. This would not be the case if the atonement simply “made up the difference” for us and transformed us into fully Christlike beings. Agency and accountability also factor into these questions.

And then there’s the whole point of a mortal existence. If it is possible for God to simply tranform us into fully Christlike beings, then the only real point there seems to be for us on earth is to receive a physical body. After all, we all accepted the Savior prior to our mortal birth. But we recognize that there is more to life than merely receiving a body — we understand that this is a probation in which we can progress and change to become more Christlike. This seems to indicate that exaltation is not a matter of sudden transformation, but rather one of learning and experience, facilitated by the atonement that allows us to learn from our mistakes without being eternally determined by them. This is how I read the following passage from D&C 88:

Bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified. And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.

They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened. Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness. And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness. And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.
And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.
For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift. (D&C 88:20-24,28-33)

The question for me is how this teaching can be reconciled with a theology of redemption in which our deficiencies are compensated for by the Savior. How can we be “saved” by the Savior and be able to abide a celestial law and be accountable for our agency?

45 thoughts on “Nature of exaltation

  1. Christopher, I think part of the problem here is that our mortal minds cannot get around the concept of what the celestial kingdom and exaltation really mean. Just like we can’t really understand the concept of billions of other worlds, we can’t understand what progression really means. Therefore we use worldly terms, such as calling it a “place,” to describe it. So, being saved by accepting the fullness of the gospel gets us to “place A,” the celestial kingdom, if we endure to the end, we can also have exaltation, or “place B,” if we are married in the temple and endure to the end. But in reality, the concept is much more than a “place.” It’s a whole state of being where we become more and more like the savior as we progress. But I’m not sure that our little mortal brains can understand exactly what that means, so other terms are used that are more comprehensible.

  2. Great post and tough questions at the end. Obviously, we realize that the Atonement makes it possible for us to be justified through Christ’s suffering on our behalf, thus making us “perfect in Christ”–not perfect ourselves. As you’ve noted, that’s the goal of the eternities–to become steadily more Christ-like, step by step. As far as abiding a Celestial law while we are still imperfect ourselves (before the “perfect day”), I’m not sure we have any concrete answers. We can postulate, but maybe this is one we can’t yet grasp. My only guess would be that perhaps we’ll still be applying the Atonement even during that time in order to allow us a continually justified state and worthiness to live in God’s presence until we alone, after infintesimal eternal progression, are perfect and justified of ourselves.

  3. The celestial kingdom is not like an amusement park where you just need a ticket to get in and if you can’t pay the full entrance fee, Jesus pays the rest.

    I think I disagree, at least with this statement, but perhaps it’s based on your definitions and I’m really just restating your post. Those who enter the celestial kingdom will eventually achieve an exalted state(ie. being like God). That state is not required for entrance. Admittance requires that we be the kind of person for whom exaltation is possible because of the choices we are willing to make. In this way, admittance to the celestial kingdom does not magically and instantly render someone like God.

    You haven’t specified what you think the atonement “compensates” for or what you mean by that.

    I think what the atonement compensates for is earthly things. That is, for example, God will not allow the Church to fail because of human weakness. It seems to me that this is what Moroni is told in Ether 12. Or, another example, the earthly (ie corruptible) qualities of our bodies will be replaced by heavenly (incorruptible) bodies. I think that to whatever extent our sins have been influenced by genetics, that tendancy to sin also is stripped away as part of incorruptible bodies.

    Let me restate…
    The celestial kingdom is not like an amusement park, because we’re not there to be amused. That’s the Protestant idea of Heaven. Rather the celestial kingdom is like an Olympic training center that guarantees victory. You just need a pass to get in and if you can’t pay the full entrance fee, Jesus pays the rest on condition that you show him you are willing to do the work required to become olympic. In other words, the training center only takes people whose commitment is proven. Once you’re in, you still have lots of work to do, but you ARE in.

  4. I agree with Ben’s take on this topic and I have been struggling trying to figure out how to say it. He did an excellent job. That is what I believe “Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness” means.

  5. This conversation provokes an interesting question, one that I’ve never considered before: We all agree that there’s much growth and progress to be done even after we’ve entered the Celestal Kingdom. Once there, will that growth and progress also be facilitated by the atonement, or does the enabling power of the atonement end with mortality and judgment? Is the atonement eternal in the sense that I will rely upon it in some way to become a God myself?

  6. I think the concept of “we pay what we can and Christ pays the rest” is a useful analogy to a point but then falls woefully short of helping our understanding of the atonement and exaltation. Unlike the bike or the amusement park, the price of exaltation is infinite in nature and Christ’s atonement was the only one that could work because it was infinite. This means that while we are required to submit some form of payment (works) and Christ makes up the rest (grace) the ratio between the two is not a little to a whole lot as these analogies posit. Rather it is a little to an inifite lot. This means that our works have very little to do with actually going toward any purchase price and much more to do with making us into a god-like person. It also means that we cannot say we are closer to entering the celestial kingdom than the next guy because it is not a matter of approaching the purchase price but rather qualifying for the gift. All of us are equally close and distant from entering the celestial kingdom from a progress point of view because all of us are infinitely distant prior to Christ’s grace no matter what we have done.

  7. Ben, how do you reconcile your view with the passage from D&C 88 that states that if we are not able to abide a celestial law (i.e., we’re still “in training”), we cannot abide a celestial glory?

    In addition, you wrote:

    Those who enter the celestial kingdom will eventually achieve an exalted state(ie. being like God).

    However, this is not the case, as Doctrine & Covenants 131 tells us. Only a subset of those in the celestial kingdom will eventually achieve an exalted state. Exaltation is apparently not possible for all who enter the celestial kingdom (else, why the different degrees?).

    You haven’t specified what you think the atonement “compensates” for or what you mean by that.

    Yes, well that will have to be another post for another time. For now, let’s just say that I’m using the concept in the same way Robinson uses it in the parable of the bicycle.

    As another analogy: suppose I want to become a concert pianist. I work really really hard at it for a long time, but struggle and after many years am still far from being a concert pianist. Can I be transformed into a concert pianist by virtue of someone else? Can somebody else “make up the difference” or “compensate” for my lack of ability so that I am a concert pianist? This is the struggle that I am trying to articulate. If I am striving to become Christlike, but after many years am still very far from that point, is there some way that we think the atonement will “compensate” and turn me into a Christlike person despite my lack?

    And if I am not a fully Christlike person and the atonement doesn’t somehow turn me into one independent of my continued (eternal?) strivings, then how is it that I can receive a fulness of celestial glory — according to the Doctrine & Covenants, I don’t “qualify” — and if we understand celestial glory to be reflective of our character, then by definition, I don’t have full celestial glory.

    Does that clarify the questions I’m trying to confront?

  8. Great post Christopher. When framed this way, it is very reasonable to land were many of the early brothren did. I especially liked your focus on being. The idea of an immediate change is antithetical to our existence.

    I would submit that the celestial society is possible without being fully christlike. Is that not what the City of Enoch was? Are they not abiding in Celestial burnings (to use the vernacular)?

  9. HL Rogers, your comment illustrates the very conundrum I am trying to describe. If you are correct that our works have almost nothing to do with an “entrance price”, so to speak, but, as you say, “much more to do with making us into a god-like person”, then how does the atonement factor into making us god-like (which I understand to be the same as exalted)? Can the atonement transform us into god-like creatures in spite of the fact that our works have not gotten us very far in that direction? Is there a “shortcut” to becoming god-like?

  10. It seems to me that the changes in the resurrection are rather huge. I mentioned how much of what makes us “us” is likely physical in my Bloggernacle Times article. So I think that there is some part of us, some “essence,” that must want celestial glory for us to receive it. That’s why I like that scripture Johnathan mentioned. It seems we are restored with a fulness of what we essentially are. If we don’t like home teaching, serving others, praying and being religious, how can we expect to have it restored for us?

  11. J. Stapley, I ‘m not sure that the City of Enoch was a celestial society. Joseph Smith taught that they were terrestrial — which opens yet another big discussion topic.

    And Enock walked with God after he begat Mathusalah 300 years and begat Sons and Daughters and all the days of Enoch were 365 years and Enoch walked with God and he was not for God took him. Now this Enoch God reserved unto himself that he shoud not die at that time and appointed unto him a ministry unto terrestiral bodies of whom there has been but little revealed, He is reserved also unto the presidency of a dispensation. and more shall be said of him and terrestrial bodies in another treaties 13 He is a ministring Angel to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation

    By Faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found because God had translated him for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a revealer to those who diligently seek him.

    Now the doctrine of translation is a power which belongs to this priesthood, there are many things which belong to the powers of the priesthood and the keys thereof that have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world. they are hid from the wise and prudent to be revealed in the last times many may have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God and into an Eternal fulness but this is a mistaken idea. There place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order and a place prepared for such characters, he had in he held in reserve to be ministring angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fulness as those who are resurrected from the dead. See Heb 11 Chap part of the 35 verse “others were tortured not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection” Now it was evident, that there was a better resurrection or else God would not have revealed it unto Paul wherein then can it be said a better ressurrection? This distinction is made between the doctrine of the actual ressurrection and the doctrine of translation, the doctrine of translation obtains deliverance from the tortures and sufferings of the body but their existence will prolong as to their labors and toils of the ministry before they can enter into so great a rest and glory, but on the other hand those who were tortured not accepting deliverance received an immediate rest from their labors, See Rev [14:13] And I heard a voice from heaven saying blessed are the dead who die in the Lord for from henceforth they do rest from their labors and their works do follow them—They rest from their labors for a long time and yet their work is held in reserve for them, that they are permitted to do the same works after they receive a ressurection for their bodies, but we shall leave this subject and the subject of the terresteal bodies for another time in order to treat upon them more fully 17 (Words of Joseph Smith, pp. 40-41)

  12. Ben:Those who enter the celestial kingdom will eventually achieve an exalted state(ie. being like God).

    Grasshopper: However, this is not the case, as Doctrine & Covenants 131 tells us.

    I have read cogent arguments that this belief is based on a misunderstanding of JS’ language in D&C 131. While I lean that way, I don’t have a strong opinion on it and don’t want to sidetrack into it. Let’s assume that I’m talking about the highest part of the CK.

    Grasshopper:As another analogy: suppose I want to become a concert pianist. I work really really hard at it for a long time, but struggle and after many years am still far from being a concert pianist. Can I be transformed into a concert pianist by virtue of someone else? Can somebody else “make up the difference” or “compensate” for my lack of ability so that I am a concert pianist?

    Ben: No, no one can. However, I think the analogy breaks down. Talent plays a role in music, whereas every human, being of the same species (Gr. genos) as God (Acts 17:24) has the native “talent” to become like him IF we choose to become so.

    I don’t think anyone becomes fully Christlike on the earth with the one obvious exception. However, it is not required that we become so here. Rather, what is required is living the celestial law.

    I believe there are laws of the celestial, terrestrial and telestial, (though there doesn’t seem to be any inter-celestial law) just as D&C 88 says, and the temple illucidates these clearly. I think Hugh Nibley explains them best in his article “The Law of Consecration”

    “Do you agree and are you resolved to do things his way rather than your way—to follow the law of God?” The candidate is not told at this time what the law of God requires, only whether he is willing to trust God’s judgment and accept it no matter what it is. After that, all argument is out of the question. Next the candidate is asked, “If so, will you be obedient to him no matter what he asks of you?”—a commitment to obedience before demand is made. The next step is more specific and more serious: “Will you willingly sacrifice anything he asks for, including your own life?”

    Approaching Zion, 125.

    The celestial law is one of obediance. You must be willing to do what God asks, because only in following the instructions of your coach do you become a better olympian. If you’re willing to obey (and repent when you don’t), and demonstrate that, you are living that law.

    In other words, anyone who is willing, can, given enough time, become morally perfect like Christ, or achieve full celestial glory. (And, of course, all this is only possible because of the atonement which provides us with perfect bodies and the moral cleanliness necessary to reenter God’s presence.)

  13. Ben, it sounds like you’re interpreting “able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom” as “willing to abide the law of a celestial kingdom”. Isn’t there a significant difference? I can think of plenty of occasions in my life where one day I have devoutly proclaimed my willingness to obey the celestial law, but my actions the next day belie my ability to do so.

  14. I haven’t read all of the other comments, but after a quick read of your post, I would say this. First, I believe there is some merit to the idea that “Christ makes up the rest” as it applies to this mortality. I think of Moroni 10:32-33 where it speaks of becoming “perfect in Christ”. Not all of us are going to attain to the level of Enoch or many of the other great prophets while in this life. I do agree that, as Joseph Smith taught, we still will be learning and progressing to become as Christ and our Father long after we depart mortality. BUT, in order for us to qualify to have this opportunity to continue with progression, I believe all that he requires is for us is to do what we are capable of doing and the Christ will make up the difference for the admittance through that gate to the path of continual progression.

    Does this seem reasonable? I am glad you brought this up, because I think it is an important part of understanding our exaltation — but I think it is dangerous if we leave out either the “Christ makes up the rest” or the “we still have a long ways to go” portions.

  15. Isn’t that what repentance is for? I don’t think “living the celestial law” requires perfect obediance. Rather, it requires repentance, and that’s written in to the contract.

  16. Grasshopper. Excellent post. I have been troubling over this for some time and would like to take it a step further: While I do believe Jesus is the Saviour, I don’t think he paid the price for mine or anyone else’s sins. I believe the BoM when it says that’s impossible, even for a god. I think the “he took a licking for me” or the “he made up the difference” analogies are utterly incoherent and misleading about the nature of Christ’s life and the atonement.
    Before anyone picks up stones, I would like to articulate these ideas in a guest post sometime.

  17. Ben, is what you’re saying essentially that being able to abide the celestial law means being able to repent?

  18. Sheldon, I agree that substitutionary models of the atonement are inadequate. But, as you say, that’s really a subject for another post (more like the mechanics of the atonement). Please feel free to submit a guest post.

  19. Sheldon, Grasshoper: I’m interested in what you have to say. I’m going to have to go back to the scriptures and some general conference talks and reconcile what you’re saying. I’d like to know more before I say I disagree or agree.

  20. Ryan wrote:

    We all agree that there’s much growth and progress to be done even after we’ve entered the Celestal Kingdom. Once there, will that growth and progress also be facilitated by the atonement, or does the enabling power of the atonement end with mortality and judgment? Is the atonement eternal in the sense that I will rely upon it in some way to become a God myself?

    I believe the atonement is eternal in precisely that sense, as well as others.

  21. Grasshopper,

    What is your view on Abelard’s moral influence theory of the atonement as one that (as I understand it) works on an internal, subjective, transformational model, rather than an objective, external, transactional (or metaphysical) model? Or is that the subject of another post?

  22. I think that is the subject of another post. Just a brief comment that I think the moral influence theory alone is also insufficient.

  23. Wow. I think I was channeling Clark on that last comment. :-P

  24. That did sound a lot like Clark, Grasshopper.

    As we have discussed before, I am largely in agreement with you on this and related subjects. I think there is a problem in the church and with many here assuming being Celestial and being exalted is the same thing. They just aren’t. I also think there is a major problem thinking of the Celestial Kingdom as a place rather than a state of being. We become celestial by attaining enough light and truth to be designated as such. There is no special place we get entrance to, as far as I can tell. This helps the Sun moon stars analogy make more sense too. I think there is really a continuum of utter darkness to absolute light. God is on the absolute light end of that and we are working to be like him. Just because three levels are called out doesn’t mean that we suddenly graduated from one kingdom to another. A full moon on a clear night can emit as much light on us as the sun under heavy cloud cover after all.

    Anyway, I think Ben is incorrect when he says:

    The celestial kingdom is not like an amusement park, because we’re not there to be amused. That’s the Protestant idea of Heaven. Rather the celestial kingdom is like an Olympic training center that guarantees victory. You just need a pass to get in and if you can’t pay the full entrance fee, Jesus pays the rest on condition that you show him you are willing to do the work required to become olympic. In other words, the training center only takes people whose commitment is proven. Once you’re in, you still have lots of work to do, but you ARE in.

    That sounds pretty protestant like me. Once saved always saved and all. With Grasshopper I don’t think this is true doctrine. We must choose to be like Christ here or after this life. We have Christ and his prophets as our trainers now so why aren’t we guaranteed exaltation now? This model only works if agency goes away after we become qualified to be designated celestial beings.

  25. I’m with Grasshopper here. And I think I lot of people are misunderstanding the nature of the question.

    Allow me to explain my dilemma. The atonement can save you, exalt you, glorify you, etc. It can crown you on high. But it cannot make you happy.

    Happiness is a result of our voluntarily placing our will in line with the will of the father. It comes as a result of our voluntarily choosing to become like Christ. The atonement can not force us to voluntarily make our will god’s will. It cannot make us be christlike, and thus it cannot make us happy. Heaven, just as hell, is not a place but a state of being.

    Considering happiness is what we’re looking for, this raises the question of what the atonement does at all. I think the atonement allows us to forgive ourselves, especially in the next life, where we would be entirely unable to otherwise. Our psychological belief that we are forgiven allows us to move forward, placing our sins behind us and placing God’s before us.

  26. Geoff:

    It would seem that the caveats in the D&C that only those who recieve all the temple ordinances are exalted indicate that many are in the celestial state without being exalted.

    Moreover, I’m curious as to how you (Grasshopper & Geoff) account for the higher ordinances of the temple? It seems that they explicitly qualify indaviduals for exaltation upon the resurection.

    As per the demarcation of Kingdoms. They could easily arise as a function of relationships.

  27. Ben, is what you’re saying essentially that being able to abide the celestial law means being able to repent?

    No, not being ableto, but actually doing so. Everyone is able or capable of repenting, but not everyone chooses to, not everyone actually does so.

    That sounds pretty protestant like me. Once saved always saved and all. With Grasshopper I don’t think this is true doctrine. We must choose to be like Christ here or after this life. We have Christ and his prophets as our trainers now so why aren’t we guaranteed exaltation now? This model only works if agency goes away after we become qualified to be designated celestial beings.

    Actually, it’s quite different. Once-for-always Protestans believe that they are saved regardless of what they choose, wheras I’m arguing that those who-are-saved are saved because of what they choose and choose again, in the premortal existance, here, and post-mortal. Our choices will eventually show what we truly want and where our hearts are. Those who truly want to become like God will choose to obey his commandments and, in doing so, will naturally become more like him.

    I don’t see how this deprives anyone of agency at any point. Rather, it’s based upon it.

    Geoff, are you suggesting that at some point after judgment, we can be reassigned to a lower kingdom? I’m aware of the historical argument that we can progress upwards, but I’ve never seen anything suggesting that we can “regress” downwards.

    We have Christ and his prophets as our trainers now so why aren’t we guaranteed exaltation now?

    Um, in my understanding, we are guaranteed exaltation based on our continued commitment of obediance, which is our requirement for remaining in the covenant. Perhaps you don’t view that as a guarantee :)

    In this, I’m parroting Stephen Robinson a good bit, but I feel on solid ground.

    I lot of people are misunderstanding the nature of the question.

    If so, it’s because “the question” (if there really is only one here) hasn’t been clearly stated yet. Too many words, too few explicit definitions…

  28. Ben: Those who truly want to become like God will choose to obey his commandments and, in doing so, will naturally become more like him.

    It sounds like we are in agreement then. My only question is, what happens if these folks choose to sin? If they have free agency that choice remains available. Your earlier comment said “once you are in you ARE in”. My point was that until we are just like Christ we are still not just like Christ.

    Ben: but I’ve never seen anything suggesting that we can “regress” downwards.

    Then you clearly need to spend more time at New Cool Thang! I put up a post called Eternal Regression several weeks ago.

    Ben: we are guaranteed exaltation based on our continued commitment of obediance, which is our requirement for remaining in the covenant. Perhaps you don’t view that as a guarantee :)

    I guess it’s a semantics issue. I agree that we eventually are guaranteed exaltation IF we continue to obey and repent. As all of our experiences show, though, that “if” is no trivial thing.

  29. J: It would seem that the caveats in the D&C that only those who recieve all the temple ordinances are exalted indicate that many are in the celestial state without being exalted.

    Yup. That was my point. Being celestial and being exalted are two very different things.

    J: Moreover, I’m curious as to how you (Grasshopper & Geoff) account for the higher ordinances of the temple? It seems that they explicitly qualify indaviduals for exaltation upon the resurection.

    I’m not sure what you mean here. All saving ordinances are qualifications for exaltation. I will say that until we are just like Christ I will assume there may be more surprises in store for us in the eternities to come.

  30. Channelling myself, I’m not entirely convinced that D&C 131 is really talking about three levels of celestial glory. It may be that’s what it’s talking about. But I think several people have provided plausible reasons for thinking it is talking about the regular three degrees of glory.

  31. Celestial Kingdom? Joseph lifted this concept from Emanuel Swedenborg, theological pioneer of the three-tiered heaven. Of course Joe lifted many things, but you’d just call me a heretic.

    The CK is the Mormon mythological goal that gets you to pay the tithe to conduct the Mason rite to convince yourself that you have the signs and tokens to the eternal Kingdom. How quaint.

  32. Uh, oh. Looks like we have an anti on the loose. So “Sarah”, or “Joyce” at my site, or “Jennifer” at Splendid Sun, what is your real name, sir? (PS — I have the IP address if you’d like to compare notes, editors…)

  33. The whole Emmanuel Swedenborg bit is actually kind of funny. First off it begs the question. What if Swedenborg did receive some inspiration about what Heaven was like. After all Mormons believe everyone can and frequently do receive inspiration. Second it begs the question of what other sources Swedenborg had for his beliefs. (Hint, a lot of the tripartite view of the heavens has parallels in many other systems of thought. Especially in the neoPlatonism of the Renaissance, not to mention comments in various Bible commentaries, gnostic texts, and elsewhere)

    That’s the whole problem with parallels and Joseph Smith. It begs the question about the truth of the matter. My personal opinion is that in some fragmentary way every idea was pretty well out in the west since the middle of the Renaissance. As the scripture says, there is nothing under the sun.

    If these ideas are true, and were had in a partial form under Judaism, we shouldn’t be surprised in the least to find them in many places. (And of course the most interesting place to look is in Judaism itself where – surprise – we find it as well)

  34. Christopher, Geoff Johnston, etc. I am curious how you interpret the parable of the laborers in the vineyard in light of your views on this subject:

    Matthew 20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

    Matthew 20:2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

    Matthew 20:3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

    Matthew 20:4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

    Matthew 20:5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

    Matthew 20:6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

    Matthew 20:7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

    Matthew 20:8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

    Matthew 20:9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

    Matthew 20:10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

    Matthew 20:11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

    Matthew 20:12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

    Matthew 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

    Matthew 20:14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

    Matthew 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

    Matthew 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

    I think that this parable tends toward the view that Ben gave in comment #3, with which I agree.

  35. Jonathan, I interpret that parable as I imagine you do: that everyone in the kingdom of heaven receives the same “reward”. The problem is that I can’t see how to reconcile this with the other scriptural teachings I outlined above. (In fact, it seems difficult even to reconcile with our whole teaching of varying degrees of the “kingdom of heaven” — telestial kingdom, terrestrial kingdom, celestial kingdom.) My post was not intended to deny that these kinds of teachings are scripturally based; it was intended to illustrate why I think they are inadequate and difficult to reconcile with the idea of becoming as God is.

    I’d also like to point out that my objection is not based in some sense of “fairness” as outlined in the parable above; rather, it is based in my understanding of how progression and accountability work (which I imagine is a fairly standard interpretation in Mormonism: we learn line upon line by experience and are accountable for our character because it is by our thoughts and actions that we build our character — enabled, of course, by the atonement).

  36. Eb,

    This parable is a tough one for anybody to understand. For instance, it is the primary source of the doctrine of deathbed repentance. Yet modern prophets (like President Kimball) have informed us that there is no such thing as death bed repentance – it is a false doctrine.

    Here is one possible way we could reconcile president Kimball’s Miracle of Forgiveness requirements for repentance and this parable: According to Jacob the atonement takes care of the two-headed monster, death and hell. The monster’s “death” head is disabled right off the bat for all (via the gift of universal resurrection), but hell still has its bite without repentance. Somebody has to pay for our sins, and as the Lord explains, if He doesn’t do it we’ll have to pay ourselves. I believe this parable applies to this concept of payment for sins. If we truly repent by the standard President Kimball outlined — even very late in our life — we do not have to pay for our sins ourselves. He’ll pick up the tab for us.

    This jibes with the original idea of being a Celestial person rather than just getting entrance into a Celestial place. As I said, we have eternity to live in the future so there must be some way to continue becoming more like Christ.

  37. Ha! Nice Indigo Montoya impersonation, J. You prefer the J. Stapley special? “This jives with the original idea…

    I’d like to be considered a hepcat and all, but it take a certain brand a hepcat to use “jive” where us L7 folks still use “jibe”… ;-)

  38. J. Stapley asked:

    Moreover, I’m curious as to how you (Grasshopper & Geoff) account for the higher ordinances of the temple? It seems that they explicitly qualify indaviduals for exaltation upon the resurection.

    According to D&C 132, there is still a way for those who have received these ordinances to fall: by committing the unpardonable sin. But it does certainly imply that the Lord is extremely confident that these people will be exalted.

    As I’ve thought about this some more, I think Ben is right about one thing, at least: there aren’t enough definitions here. So I’d like to start out by trying to define a couple of things: “celestial law” and “exaltation”.

    “Exaltation” I understand to be living in a state like God’s — to be like him, to do what he does. However, it may be that my definition is too strict. Perhaps exaltation is something more akin to “being substantially on the path toi becoming like God”. This fits with my understanding that exaltation is a process, and also fits interestingly with Joseph Smith’s late teachings about varying degrees of exaltation, with the Son attaining the degree the Father has attained, and the Father attaining a higher degree of exaltation, etc. Exaltation may be relative term, which would go a long way toward resolving the dilemma that spawned this thread.

    “Celestial law”: It seems that Ben is proposing that the celestial law is somewhat less rigorous than I had imagined it to be. Rather than meaning “being in complete compliance with the laws, ordinances, and covenants up through all the temple ordinances”, he seems to interpret it as “being willing to comply with those laws, ordinances, and covenants, and repenting when we don’t.” This would mean that many people are abiding the celestial law right now on this earth — something I hadn’t really seen that way before. If this is true, then that also goes a long way toward resolving the dilemma.

    Anyone else care to proffer definitions missing from this thread?


  39. For the record:

    jibe: To make taunting, heckling, or jeering remarks.

    jive:
    1. Jazz or swing music.
    2. The jargon of jazz musicians and enthusiasts.

    I think the jive is the appropriate word. Google backs up both usages, but jive is by far the more coherent (2nd definition).

  40. J, J, J… Now you forced me to pull out the dictionary. ;-)

    You have the definition of “jive” right (hence my hepcat comment) but my Random House Dictionary has the word “jibe” being first a sailing term, second another way of saying “gibe” (which as you note is to taunt) and third–

    jibe: to be in accord with

    That last definition is clearly the one we are looking for. (Not I have anything but adoration for swing and jazz music…)

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