Material for this lesson can be found in two chapters of the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals), in Joseph Smith Chapter 21, in Brigham Young Chapter 13. Joseph F. Smith Chapters 37, 40 and 48, in Harold B. Lee Chapters 2 and 24, and in Spencer W. Kimball Chapter 1. These can be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are all found at the bottom of this page.
As with the last lesson Doctrines of the Gospel Institute Manual Chapter 37 is a wonderful resource for this lesson. It is available online at “institute.lds.org” then click on “Course Catalog” on the top bar. There are many references that could be given for the lesson title, but we will confine this blog to the subjects found in the sections of this lesson.
1 - - The Plan for Our Progression
President Kimball explained the value of a plan:
To pinpoint a destination not previously visited we usually consult a map. … The Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior, has given us our map—a code of laws and commandments whereby we might attain perfection and, eventually, godhood. This set of laws and ordinances is known as the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is the only plan which will exalt mankind. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the sole repository of this priceless program in its fulness, which is made available to those who accept it.
The Church of Jesus Christ picks you up on this side of the veil and, if you live its commandments, carries you right through the veil as though it weren’t there and on through the eternities to exaltation (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 5).
A crucial part of the “plan” is that of exaltation. A section heading in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball reads:
In our premortal life, Heavenly Father taught us His plan for our exaltation (p. 2).
Concerning the “plan” discussed in this first section, Elder Richard G. Scott delivered a great conference talk entitled, “The Plan for Happiness and Exaltation” in which he concluded:
With all the love of my heart, I extend an invitation to all to obtain a fulness of an understanding of the plan of happiness and exaltation provided by the Savior. I testify that this fulness is found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love you and ask you to seek that fulness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen (Ensign, Oct. 1981, 11).
To supplement this section and the wonderful doctrine that we can become like Our Father in Heaven, here is repeated an excerpt (with a change or two) from Chapter 38 of this blog:
The doctrine of exaltation is one of the most sacred of all doctrines. To really understand the full impact of the title to this section, the concepts of “exaltation” and “eternal” need to be clarified. In the scriptures “God” and “eternal” and “exaltation” are synonymous:
Eternal punishment is God's punishment (D&C 19:11).
Doctrinally, “eternal” whether referring to marriage or life, means literally “Godlike.” Thus true “eternal” is more than forever, more than being with God, but it accurately means “like God.”
Exaltation also means becoming like God:
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood…they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things…
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting… (D&C 132:19-20).
This is the chapter for this tremendously important doctrine. It is also found in several places in this manual:
“By keeping His commandments we can become like Him” (p. 6).
“Heavenly Father has given us the law of eternal marriage so we can become like Him” (p. 220).
“We can be exalted as God is and receive a fulness of joy” (p. 221).
“The Lord has said that if we are true and faithful, we will enter into our exaltation. We will become like our Heavenly Father (See D&C 132:19–20.)” (p. 223).
“Those who inherit the highest degree of the celestial kingdom, who become gods, must also have been married for eternity in the temple (see D&C 131:1–4)” (p. 272).
And now from this chapter:
"We could be like Him, an exalted being" (p. 275).
"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" (p. 275).
"They [those who receive exaltation] will become gods" (p. 277).
"They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20)" (p. 277).
This concept is also found in the most quoted scripture in general conference:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).
As is stated in this section, “Exaltation is the greatest gift that Heavenly Father can give His children (see D&C 14:7).
Note that in D&C 14:7, the Lord states that “eternal life” is the “greatest gift” God can give. As explained earlier, “exaltation” and “eternal life” are indeed synonyms.
President Lee clarified this important principle found in these two powerful scriptures:
The purpose of life was to bring to pass immortality and eternal life. Now, immortality means to eventually gain a body that will no longer be subject to the pains of mortality, no longer subject to another mortal death…
From the scriptures, from the writings of inspired Church leaders, and from secular commentaries, eternal life may be defined as life in the presence of those eternal Beings, God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. To shorten that definition, we might then say that eternal life is God’s life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 15, 226).
President Kimball added:
If we are true and faithful, we shall rise, not alone in immortality but unto eternal life. Immortality is to live forever in an assigned kingdom. Eternal life is to gain exaltation in the highest heaven and live in the family unit (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 7).
President Joseph F. Smith also taught:
We must become like [God]; peradventure to sit upon thrones, to have dominion, power, and eternal increase. God designed this in the beginning. … This is the object of our existence in the world (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 337).
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus commanded:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
In the Sermon at the Temple, after He had completed His “perfection” with resurrection, Jesus also charged:
Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect (3 Nephi 12:48).
Under footnote “a” to 3 Nephi 12:48, we read:
“Potential to become like Heavenly Father.”
Concerning this great commandment, President Spencer W. Kimball declared:
One of the great teachings of the Man of Galilee, the Lord Jesus Christ, was that you and I carry within us immense possibilities. In urging us to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect, Jesus was not taunting us or teasing us. He was telling us a powerful truth about our possibilities and about our potential. It is a truth almost too stunning to contemplate. Jesus, who could not lie, sought to beckon us to move further along the pathway to perfection (Ensign, Aug. 1979, 5).
If more understanding about how to accomplish this “stunning” truth, there is an excellent article by a wonderful friend, Gerald Lund, in “I Have a Question” in Ensign, August 1986, p. 38. Following is a quote from that article wherein Brother Lund quotes Elder Bruce R. McConkie:
What we do in this life is chart a course leading to eternal life. That course begins here and now and continues in the realms ahead. We must determine in our hearts and in our souls, with all the power and ability we have, that from this time forward we will press on in righteousness; by so doing we can go where God and Christ are. If we make that firm determination, and are in the course of our duty when this life is over, we will continue in that course in eternity. That same spirit that possesses our bodies at the time we depart from this mortal life will have power to possess our bodies in the eternal world. If we go out of this life loving the Lord, desiring righteousness, and seeking to acquire the attributes of godliness, we will have that same spirit in the eternal world, and we will then continue to advance and progress until an ultimate, destined day when we will possess, receive, and inherit all things (p. 38).
President Lorenzo Snow summarized:
Through a continual course of progression, our Heavenly Father has received exaltation and glory, and He points us out the same path; and inasmuch as He is clothed with power, authority, and glory, He says, “Walk ye up and come in possession of the same glory and happiness that I possess.”
In the gospel, those things have been made manifest unto us; and we are perfectly assured that, inasmuch as we are faithful, we shall eventually come in possession of everything that the mind of man can conceive of—everything that heart can desire (Lorenzo Snow Doctrines of the Gospel Institute Manual, 92).
This quote also introduces the next section.
2 - - Exaltation
In addition to the discussion in this section concerning “exaltation” we read the following from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
To Latter-day ‘Saints, exaltation is a state a person can attain in becoming like God—salvation in the ultimate sense *D&C 132:17)… It means not only living in God’s presence, but receiving power to do as God does, including the power to bear children after the resurrection… (p. 409).
Elder Orson F. Whitney (an Apostle) elaborated:
The gospel of Christ is more than “the power of God unto salvation;” it is the power of God unto exaltation, and was instituted as such before this earth rolled into existence… It is the way of eternal progress, the path to perfection… (We Believe, 181).
Concerning the title of this section, President Joseph F. Smith declared:
I know that it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that will enable me to attain to this exaltation, and there is no other way given by which man can be saved; no other plan revealed in the world by which man can be exalted and return again to the presence of God. There is no other way (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 430).
During what is known as the King Follett discourse (a funeral sermon for a man by the name of King Follett) Joseph Smith for the first time introduced this doctrine of exaltation:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man (Ensign, Apr 1971, 13).
Lorenzo Snow actually learned of this doctrine earlier and had an interesting time figuring out what to do with it. Gerald Lund related this interesting story in an “I Have A Question” article in the Ensign:
In the spring of 1840 he [Lorenzo Snow] was called to serve a mission in the British Isles. Before his departure he was in the home of a Church member who was preaching a sermon on the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. (See Matt. 20:1–16.) According to Elder Snow, “While attentively listening to his explanation, the Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon me—the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown me, and explains Father Smith’s dark saying to me at a blessing meeting in the Kirtland Temple, prior to my baptism. …
“As man now is, God once was:”
“As God now is, man may be.”
I felt this to be a sacred communication, which I related to no one except my sister Eliza, until I reached England, when in a confidential private conversation with President Brigham Young, in Manchester, I related to him this extraordinary manifestation.” (Eliza R. Snow, pp. 46–47; italics added. Brigham Young was President of the Quorum of the Twelve at the time.)
President Snow’s son LeRoi later told that the Prophet Joseph Smith confirmed the validity of the revelation Elder Snow had received: “Soon after his return from England, in January, 1843, Lorenzo Snow related to the Prophet Joseph Smith his experience in Elder Sherwood’s home. This was in a confidential interview in Nauvoo. The Prophet’s reply was: ‘Brother Snow, that is a true gospel doctrine, and it is a revelation from God to you.’” (LeRoi C. Snow, Improvement Era, June 1919, p. 656.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith himself publicly taught the doctrine the following year, 1844, during a funeral sermon of Elder King Follett: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! … It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that 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.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938, pp. 345–46.)
Once the Prophet Joseph had taught the doctrine publicly, Elder Snow also felt free to publicly teach it, and it was a common theme of his teachings throughout his life (Ensign, Feb 1982, 38).
Later, President Joseph F. Smith and his First Presidency issued a wonderful statement concerning this doctrine of man becoming as God. Chapter 37 in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith covers important points of this document.
This same First Presidency also issued a First Presidency statement entitled “The Origin of Man” (reprinted in the Ensign, Feb. 2002, 26) which concluded with the following declaration:
Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.
President Spencer W. Kimball explained what men did during the great apostasy:
They had replaced the glorious, divine plan of exaltation of Christ with an elaborate, colorful, man-made system (We Believe, 31).
3 - - Blessings of Exaltation
The first blessing of “those who receive exaltation” listed in this section is, “They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (p. 277). We love this description of what this will be like from Elder Russell M. Ballard’s grandfather:
Away on the Fort Peck Reservation where I was doing missionary work with some of our brethren, laboring among the Indians, seeking the Lord for light to decide certain matters pertaining to our work there, and receiving a witness from Him that we were doing things according to His will, I found myself one evening in the dreams of the night in that sacred building, the temple. After a season of prayer and rejoicing I was informed that I should have the privilege of entering into one of those rooms to meet a glorious Personage, and, as I entered the door, I saw, seated on a raised platform, the most glorious Being my eyes have ever beheld or that I ever conceived existed in all the eternal worlds. As I approached to be introduced, he arose and stepped towards me with extended arms, and he smiled as he softly spoke my name. If I shall live to be a million years old, I shall never forget that smile. He took me into his arms and kissed me, pressed me to his bosom, and blessed me, until the marrow of my bones seemed to melt! When he had finished, I fell at his feet, and, as I bathed them with my tears and kisses, I saw the prints of the nails in the feet of the Redeemer of the world. The feeling that I had in the presence of Him who hath all things in His hands, to have His love, His affection, and His blessing was such that if I ever can receive that of which I had but a foretaste, I would give all that I am, all that I ever hope to be to feel what I then felt!” (Melvin J. Ballard, Crusader for Righteousness, pp. 138–39).
Number three on this list of blessings is, “They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase“ (p. 277). Concerning this “increase” Brigham Young taught:
The Lord has blessed us with the ability to enjoy an eternal life with the Gods, and this is pronounced the greatest gift of God. …the Lord has bestowed on us the privilege of becoming fathers of lives. What is a father of lives as mentioned in the Scriptures? A man who has a posterity to an eternal continuance. That is the blessing Abraham received, and it perfectly satisfied his soul. He obtained the promise that he should be the father of lives.
T he Lord would like to see us take the course that leads unto the strait gate, that we might be crowned sons and daughters of God, for such are the only ones in the heavens who multiply and increase (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 89-90).
President Lee elaborated further:
[After quoting D&C 132:19] The Prophet Joseph Smith said this meant that those who were married in the new and everlasting covenant and were true to their covenants, that after they passed through the resurrection they would be able to live together again as husband and wife and have what he calls here, a continuation of the seeds. Now what does that mean? Let me read you from another scripture: … [now quotes D&C 131:1-4]
Increase of what? Increase of posterity. In other words, through obedience to His divine command, we here as human beings are given power to cooperate with God in the creation of a human soul here, and then beyond the grave to have eternal increase in a family relationship after this earth has concluded its work. [then quotes D&C 132:20] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 16).
Number four on this list of blessings is, “They will receive a fulness of joy” (p. 277). We love what Elder Orson F. Whitney said about this “fulness”:
The everlasting Gospel, through obedience to its every requirement, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, gives this power. It not only saves—it exalts men to where God and Christ dwell in the fulness of celestial glory (We Believe, 181).
Number five on this list of blessings is, “They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have…” (p. 277). Concerning this, Brigham Young declared:
All who believe, have honest hearts, and bring forth fruits of righteousness, are the elect of God and heirs to all things (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 286).
4 - - Requirements for Exaltation
Joseph Smith said the following in regards to the title of this section:
…righteousness will be put to the line, and judgment to the plummet, and ‘he that fears the Lord will alone be exalted in that day.’ [See Isaiah 2:11; 28:17.] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 258).
The second paragraph discusses things we need to do to become worthy of exaltation. Another description comes from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
Blessings and privileges of exaltation require unwavering faith, repentance, and complete obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ (p. 409).
President Joseph F. Smith added:
If the Lord has revealed to the world the plan of salvation and redemption from sin, by which men may be exalted again into his presence and partake of eternal life with him, I submit, as a proposition that cannot be controverted, that no man can be exalted in the presence of God and attain to a fulness of glory and happiness in his kingdom and presence, save and except he will obey the plan that God has devised and revealed (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 99).
In this section, we read, “He [Jesus Christ] commands us all to receive certain ordinances” (p. 278). This is followed by five necessary ordinances. President Kimball explained further:
In order to reach the goal of eternal life and exaltation and godhood, one must be initiated into the kingdom by baptism, properly performed; one must receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of authoritative hands; a man must be ordained to the priesthood by authorized priesthood holders; one must be endowed and sealed in the house of God…and one must live a life of righteousness, cleanliness, purity and service. None can enter into eternal life other than by the correct door—Jesus Christ and his commandments (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 5-6).
In this section, we read, “…the Lord commands all of us to…” (p. 278). This is followed by a list of ten items of things to “do.” President Kimball taught us well about “do”:
Church members all over the world love the Primary song “I Am a Child of God,” with its simple but profound message of who we are, why we are on the earth, and what the Lord promises us if we are faithful. Sister Naomi W. Randall wrote the text to the song in 1957, when Elder Spencer W. Kimball was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. At that time, the song’s chorus concluded with the words “Teach me all that I must know to live with him someday.
While visiting a stake conference, Elder Kimball listened to a group of Primary children sing “I Am a Child of God.” Soon after that, he commented on the song in a conversation with a member of the Primary General Board. “I love the children’s song,” he said, “but there is one word that bothers me. Would Sister Randall mind if the word know were changed to the word do?”
Sister Randall agreed to change the song. Now the chorus ends with the words “Teach me all that I must do to live with him someday.” These words reflect a principle that President Kimball emphasized throughout his ministry: “Celestial life may be had by every soul who will fulfil the requirements. To know is not enough. One must do… He taught that the gospel is “a way of life, the plan of personal salvation, and is based upon personal responsibility. It is developed for man, the offspring of God. Man is a god in embryo and has in him the seeds of godhood, and he can, if he will, rise to great heights” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 1).
President Kimball clarified this potential regarding exaltation:
Man can transform himself and he must. Man has in himself the seeds of godhood, which can germinate and grow and develop. As the acorn becomes the oak, the mortal man becomes a god. It is within his power to lift himself by his very bootstraps from the plane on which he finds himself to the plane on which he should be. It may be a long, hard lift with many obstacles, but it is a real possibility” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.28).
President Kimball also explained that all of the above is worth what is promised:
When one realizes the vastness, the richness, the glory of that “all” which the Lord promises to bestow upon his faithful, it is worth all it costs in patience, faith, sacrifice, sweat and tears. The blessings of eternity contemplated in this “all” bring men immortality and everlasting life, eternal growth, divine leadership, eternal increase, perfection, and with it all, godhood (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 9).
5 - - After We Have Been Faithful and Endured to the End
President Kimball had this to say about temple ordinances and endurance:
It is true that many Latter-day Saints, having been baptized and confirmed members of the Church, and some even having received their endowments and having been married and sealed in the holy temple, have felt that they were thus guaranteed the blessings of exaltation and eternal life. But this is not so. There are two basic requirements every soul must fulfill or he cannot attain to the great blessings offered. He must receive the ordinances and he must be faithful, overcoming his weaknesses. Hence, not all who claim to be Latter-day Saints will be exalted (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 9).
This section begins with the question, “What happens when we have endured to the end in faithful discipleship to Christ?” (p. 279). An optional doctrine that may help us to understand the end result of being a true disciple of Jesus Christ is the doctrine of Christ as Father. From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism we learn:
When individuals are born again they are spiritually begotten sons and daughters of God and more specifically of Jesus Christ (Mosiah 5:7; 27:25) (p. 218).
An excellent article on this subject by Robert L. Millett is found in Encyclopedia of Mormonism under “Jesus Christ, Fatherhood and Sonship of.” This wonderful resource can be found online at “lib.byu.edu/Macmillan.”
The above article references the First Presidency statement by President Joseph F. Smith and his presidency entitled “The Father and the Son” issued in 1916. This can be found reprinted in the April Ensign of 2002 and as Chapter 40 in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, including other statements by President Smith. Here are some excerpts from the Ensign article:
The third subheading in this doctrinal exposition for various meanings of “Father” is, “3. Jesus Christ the “Father” of Those Who Abide in His Gospel.”
A third sense in which Jesus Christ is regarded as the “Father” has reference to the relationship between Him and those who accept His gospel and thereby become heirs of eternal life
That by obedience to the gospel men may become sons of God, both as sons of Jesus Christ, and, through Him, as sons of His Father, is set forth in many revelations given in the current dispensation.
Men may become children of Jesus Christ by being born anew—born of God…
By the new birth—that of water and the Spirit—mankind may become children of Jesus Christ…
If it be proper to speak of those who accept and abide in the gospel as Christ’s sons and daughters—and upon this matter the scriptures are explicit and cannot be gainsaid nor denied—it is consistently proper to speak of Jesus Christ as the Father of the righteous, they having become His children and He having been made their Father through the second birth—the baptismal regeneration (Ensign April 2002, p. 13).
President Joseph F. Smith’s son, Joseph Fielding Smith further explained:
The Savior becomes our Father, in the sense in which this term is used in the scriptures, because he offers us life, eternal life, through atonement which he made for us…we become the children, sons and daughters of Jesus Christ, through our covenants of obedience to him. Because of his divine authority and sacrifice on the cross, we become spiritually begotten sons and daughters, and he is our Father (We Believe, 344).
President Joseph Fielding Smith’s son-in-law, Elder Bruce R. McConkie further elaborated:
Few doctrines are better known by members of the true Church than the doctrine of preexistence. We are well aware that all men are the children of God, the offspring of the Father, his sons and his daughters… What is not so well known is that nearly all the passages of scripture, both ancient and modern, which speak of God as our father and of men on earth being the sons of God, Have no reference to our birth in preexistence as the children of Elohim, but teach rather that Jehovah is our Father and we are his children…Who is our new Father? The answer is Christ is our Father, we become his children by adoption; he makes us members of his family. (We Believe, 343).
This is apparently what Isaiah had in mind when he proclaimed:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called…The everlasting Father… (Isaiah 9:6) .
This doctrine was also declared by Jesus Christ from heaven before He descended in the Americas:
And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God… (3 Nephi 9:17).
The above also helps us understand President John Taylor when he declared;
This earth is properly the dwelling place, and rightful inheritance of the Saints. Inasmuch as it belongs to Jesus Christ, it also belongs to his servants and followers, for we are told, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof,” [Psalm 24:1] and that, when things are in their proper place, “the Saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High.” [See Daniel 7:18, 27.] It is therefore their rightful inheritance (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 222).
Concerning this doctrine, President Joseph F. Smith also explained:
I believe that our Savior is the ever-living example to all flesh. … The works he did, we are commanded to do. We are enjoined to follow him, as he followed his Head; that where he is, we may be also; and being with him, may be like him.
Christ is the great example for all mankind, and I believe that mankind were as much foreordained to become like him, as that he was foreordained to be the Redeemer of man. … We are … in the form of God, physically, and may become like him spiritually, and like him in the possession of knowledge, intelligence, wisdom and power.
The grand object of our coming to this earth is that we may become like Christ, for if we are not like him, we cannot become the sons of God, and be joint heirs with Christ.
Let us follow the Son of God. Make him our exemplar, and our guide. Imitate him. Do his work. Become like unto him, as far as it lies within our powers to become like him that was perfect and without sin (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 151-2).
In Chapters 1, 38, 46 and 47, the idea is presented that “we can become like Heavenly Father.” Many of other faiths think it blasphemous that we believe this doctrine literally. Many believe that God is “unreachable” in human progression and that God is “nothing like us” in spite of the idea that we were “made in His image.” Brigham Young taught:
Some believe or conceive the idea that to know God would lessen him in our estimation; but I can say that for me to understand any principle or being, on earth or in heaven, it does not lessen its true value to me, but on the contrary, it increases it; and the more I can know of God, the dearer and more precious he is to me, and the more exalted are my feelings towards him. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 30)
Elder Boyd K. Packer clarified the important idea that even though Christ will become the father of those who are exalted, no one will ever replace God Our Father:
The Father is the one true God. This thing is certain: no one will ever ascend above Him; no one will ever replace Him. Nor will anything ever change the relationship that we, His literal offspring, have with Him. He is Eloheim, the Father. He is God. Of Him there is only one. We revere our Father and our God; we worship Him. (Ensign, Nov 1984, 66)
What happens is basically what is taught in another piece of Moses 1:39:
For behold, this is…my glory—to bring to pass the…eternal life of man.
The plan of God is that, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, if we keep our covenants made in sacred ordinances and are completely obedient in keeping the commandments of God, we can be exalted. We then add to God’s glory, as Jesus Christ added to the glory of the Father. John testified of the latter:
And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father;
And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth… (D&C 93:16 - 17).
Joseph Smith summarized this process for us:
…they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out His kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to My Father, so that He may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt Him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take His place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children (Ensign, Apr 1971, 13).
Remember from Chapter 45 of this blog, we learned more about becoming “kings and priests” during the Millennium. Exaltation is the final result of this promise:
They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; (D&C 76:55 - 56)
Again, Joseph Smith summarized for us concerning the information taught in this section:
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, … by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.
The righteous who have died] shall rise again to dwell in everlasting burnings in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more, but they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before.
They who obtain a glorious resurrection from the dead, are exalted far above principalities, powers, thrones, dominions and angels, and are expressly declared to be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, all having eternal power [see Romans 8:17] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 221-2).
To help us prepare for all that we have learned in the last few chapters, Brigham Young stated:
Whether the world is going to be burned up within a year, or within a thousand years, does not matter a groat [a kernel of grain] to you and me. We have the words of eternal life, we have the privilege of obtaining glory, immortality, and eternal lives, now will you obtain these blessings? (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 334).
Brigham Young also taught:
This is a world in which we are to prove ourselves. The lifetime of man is a day of trial, wherein we may prove to God, in our darkness, in our weakness, and where the enemy reigns, that we are our Father’s friends, and that we receive light from him and are worthy to be leaders of our children—to become lords of lords, and kings of kings—to have perfect dominion over that portion of our families that will be crowned in the celestial kingdom with glory, immortality, and eternal lives (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 285).
President Joseph F. Smith declared:
We live, then; we do not die; we do not anticipate death but we anticipate life, immortality, glory, exaltation, and to be quickened by the glory of the celestial kingdom, and receive of the same even a fulness. This is our destiny; this is the exalted position to which we may attain and there is no power that can deprive or rob us of it, if we prove faithful and true to the covenant of the gospel.
The object of our earthly existence is that we may have a fulness of joy, and that we may become the sons and daughters of God, in the fullest sense of the word, being heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, to be kings and priests unto God, to inherit glory, dominion, exaltation, thrones and every power and attribute developed and possessed by our Heavenly Father. This is the object of our being on this earth. In order to attain unto this exalted position, it is necessary that we go through this mortal experience, or probation, by which we may prove ourselves worthy, through the aid of our elder brother Jesus (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 100).
We end this blog with a quote we love from President Lee:
Some time ago I read an article written by a famous newspaper journalist who explained how he went about arranging for a meaningful conversation with some person whom he wished to interview. He would ask a question similar to this: ‘Would you mind telling me the inscription you would have written on your tombstone?’ He reported that many would give answers like ‘have fun,’ ‘gone to another meeting,’ and so on. Then the journalist was asked what he himself would have written on his tombstone. He replied very quietly and sincerely, “Safely home, at last.”
When the full significance of this statement is impressed upon us, we might well ask ourselves, ‘After all, what is life all about, and what is our hope beyond this life, believing, as we do, in a life after this one?’ Almost everyone, no matter what his religious faith may be, looks forth to an existence that may be defined in various ways. If my assumption is correct, then, we would all wish to have written on our tombstones, as an epitaph to our life’s work, that we were “safe at home, at last” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 224).