Posts Tagged ‘Exaltation’
I am strongly opposed to the idea of past lives or reincarnation. I have always considered it a false and pernicious doctrine that leads one to do less than their best in this life, thinking they will always have another chance to get it right in the next life. Some people have said that the church teaches this doctrine and that it is called Eternal Lives (plural). I disagree, believe that most LDS believe as I do, that Eternal Lives means eternal increase and would like to address that in this position paper.
Associated with Adam-God Theory
By way of background I’ve written a little about this before in an essay where I reviewed a book entitled “Teachings of The Doctrine of Eternal Lives.” For some reason, this subject seems to be related to discussions of the Adam-God theory, which I have also written about previously. My position hasn’t changed even though I’ve had many people engage me in private dialog on the subject. They come up with all kinds of weird spins on what we are taught in the temple.
Adam and Eve Immortal at Birth
I remained convinced that Adam was born an immortal child of God our father and his heavenly mother. Eve was also an immortal child of those same resurrected beings. Jesus Christ did not have a mortal experience until he was born unto Mary. What he put aside was not an immortal and exalted body but simply his status as the most intelligent and most advanced of all of Heavenly Father’s children.
No reintroduction of the Veil
I do not believe we have more than one opportunity to pass though mortality. The same applied to God and to Jesus Christ. There was no “reintroduction of the veil” to God, to Christ, to Adam or to any mortal being ever born on this earth. Elohim does indeed mean Gods – plural – which is in line with what I believe that many of us were Gods – and still are. The veil of our mortal bodies simply hides that fact from us for a season.
Definition of the Fathers
The Fathers, in my opinion, are those early patriarchal prophets who have been resurrected and await our joining them when we finish our mortal probation. We are to be like them and to be sealed unto them with the sealing power that can only come from the voice of the Lord. None of them has ever entered the womb again. That simply cannot and does not happen. They are resurrected and exalted beings now. We would do well to emulate their examples in following Christ.
God only Experienced Mortality Once
I do not believe Gods experience mortality more than once. I have re-read the accounts of the King Follett discourse several times. I simply do not see that Joseph taught that doctrine. Jesus helped to frame the worlds under the direction of our Father by virtue of his position as the most intelligent, the most obedient and the most advanced of all our Heavenly Father’s children. He was assisted by Michael, who was to become the first mortal of this earth – Adam.
No Immortal [Exalted Being] Can Become Mortal
I disagree that our Heavenly Father and Mother became mortal again after they were immortal [and exalted]. Sorry. That’s a false doctrine. Yes, it’s true that came to they earth and ate of the fruit of this world. Adam and Eve were born to them here upon this world as immortal beings, from immortal parents. Adam was created of the dust of this earth in the sense that his parents ate of the fruit of this world when he was conceived. They had already had countless spirit children, but Adam and Eve were the first immortal children they brought forth on this world. This was not the first time they had done this. They had brought forth immortal children on countless other worlds before this one.
Immortal Beings Bear Immortal Children
Again, there is never, was never, will never be a time when the veil is reintroduced to an immortal and exalted being. The mortal body is the veil. An immortal [exalted] being will not become a mortal being for any reason. Not even Jesus did this. Yes, he was a God before he was born because he had obtained all knowledge available to him before mortality. But he was not an exalted being. That requires immortality. Immortal beings cannot bring forth mortal children (*See excellent comment from Donald below). Adam and Eve were immortal [but not exalted] until they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, then became mortal.
Update 4-10-13: I added the words in brackets above
No Past-Life Mortal Experiences
We establish ourselves as valiant in the pre-mortal life by our obedience to the commandments there and our faithfulness to the performance of assigned duty. There are no past-life mortal experiences to be remembered or relied upon as a source of growth or experience. Past-lives is a false doctrine explained by the presence of spirits who have attached themselves to us, which can be easily detected by those with spiritual insight or priesthood keys of discernment. This is clearly taught in books by Mel Fish and Doug Mendenhall.
Pre-Mortal Life is as a Spirit
Adam did not choose to become mortal again. He chose be born as an immortal child of Heavenly Parents and then chose to become mortal just as we are taught. I have never had a mortal life before my present time on earth. I learned and grew in a pre-mortal life in the presence of my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. I am fairly certain I had some say about the timing of my birth into this world. Like Adam, I am searching for authorized messengers to teach me more. Up to this point I have accepted what I have been taught by prophets in scripture. But I know there is more that can only be received from heavenly messengers or from Christ.
We do not Cycle Through Mortality
I disagree with many on the interpretation of what Joseph taught in the last few months of his life and which Brigham tried to systematize in the endowment. I have studied many interpretations of others on what Joseph and Brigham taught. I have considered many versions of Adam-God theories from numerous individuals who have shared them with me. I simply have never found anything better than Elden Watson’s great summary. It is settled in my mind and has been for many years. I have yet to find anything that can convince me that we will ever become mortal again. That is not what eternal lives means.
Share Greater Light and Knowledge
This is my position paper. If I am wrong, show me where. Provide me with further light and knowledge. Point out my flaws in logic. Let me know where I have misunderstood prophets. I’ve shared this position many times over the years and most everyone has agreed that this is an orthodox understanding of what we as a church believe about the purpose of life and mortality. If you want to know more about the source of the idea of past-lives, let me know and I’ll be happy to share. Past-lives is not a doctrine that originated with God, but it can be explained. If you’re interested, I can add that in the comments.
At the close of our High Priest’s group meeting today, I was surprised by a question from a good brother sitting next to me. “Why do you study so much?” I wondered why he asked that until I realized what I had done during the lesson. I had placed the piano bench in front of me, spread out my scriptures and was marking a copy of the General Conference talk we were studying.
So I took a minute to answer his question which turned to why I blog. I explained that my mother was a convert and a professional teacher when I was growing up. She ingrained in me a desire to continually study and learn. She had an insatiable appetite to know the history of our church. Our home library was filled with books about Joseph, Brigham, John Taylor and other early leaders.
As a family (or at least with my mother and sister) we attended Education Week and Know Your Religion lectures. Our gospel discussion before my mission was all about doctrine, especially the doctrines of salvation, the temple and the eternities. Mother loved nothing better than to teach what she had learned as a convert. She often taught the Gospel Doctrine Sunday school class.
I told my friend that I studied every possible moment I’m not working or attending to family duties because I want to thoroughly know and understand the doctrines of our church. I don’t want to be like so many I have read about online who say they have been shocked and dismayed when they learned something distressing about our history that they hadn’t heard in church.
I gave him an example. I said, “Do you know there are people in our church who believe in reincarnation? How do you feel about that?” He said, “I know we’ll be resurrected, but I don’t believe that’s the same as reincarnation.” I said, “You’re absolutely right. But there are people using quotes from early church leaders to suggest they believed and taught this as doctrine.”
He said he couldn’t understand how members of the church could believe such a thing. He was a convert and explained that he would think and pray about what he was learning before accepting it. Sometimes well-meaning people would try to tell him that Mormons believed this or that. “But I knew by the spirit that they were wrong, no matter how convincing their arguments.”
Strait and Narrow Path
We concluded our discussion of how we can know truth for ourselves. His unsolicited comment that he “knew by the spirit” was gratifying to hear. We use that phrase often in our church but I remain convinced that there are many who do not appreciate or know how it works. D&C 8:2 holds the key to understanding how we can “know by the spirit” in both our heart and our mind.
Those who approach the world primarily with an intellectual focus often disdain the emotional or sentimental aspects of knowing truth. They remain convinced that there is no place for sentiment in our church service, that the telling of faith-promoting stories is out of place or being moved to tears is not appropriate when considering the doctrines of salvation. I believe they are mistaken.
Those who pass through life responding mainly to how they feel about something but avoid any study of doctrine or history are missing out on the second half of the formula for understanding truth. We know something is true by the spirit when we are edified – when we both feel that it is right and we understand why it is right. It’s a fine line that includes both feeling and knowing.
A Book of Quotes
I recently came across a book that purports to contain Mormon doctrine being offered for sale on Amazon and a few other places. Now I have dozens of books in my library that claim to be full of Mormon doctrine but in reality are riddled with half-truths, innuendos and lies. The difficulty of these kinds of books is that they contain so much truth that the lies are difficult to see clearly.
Such is the case of the book entitled, “Teachings of the Doctrines of Eternal Lives.” Somebody who wished to remain anonymous has gone to a lot of trouble to collect hundreds of quotes from the early leaders of the church and arrange them in an order that seems to lend support for each succeeding section. I applaud the efforts but what is being implied is based on a false doctrine.
No, the idea of Eternal Lives itself is not a false doctrine but it’s not what the book is attempting to prove or justify by all the supporting quotes. Almost all the quotes themselves are wonderful. It’s a delight to see them all in one place. Any serious student of the gospel will be familiar with most of them or should be. If you’re not careful you can skip right over the few that are wrong.
Doctrine of Eternal Lives
The doctrine of Eternal Lives as I understand it is the idea that once exalted we will be able to have eternal increase. In other words, we can become Gods ourselves, parents of spirit children. I don’t pretend to fully understand it because I obviously haven’t experienced it but it is a core component of Mormonism. We can become like God. That’s the whole purpose of life to me.
This should be basic knowledge to every member of the church but if you want to understand this better, I’m actually going to recommend that you buy the book. I have read it online at Scribd and will be picking up a copy at the Confetti Book Store in Spanish Fork next week on my way to a family reunion in Ogden. Like I said, it is a worthwhile compilation of quotes.
You can look up some of the basics in the scriptures and in the words of the prophets using phrases like “continuation of the seeds, eternal increase, exaltation, celestial marriage, calling and election, Church of the Firstborn, Fulness of the Father, Godhood, joint heirs with Christ,” and of course, “eternal lives.” This really is a basic doctrine taught in our standard curriculum.
The Principle of Reincarnation
Even though the compiler adds very little commentary, there is some sprinkled throughout the book along with questions following specific quotes. He also bolds key phrases that he wants you to notice and ponder. As I read the book I kept feeling that there was something wrong with where the compiler was trying to lead me. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read this quote:
“…his sister, the late Eliza R. Snow Smith was a firm believer in the principle of reincarnation and that she claimed to have received it from Joseph the Prophet, her husband.” This is from the journal of Orson F Whitney, recounting a conversation with Lorenzo Snow. So we have a third person account of what Joseph is supposed to have said (p. 73). Compare that to this exchange:
A Doctrine of the Devil
“I resumed conversation with Matthias, and desired him to enlighten my mind more on his views respecting the resurrection. He said that he possessed the spirit of his fathers, that he was a literal descendant of Matthias, the Apostle, who was chosen in the place of Judas that fell; that his spirit was resurrected in him; and that this was the way or scheme of eternal life—this transmigration of soul or spirit from father to son.
“I told him that his doctrine was of the devil, that he was in reality in possession of a wicked and depraved spirit, although he professed to be the Spirit of truth itself; and he said also that he possessed the soul of Christ. He tarried until Wednesday, 11th, when, after breakfast, I told him, that my God told me, that his god was the devil, and I could not keep him any longer, and he must depart. And so I, for once, cast out the devil in bodily shape, and I believe a murderer.”
The above quote from the prophet Joseph is found in the History of the Church, volume 2, page 307. Transmigration of the soul is the same as a belief in reincarnation. Joseph nailed it when he said that his guest was possessed of an evil and lying spirit. Unfortunately, that same spirit seems to be the source of what our anonymous quote compiler is trying to persuade us to believe.
A Dangerous and Damning Belief
Why is a belief in reincarnation so dangerous? To believe in reincarnation is to take away the focus and incentive we should have to make every moment of this life count in preparation for our continued schooling in the life to come. If one believes they will be given another chance then there is no real desire to do one’s best. Why knock yourself out if you can do it over again?
We are born once, we die once (Heb 9:27) and we are resurrected once to die no more (Alma 11:45 & 12:18). That’s the doctrine of the church as taught by the Lord through the prophet Joseph Smith in scripture that we as a church have accepted as binding. Anything other than that is dangerous and damning because it prevents us from progressing in this life as we should.
In the words of Bruce R McConkie, reincarnation “is a false doctrine originating with the devil. It runs counter to the whole system and plan of salvation whereunder spirits are born in pre-existence, are permitted to pass through a mortal probation, and then in due course become immortal, incorruptible, and eternal in nature.” As a church, we do not believe in reincarnation.
Now, maybe I’m wrong that the compiler is trying to lead us to accept reincarnation. Perhaps he wants us to consider some of the other quotes about the resurrection suggesting that the way we are resurrected is to be born of a woman once again, only this time through an immortal or glorified mother. I confess I never heard of “baby resurrection” until I read it in this book.
This idea is not as damning as reincarnation as long as you assert that the baby being born is an immortal being and NOT about to go once again through a mortal probation. As I wrote when I explained my understanding of the doctrine of eternal lives, I know I don’t fully understand the doctrine of the resurrection because I have not experienced it and don’t have the keys to do so.
I have considered the idea Brigham taught when he said Adam came into this world the same way you or I came into it – born of a woman. That woman was his Heavenly Mother. Thus he was born an immortal being. That makes perfect sense to me. Yes, I know it’s out there and considered by some to be a part of the Adam God theory, but I like to think about these things.
Anyway, I’m going to buy the book and read it again. It’s really more of a reference work since there is so little of the author’s own words included. There are some questionable books about our religion that I won’t add to my library, but this is one that will find a home right next to “The Mysteries of Godliness” by David John Buerger and all of my D. Michael Quinn books.
I hope you don’t feel threatened by reading stuff from people who were once members of our faith but who are no longer formally associated with us, either by choice or by disciplinary action. I don’t feel there is anything wrong with reading well-researched material and drawing your own conclusions. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of discerning truth from error.
I think the Lord is serious about us learning truth and expects us to put D&C 8:2 to the test in all that we study. Our time is limited in this life so we should focus our doctrinal study efforts on those things that will prepare us to receive the Lord, preferably in this life (D&C 93:1) so that we may depart mortality with a perfect hope, knowing our standing before the Lord. That is my goal.
I imagine by now there are many thousands of people who have read Denver Snuffer’s books. He wrote his first in 2006 and published his eighth towards the end of 2011. I have listed them below with the links to Amazon where they may be purchased. I have read four of them since being introduced to this author a few months ago and am slowly working on the others.
Denver is still an enigma to me. On the one hand, I am enthralled by what he has written. I have spent every spare moment reading his books and have read two of them twice – his first and his latest. He writes well or at least well enough for a verbose and repetitive lawyer. I personally think he could be more concise, but I doubt he was striving to produce finely polished work.
The books seem to be written more as an effort to get a message out with each additional book written to support the first one. That is, on the other hand, until you get to his latest book. I shared my initial reaction to that book in a previous essay. As I wrote in my comments there, if his witness is true, then he is possibly the most dangerous man in Mormonism right now.
I would like to focus this entry on his first book, The Second Comforter. When I was a young man either in seminary or while preparing for my mission, I studied the doctrine of having our calling and election made sure. We can and should be pursuing a course in our lives where we ask for and receive an audience with the Savior in order to seal on earth our eternal exaltation.
What the scriptures teach
John 14:16-18 – And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth (this is the first comforter) … I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (The Savior is the Second Comforter).
1 Peter 1:10 – Wherefore … brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall
1 Peter 1:19 –And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy…
D&C 131:5 – The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood.
What Joseph Smith taught
“After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.
“When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses….
“Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; …when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him…
“…the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions-Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the First Born” [TPJS, pp. 150-51].
What the church teaches today
You can find plenty of references on the church website about making your calling and election sure but not as much about receiving the Second Comforter. I’m not so sure that this doctrine is as well understood. That’s why Denver’s book intrigues me so. How often are we taught in the church today that we should seek to be taught the mysteries of the Kingdom of God by the Lord himself, face to face? Are we being encouraged by our leaders to receive the Second Comforter?
Perhaps, like me you have the impression that we are subtly being discouraged from this idea. Is it dangerous to seek to commune with the spirit world other than through the general ministration of the Holy Ghost? Perhaps there is the fear that we may be deceived by angels of darkness who are appearing as angels as light? How many times do we talk about being taught by the angels? If we’re not ready to receive the Lord yet, can’t we and shouldn’t we seek to have angels teach us?
I like what my friend Bryce Haymond wrote in the comments on my first Denver Snuffer essay: “I have once heard it said, ‘Those that don’t know speak….. while those that know don’t.’ I would be extremely cautious of following too closely to a member that claims to be ministered to personally by the Savior. Such an experience, if and when it occurs, is certainly a very sacred and personal thing, and not to be shared lightly.” I have also heard this all my life in the church.
But I’m an old man now. I feel I have served in all the leadership positions to which I will be called in my life. I’m not concerned about what my bishop or Stake President might think if they read my essays. In other words, I’m not trying to be overly careful to share only the milk of the gospel on these pages. This blog is my personal journal of spiritual progression. I’m much more interested at this point in my life in preparing to meet the Savior, perhaps while still in mortality.
The witness of Denver Snuffer
On page 405 of The Second Comforter, Denver writes, “Christ lives and comforts his followers today, just as he promised and did anciently. He is the Second Comforter. I know He lives, for I have seen Him. He has ministered unto me.” And on page 410, “In words well worn in testimony meetings of every ward in the Church, I proclaim: I, too, know Christ lives! I have seen Him.”
On page 392, he offers, “You will generally not be able to tell anyone, except for close family members, about these things; although if commanded to do so, you must.” And in a footnote on page 396, “If the author had not been asked to write this work, the author’s own experience would have remained a private matter, as it was for years before writing this book.”
In Chapter 12 of Come, Let Us Adore Him (page 216), we writes, “I knew a man in Christ about four years ago, who, being overshadowed by the Spirit on the 26th of February, 2005, had the Lord appear to him again. And the Lord spoke to him face to face, in plain humility, as one man speaketh to another, calling him by name.” He is obviously referring to himself in this passage.
And on page 220 of the same book, “After long inquiring into the things which he had seen, the Lord, who is patient and merciful and willing to instruct those who call upon Him, again appeared to the man on the 20th of December, 2007.” He then shares what the Lord taught him about the atonement. Again, “the man” in this quote is obviously Denver Snuffer, the author.
On page 268 we read, “Although I have disclosed some of what I have been shown I cannot tell all. I am merely a lay member of the Church …, with no authority or position of significance. If I have a witness of the Lord’s resurrection, certainly you can have the same.” And again on page 292, “He lives. For I saw Him. He has ministered to me. I know he lived, died and rose …”
Books by Denver Snuffer:
The Second Comforter (2006) – Read this first. I have read this twice
Nephi’s Isaiah (2006) – I have read excerpts
Eighteen Verses (2007) – I am reading this now
Ten Parables (2008) – I have read excerpts
Beloved Enos (2009) – I have read this
Come, Let Us Adore Him (2009) – I have read this
Removing the Condemnation (2010) – I read a lot of this online
Passing the Heavenly Gift (2011) – I have read this twice
After reviewing one of my previous essays, a thoughtful reader asked my opinion about the idea of perfection and if the requirements for salvation had changed. He said, “Open just about any page of the book of Leviticus and you’ll see laws that were of life and death importance to the early church, but not today. In contrast, there is no mention of baptism or confirmation in the Old Testament as a requirement for salvation, yet today, they are taught as essential.”
He also asked about the need for the Word of Wisdom, temple ordinances, plural marriage and the second anointing. He concluded, “If God is eternal, and heaven doesn’t change, shouldn’t the requirements to get into heaven be the same, no matter when you were born or what culture you lived in?” Although his email was private, great questions like these deserve a response that can be shared in my blog so others who might be interested can benefit from the dialog.
Perfection means completed
The savior taught in 3 Ne 12:48, “Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” Perfection to me has always meant complete or completed as in finished or fulfilled, certainly not something we will achieve in this life and not in the spirit world to come. Perfection is a state that is achieved only after we have learned all there is to know about becoming like God. And that can’t happen until we are resurrected beings because we will never understand what God is like until we have the same type of body that he has.
The Prophet Joseph said, “…go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.”
Joseph F. Smith said, “Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things … for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God. But here we lay the foundation.”
Flaws and errors removed
I have never equated perfection as meaning without flaw or error, rather as having flaws and errors removed. That of course can only come through the atonement of the Savior. It is not something that I can accomplish on my own. That is my understanding of perfection – having flaws and errors removed by the Savior. Therefore, it is my desire to meet the requirements for the atonement to be effective in my life as set forth by the savior and as revealed to his prophets. I’m not talking about temporal salvation. The resurrection is a free gift to all. We will all live again with immortal bodies. But the quality of our life in the hereafter depends entirely upon us and our efforts to be worthy and prepared for the greatest of all the gifts of God – eternal life.
Requirements of Salvation
So that brings us to the second point – meeting the requirements of salvation. I guess I’m not so concerned about what the people of the Old Testament had to do to please the Lord. I’m glad I don’t live in the harsh conditions of those days when a man could be stoned for what today would seem to be a minor infraction. They had a different law back then and the Lord taught us clearly that he fulfilled that law. The Mosaic Law was to bring them to Christ, even though most of the Israelites who lived back then did not understand that. The Lord described them as a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people. I would hope that we are not like some of those early Israelites. Someday, they must receive the ordinances of the higher priesthood just as it is required of us.
Baptism in ancient times
We are taught in Moses 6 that Adam was baptized. When Peter said on the day of Pentecost that they must repent and be baptized, the people obviously had a clear understanding of the concept. John the Baptist did not practice something that was new and unknown. I am confident that baptism was practiced in the old world. We know that Alma baptized in the Waters of Mormon. I think we can be certain that the Book of Mormon people brought the practice with them from the Old World. Baptism is a priesthood ordinance and is one of the requirements of salvation. The laying on of hands was a common practice as evidenced by priesthood blessings given by the early patriarchs to their children as well as by many references in the New Testament.
Temple ordinances required
I think there is ample evidence that temple ordinances were a part of the religious practice of the ancient people of Israel. The Lord has always commanded his people to build temples where they are gathered in numbers of sufficient strength. Where they were not, his saints were endowed with power from on high on the tops of mountains. No, the majority of the Israelites did not receive the endowment as they lived the Mosaic Law. But yes, all must be endowed and sealed someday. That is one of the purposes of the Millennium.
Word of Wisdom for our day
Even though it is based on eternal principles such as moderation and self-control, the Word of Wisdom is a modern revelation given for our benefit in our day. As the Lord said, it was given “In consequence of evils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men in the last days.” Just as the Israelites were given a law of health with many specific things to not do, we have been given a few guidelines for our health in our day. Isn’t that part of the principle of ongoing revelation – specifics suited for our times? No, it’s true that Jesus didn’t teach the Word of Wisdom when he came in the Meridian of Time, but he did reveal it for us in our day. Thank God for living prophets and modern revelation that gives us that direction we need now.
Plural Marriage not required
Let’s consider why we no longer participate in the Second Anointing or Plural Marriage. Both of those subjects are fascinating to study and can produce a lot of fruitful discovery if we choose to get into them. I have always considered plural marriage to be optional, while entering into the law of celestial marriage to be a requirement. We must receive that sealing ordinance to make progress according to section 131. But plural marriage is not a requirement of exaltation. You can read that in section 132, verse 61. It says that if a man “desire to espouse another,” and the first wife consents and she is given or sealed unto him by the prophet then he does not commit adultery. It is never worded that a man must take another wife. Only certain brethren were commanded in the early days of the church to do so as part of the restoration of all things.
Timing of the Second Anointing
We don’t know much about the Second Anointing, do we? We certainly aren’t taught about it in our standard Sunday curriculum or even in any of the CES curriculum as far as I can determine. To be honest, I like the Wikipedia article. It’s a pretty good summary of everything I have read over the years. I know it bothers some people that this is not openly taught, but I guess they feel the same way that the temple ceremony is not openly taught. Of course you can read the whole thing today on the Internet. I like the fact that we work harder in the church today to ensure that people are more prepared for the first anointing. To me, it is a lifetime of faithful service in the Lord’s church that prepares us for the second anointing, either in this life or in the resurrection.
Dormant religious practices
Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if these things have really changed or are just dormant. I am one who believes that those two practices in particular will once again be a part of our worship. Yes, I am convinced that the day will come when even the “regular” member of the church will be able to receive the second anointing just as soon as he is ready and can participate in plural marriage if he so chooses and his wives are given to him under the direction of the prophet. Of course, that’s not going to happen while we live under the laws of the government of the United States, but as we all know, the government of the United States will not stand forever. Yes, the constitution is an inspired document, but when the Savior comes, we will enter a theocracy.
Be Faithful to Joseph
I guess the reason I’m not bothered by a lot of things that I read out there on the Internet about the church, including some very convincing arguments that make you think, is that I like to think of myself more like Hyrum Smith than Joseph. I don’t see visions or hear the voice of the Lord like Joseph, but I have been blessed with the gift of believing. That’s what I meant when I said that I choose to believe. After many years of experience, I can tell you that feel happiest when I exercise faith and choose to believe what was revealed through Joseph Smith. I believe Joseph. I trust the brethren who lead this church today. I have listened to them and studied their words for all my life. I have never been disappointed nor had cause to doubt their spiritual leadership. Like Hyrum, I want to remain faithful and supportive of their direction to the end of my days.
All my life in the church I have heard the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are held out as motivating ideas that are intended to help us resist the pull and attraction of worldly pleasures. In this short essay, I would like to consider just one of those promises and the power for good that it should have in our lives.
Of course, the attraction of promises pre-supposes that you are the kind of person that is motivated by the “moving-toward” model. If you’re not familiar with the idea, it comes from the book Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins. He states, “All human behavior revolves around the urge to gain pleasure or avoid pain.”
Tony’s shorthand for this is “pain or gain.” Which one drives you? Of course the concept is not original with Tony but he made it a focus of his seminars and books. The idea has been around forever and stated in different ways by various thinkers. The process is not absolute. We move toward some things and away from others.
However, most of us live our lives predominantly either moving toward a goal or moving away from an unpleasant situation, either past, present or future. You can easily determine your predominant model by describing something you desire. Do you express it in terms of what it is or what it isn’t, what you want or don’t want?
For example, think about and describe your ideal home or family. How about your ideal job? I was surprised to note that I described my ideal home in terms of what I want, but my ideal job in terms of what I don’t want. Maybe that’s because I am towards the end of my career and have seen plenty of negatives I want to avoid.
The greatest gift
What are the most important gospel promises that we should consider? Let’s start with the big one – eternal life. I’m not talking about being resurrected; that’s a given and a free gift from the Savior as part of the gospel plan. I’m talking about being able to live the kind of life that God lives, with complete joy and fulfillment.
In modern revelation it is recorded that “there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.” (D&C 6:13) We are also told that “if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (D&C 14:7) Salvation in the fullest sense is defined as eternal life.
So just what is eternal life and how can we relate to it since we have nothing to which we can compare it in this life? In order for something to be desirable and worthy of sacrifice, we must have at least some sense of its attractiveness. In fact, it is up to the Lord to make us fully aware of what really comprises eternal life.
Salvation without exaltation
In the LDS Church, we commonly refer to exaltation as the kind of life that God lives, and consider it to be synonymous with eternal life. We also consider it to be the fullness of salvation. If we want to get a little more precise, let’s consider one common aphorism used to describe it: “Salvation without exaltation is damnation.”
This is a saying that engenders intense debate even among LDS scholars because I have read it online many times over the years. I agree with that adage because for me, it appeals to my predominant “moving away from” model. Yes, I confess that I am more inclined to make life choices in order to avoid unpleasant possibilities.
I consider the moving-away from model of thinking to be very mortal; not weak, just mortal. But I’m grateful to know that the Lord is fully aware of this approach. This is evidenced by the twofold promise of the Book of Mormon: If you keep the commandments of God you will be blessed. If you don’t, then you will be cursed.
Yes, tell me more about the negatives of a behavior and I will do my best to avoid it because I can see the results such behavior has produced in others. The only way I am motivated by a promise of eventual reward is if I have experienced something similar, even if it is in a small degree. My mortal mind doesn’t “get” eternal life.
Yet, in my heart I know that there is life after death. I have had too many personal evidences presented for my consideration to feel otherwise. I am satisfied that the concept of a spirit world is real; that there are unseen beings operating in a plane of existence just outside my mortal perception; and many times acting on my behalf.
Learning from opposition
So how does the Lord reach people like me who need a more solid understanding of eternal life in order to be motivated by the promise? I guess I’m kind of like the child that hears from a parent, “if you work hard in school, you’ll have an easier life when you get older.” It’s true, but it didn’t work for me when I was a child.
An easy life to a child is loving acceptance, lots of playtime, a warm, comfortable home, lots of food to eat and that safe, secure feeling that comes from knowing that dangers are far, far away, or even better, being oblivious to the concept of danger. But such a life doesn’t work as we get older because we experience opposition.
And that’s why I am more motivated by an understanding of what eternal life will not be like. I have experienced opposition, adversity, setbacks, disappointments and many painful shocks brought on by unforeseen and unwanted reality checks. Because of these experiences, I know what I don’t want eternal life to be like.
Of course, I don’t set the rules when it comes to my quality of life after death. But I do “get” the idea that I can determine a large part of that life quality by what I do or don’t do and how I respond to the life choices that are presented to me. There really is a lot of truth to the idea that a man is about as happy as he decides to be.
Disappointments will cease
I don’t want eternal life to be disappointing. I don’t think God is disappointed. Even though we believe that his most important work is us, his children, I don’t think he is ever really disappointed in us. I also don’t believe that his plans for us are ever really frustrated. We will get out of this life what we came here to get.
What we came here to receive is an understanding and appreciation for eternal life – the kind of life that God lives – that we never could have accomplished without experiencing opposition, adversity, disappointment, trail, heartache, frustration and pain. So whatever the outcome of our lives, we will appreciate eternal life better.
That appreciation comes by application of the “moving away from” model of life. Although we may not understand all the promises of peace, happiness, freedom, personal power, contentment and joy that are held out to us, we now know what we don’t want eternal life to be like. We don’t want it to be like our life here on earth.
Yes, I have experienced happiness in this life. I have experienced success, some personal power, a measure of peace, plenty of freedom and lots of growth. But even in achieving these things, I immediately realized that they were temporary and not complete. They do not last because of the transient nature of mortality.
Moving away from pain
Do you see? I now understand something about eternal life that I never could have fathomed before and something that I don’t want. I don’t want good things to end as they do in this life. I work long and hard to create my home and family life that I do not want to see come to an end. I don’t want that work to be wasted or to fail.
So for me, moving toward gospel promises is meaningless unless I have something concrete to compare them to. I am motivated to move away from something that I don’t want. I don’t want sickness, physical pain and death; therefore I am attracted by the promise of a resurrection, which becomes more attractive the older I get.
I don’t want to be disappointed in myself in the life to come. Carol has a way of expressing this that I find memorable. She says, “Do you think God will take away the memory of being married to someone if you don’t live worthy of them?” How tortuous that would be to see your mortal spouse and not be able to be with them!
So for me, gospel promises are more motivating when I think about what I might lose as opposed to what I might gain. I don’t want to lose things that I have been given or have earned. Yes, I believe we must earn or qualify for some blessings in the life to come. Eternal life is a gift, but we must meet the requirements for it.
I’ll bet there are at least a half dozen theological ideas expressed in this essay with which non-LDS readers will disagree. In fact, I’m certain that many of my LDS readers will also take exception to some of my statements. That’s OK. I welcome the dialog and hope that maybe something I have expressed has been helpful.
I love the Lord’s promises but I confess that I just don’t get some of them because of my weak, limited mortal way of seeing things. I believe the promises and am certain that they will mean a lot more when I get to the spirit world. Today, I just want to keep the good things I have gained from my experience with opposition.
Earlier in this essay I wrote that since we have no real concept of eternal life, it is God’s responsibility to make it appear attractive to us. I mean that. But how he does that may be different for each one of us. In my case, I am enticed by the spirit whispering to me that in the next life, I will no longer have to endure temptation.
I love that promise.