Brigham Young's Pericope on the Nature of Salvation and Exaltation


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Ours is an undisciplined age. The old disciplines are breaking down, and the foundations of society appear to be crumbling. The discipline of the home seems to be vanishing in the new psychology which teaches: parents obey your children! The discipline of the schoolroom is becoming anathema, according to the so-called Progressive Education, lest the personality of the child be thwarted by the imposition of a will higher than his own. The old academic “disciplines”: mathematics, ancient language, grammar, are being ignored as obsolete and unimportant. Above all, the discipline of divine grace is derided as legalism or is entirely unknown to a generation that is largely illiterate in the Scriptures. We need the rugged strength of Christian character that can come only from discipline: the discipline of spirit, of mind, of body, of society. Otherwise, the home will lose its heart as well as its hearth, the schoolroom its strength, the textbooks their exactness, the Scriptures their sanction.
~ V. Raymond Edman – The Disciplines of Life – 1948 ~

Take all the sermons, messages, thoughts, illustrations, and applications down to one concept and that is this: Spiritual Discipline for a mindful Christian life is of an utmost importance in our culture and society today. These spiritual disciplines have significant meaning, purpose, and direction for us all. And without such disciplines, life may become drudgery and without meaning or purpose. These spiritual disciplines teach us to emulate the example and life of Jesus Christ. Teaches us to walk in humility and compassion. They guide us in the direction and path where we grow and mature in truth and light.

In his work, Thomas A. Kempis writes:

“He that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness” (see John 8:12), saith the Lord. These are the words of Christ, by which we are admonished, how we ought to imitate His life and manners, if we will be truly enlightened, and be delivered from all blindness of heart. Let therefore our chiefest endeavor be, to meditate upon the life of Jesus Christ.

Imitation of Christ – The First Book – Admonitions, useful for a Spiritual Life

For many of us in recovery we seek to grow from our condition of suffering. We may have considered ourselves lost and now are grateful to have been found. For Christians, spiritual disciplines lay the foundation of an abundant life Christ promised each one of us (see, John 10:10). And for the Latter-day Saint Christian, our Heavenly Father’s purpose is tied into His work and glory whereby His desire is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (see Moses 1:39).

Admonishing his disciple, Timothy, the Apostle Paul remarked:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7-8

Prior to this, Paul also informed his disciple that there will come a time when people will no longer endure sound doctrine because they will be busy with finding teachers willing to bring to them things they desire to hear. Teachings that are not sound and based on revealed truth. Giving heed to fables more than the revelations of God.

True spiritual disciplines of a mindful Christian life focuses on the purpose of Godliness within our hearts, minds, soul, and body. It is the true foundation of an authentic Christian faith. One that is exemplified within the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It is these spiritual disciplines that one seeks to attain salvation and exaltation. They are the rock upon which we build our faith on.

Seeking After Salvation and Exaltation

Light cleaves to light, and truth to truth.

On January 16, 1853 President Brigham Young [1] spoke on the nature of Salvation. This message was given in the Tabernacle of Salt Lake City. It is the first discourse to be printed in the voluminous Journal of Discourses [2]. In his discourse President Young spoke on the nature of Salvation and Exaltation. The condition of the natural man. Eternal reality of our soul and intelligence. Living the Gospel of Truth and the significant impact it has on our families and communities. President Young also appeared to provide counsel on giving over to good communication and righteousness compared to gossiping and the folly thereof.

We Are All Seeking Salvation

President Brigham Young opens his message with the understanding that each one of us is seeking after salvation. His observation centers on the idea that humanity is subjected to law, order, rule, and government. Because of this we are, in various ways, deeply engaged in being occupied by the subject of redemption – or plan of salvation. President Young observes that those who are engaged in such endeavor may not possess a correct understanding of the true principle of Salvation.

The plan of salvation, or, in other words, the redemption of fallen beings, is a subject that should occupy the attention of all intelligence that pertains to fallen beings. … subjected intelligence … subjected to law, order, rule, and government. All intelligences {sic} are deeply engaged in this grand object; not, however, having a correct understanding of the true principle thereof, they wander to and fro, some to the right, and some to the left. There is not a person in this world, who is endowed with a common share of intellect, but is laboring with all his power for salvation. Men vary in their efforts to obtain that object, still their individual conclusions are, that they will ultimately secure it [3].

These spiritual disciplines gives us guidelines and direction toward, not only salvation through Jesus Christ they also point us to, the direction of being Heirs and Joint-heirs with Him (see Romans 8:17). Such that individuals attempt to find outside of God’s sovereign Grace and love. Take for instance what Brigham Young appeared to teach regarding those of wealth and prestige because of business and commerce:

The merchant, for instance, seeks with unwearied diligence, by night and by day, facing misfortunes with a determined and persevering resistance, enduring losses by sea and by land, with an unshaken patience, to amass a sufficient amount of wealth to enable him to settle calmly down in the midst of plenty in some opulent city, walk in the higher classes of society, and perchance receive a worldly title, or worldly honor, and enjoy a freedom from all anxiety of business, and constraint by poverty, throughout the remainder of his life. He then supposes he has obtained salvation. [4]

There are particular disciplines one establishes and follows to become successful in any business. Yet, such disciplines appear to move a person to live a life where they may feel comfortable and at peace. However, the Savior admonished us through his teaching that if we find ourselves in this life – we may end up losing our soul. Whereas, if we lose our lives for His sake, then shall we find our true spirit (see Mark 8:34-38).

We find that spiritual disciplines of a mindful Christian life presents problems with those who look to their own idols and refuse to give them up. This is found in the conversation our Lord had with the Rich Young Ruler (See Matthew 19:16-29, Mark 10:17-30, In Conversation: Matthew 19:24).

Brigham Young goes on to discuss that every person (no matter their station in life) seeks some form of salvation. The middle class individual hoping to find salvation in their various occupations, pursuits, and it is something they engage in earnestly. Individuals who are impoverish and homeless seek some salvation and reprieve from their misfortunes and misery.

And despite our best efforts, even as Latter-day Saint Christians, we struggle in vain to find some sense of happiness in this life. A happiness that is real, lasting, and brings to us a sense of peace and joy. According to Brigham Young, he shares his thoughts in this manner [5]:

The Latter−day Saint, who is far from the bosom of the Church, whose home is in distant climes, sighs, and earnestly prays each day of his life for the Lord to open his way, that he may mingle with his brethren in Zion, for he supposes that his happiness would then be complete, but in this his expectations will be in a measure vain, for happiness that is real and lasting in its nature cannot be enjoyed by mortals, for it is altogether out of keeping with this transitory state.

It appears, given the context of Brigham Young’s message so far, that our idea of happiness stems from our wanting to gain things in this life. This is evident with his following statement [6]:

If a man’s capacity be limited to the things of this world, if he reach no further than he can see with his eyes, feel with his hands, and understand with the ability of the natural man, still he is as earnestly engaged in securing his salvation, as others are, who possess a superior intellect, and are also pursuing the path of salvation, in their estimation, though it result in nothing more than a good name, or the honors of this world. Each, according to his capacity − to the natural organization of the human system, which is liable to be operated upon by the circumstances and influences by which it is surrounded, is as eager to obtain that which he supposes is salvation, as I am to obtain salvation in the Eternal world.

The key to understanding this message is the idyllic concept of happiness that is tied into one’s sense of salvation. The Greek word for Salvation is σωτηρία, ας, ἡ (sótéria, pronounced – so-tay-ree’-ah) and means to deliver, preserve, deliver, and/or rescue. When we look at the Hebrew understanding we find this:

The word ישועה (yeshu’ah, Strong’s #3444) is a noun derived from the verbal root ישע (Y.Sh.Ah, Strong’s #3467) which means “relief” in the sense of being rescued from an enemy, trouble or illness. The King James Version translates this word as help, deliverance, health and welfare, but most frequently as salvation.

ישע (Y-Sh-Ah) is the Hebrew for “save” and means rescue. As we come to understand this, the truth of scripture comes out that true happiness is not in those things we seek to rescue us from our dilemmas. Our true happiness rests in the one who actively rescues us from our fallen and carnal nature. Here is how we may understand the message Brigham Young quite possibly delivered over 160 years ago. It is a message that still rings true to this day.

Many people are seeking to be saved (or to find their salvation) within the Government, or particular political parties, religious organizations and the many clergy teaching from the pulpit. To the extent that they have willingly forgone sound teaching for what their itchy ears want to hear.

However, when one comes to fully comprehend the most profound and simple nature of true salvation – it very well changes the course of our thinking. Again, we look to what Brigham Young appeared to share [7]:

The object of a true salvation, correctly and minutely understood, changes the course of mankind. Persons who are taught by their teachers, friends, and acquaintances, are traditionated {sic}, from their youth up, into the belief that there is no God, or intelligent beings, other than those that they see with the natural eye, or naturally comprehend; that there is no hereafter; that at death, all life and intelligence are annihilated. Such persons are as firm in their belief, and as strenuous in argument, in support of those doctrines, as others are in the belief of the existence of an Eternal God. The early customs and teachings of parents and friends, to a greater or less degree, influence the minds of children, but when they are disposed to inquire at the hands of Him who has eternal intelligence to impart to them, when their understandings are enlarged, when their minds are enlightened by the Spirit of truth, so that they can see things that are unseen by the natural eye, they may then be corrected in their doctrine and belief, and in their manner of life, but not until then.

There are two compelling thoughts to unpack here. First, many are taught to believe that there really is no God. The only intelligent beings are those within this life. Along with the idea that there is no God, there is no reason to accept the idea there will be an after life. Once you have lived your life there is no more existence. What is interesting is how Brigham Young observed that those within atheism not only hold firm in their beliefs – they are as strenuous in arguing and supporting such doctrines (teachings) of such ideas. As much so as many of us who claim that there is an Eternal God. That there is life after death.

In general – atheism appears to relegate the meaning and purpose of life to what one is able and empowered to accomplish in this life. Nothing beyond this life exists. It is a humanistic philosophy. According to the American Humanist Association there are a variety of definitions regarding such teachings:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good.

Granted, not all atheists are humanists – however, humanism does appear to appeal to those who are soft agnostics and agnostics, as well as atheists.

This may be the reason that most Christians find it difficult in ministering to those who hold to such ideas and philosophies. Looking at what Brigham Young taught, we find this assessment [8]:

How difficult it is to teach the natural man, who comprehends nothing more than that which he sees with the natural eye! How hard it is for him to believe! How difficult would be the task to make the philosopher, who, for many years, has argued himself into the belief that his spirit is no more after his body sleeps in the grave, believe that his intelligence came from eternity, and is as eternal, in its nature, as the elements, or as the Gods. Such doctrine by him would be considered vanity and foolishness, it would be entirely beyond his comprehension. It is difficult, indeed, to remove an opinion or belief into which he has argued himself from the mind of the natural man. Talk to him about angels, heavens, God, immortality, and eternal lives, and it is like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal to his ears; it has no music to him; there is nothing in it that charms his senses, soothes his feelings, attracts his attention, or engages his affections, in the least; to him it is all vanity. To say that the human family are not seeking salvation, is contrary to my experience, and to the experience of every other person with whom I have any acquaintance. They are all for salvation, some in one way, and some in another; but all is darkness and confusion. If the Lord does not speak from heaven, and touch the eyes of their understanding by His Spirit, who can instruct, guide them to good? who can give them words of eternal life? It is not in the power of man to do it; but when the Lord gives His Spirit to a person, or to a people, they can then hear, believe, and be instructed. An Elder of Israel may preach the principles of the Gospel, from first to last, as they were taught to him, to a congregation ignorant of them; but if he does not do it under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, he cannot enlighten that congregation on those principles, it is impossible. Job said that “There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” Unless we enjoy that understanding in this probation, we cannot grow or increase, we cannot be made acquainted with the principles of truth and righteousness so as to become exalted. Admit that the Spirit of the Lord should give us understanding, what would it prove to us? It would prove to me, at least, and what I may safely say to this congregation, that Zion is here. Whenever we are disposed to give ourselves perfectly to righteousness, to yield all the powers and faculties of the soul (which is the spirit and the body, and it is there where righteousness dwells); when we are swallowed up in the will of Him who has called us; when we enjoy the peace and the smiles of our Father in Heaven, the things of His Spirit, and all the blessings we are capacitated {sic }to receive and improve upon, then are we in Zion, that is Zion. What will produce the opposite? Hearkening and giving way to evil, nothing else will.

Unlike the progressive ideas of humanism, and even within atheism itself, Christian belief rests upon the nature and purpose that our human existence is more than this mortal life. Latter-day Saint Christians go further in that our very eternal destiny is not merely based on salvation from our fallen nature. LDS teachings helps us understand that there is a more definitive divine heritage we possess and that our mortal existence helps us move toward a more exalted state of being. Such doctrine and teaching that modern Evangelical and Protestant Christians balk at.

Interestingly enough, Brigham Young remarks on a serious question we ought to engage in asking ourselves [9]:

If a community of people are perfectly devoted to the cause of righteousness, truth, light, virtue, and every principle and attribute of the holy Gospel, we may say of that people’s the ancient Apostle said to his brethren, “Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates;” there is a throne for the Lord Almighty to sit and reign upon, there is a resting place for the Holy Ghost, there is a habitation of the Father and the Son. We are the temples of God, but when we are overcome of evil by yielding to temptation, we deprive ourselves of the privilege of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, taking up their abode and dwelling with us. We are the people, by our calling and profession, and ought to be by our daily works, of whom it should be truly said, “Ye are the temples of our God.” Let me ask, what is there to prevent any person in this congregation from being so blessed, and becoming a holy temple fit for the in−dwelling of the Holy Ghost? Has any being in heaven or on earth done aught to prevent you from becoming so blessed? No, but why the people are not so privileged I will leave you to judge. I would to God that every soul who professes to be a Latter−day Saint was of that character, a holy temple for the in−dwelling of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but it is not so. Is there any individual within the sound of my voice to day, that has received the Holy Ghost through the principles of the Gospel, and at the same time has not received a love for them? I will answer that question. Wait and see who it is that falls out by the way; who it is in whom the seed of truth has been sown, but has not taken root; and then you will know the individuals who have received the truth, but have never received a love of it − they do not love it for itself. What a delightful aspect would this community present if all men and women, old and young, were disposed to leave off their own sins and follies, and overlook those of their neighbors; if they would cease watching their neighbors for iniquity, and watch that they themselves might be free from it! if they were trying with all their powers to sanctify the Lord in their hearts, and would prove, by their actions, that they had received the truth and the love of it! if all individuals would watch themselves, that they do not speak against the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, nor in short against any being in heaven or on earth. Strange as this may appear, there have been men in this Church that have done it, and probably will be again! If this people would be careful not to do anything to displease the spirits of those who have lived on the earth, and have been justified, and have gone to rest, and would so conduct themselves, that no reasonable being upon the face of the earth could find fault with them, what kind of society should we have? Why every man’s mouth would be filled with blessings, every man’s hand would be put forth to do good, and every woman and child in all their intercourse would be praising God, and blessing each other. Would not Zion be here? It would. What hinders you from doing this? What is the Lord or the people doing to cause this one and that one to commit sin with a high hand, in secret and in the open streets?

His observation appears rhetorical – it is nonetheless challenging for us today. A place where we need to come to fully examine ourselves as to the nature of our own hearts, minds, and spirits regarding the simplistic message of the Gospel. It is not merely enough to embrace the message of the Gospel. It is not merely enough to come to accept and embrace who Jesus Christ is. What I am getting at is this: How is the Gospel of Jesus Christ influencing you to live in a manner that is characteristic of Christ himself?

Brigham Young appears to focus on how powerful this truth is. How powerful we are when each of us embrace and love the truth. Not by how we may merely preach to others the gospel of Jesus Christ. How we incorporate and live out those principles each and every day. Young goes on and observes that our manner of speech within our homes, workplaces, and communities builds up the Kingdom of God. He continues his discourse concerning our travels in life and how we will stand before our Creator to be judged. Not merely on the actions – we will be judged by the very thoughts we have held. The words we have spoken. And thusly will be rewarded accordingly. Unfortunately, modern Evangelical Christians teach the idea that if one beliefs in Christ, there is nothing more and that we stand as righteous before God through Christ. Here is what Brigham Young teaches [10]:

There is another thing, brethren, which I wish you to keep constantly before your minds, that is with regard to your travels in life. You have read, in the Scriptures, that the children of men will be judged according to their works, whether they be good or bad, If a man’s days be filled up with good works, he will be rewarded accordingly. On the other hand, if his days lie filled up with evil actions, he will receive according to those acts. This proves that we are in a state of exaltation, it proves that we can add to our knowledge, wisdom, and strength, and that we can add power to every attribute that God has given us. When will the people realize that this is the period of time in which they should commence to lay the foundation of their exaltation for time and eternity, that this is the time to conceive, and bring forth from the heart fruit to the honor and glory of God, as Jesus did − grow as he did from the child, become perfect, and be prepared to be raised to salvation? You will find that this probation is the place to increase upon every little we receive, for the Lord gives line upon line to the children of men. When He reveals the plan of salvation, then is the time to fill up our days with good works.

The call of the Gospel message is clear. It points us to the direction in which we ought to focus our hearts and minds on. It gives us an understanding of how to live our lives in seeking salvation and exaltation through Christ. The truth speaks and is powerful unto those willing and receptive to hear. The Gospel calls us unto repentance. To forsake our sinful and carnal nature that is at enmity with God (see Romans 8:7). Our purpose is to pursue a course of righteousness where we experience a true sense of peace and joy.

How then are we to pursue a course of righteousness that brings a true sense of peace and joy in this life? The scriptures are clear. Christ is clear in his teachings. Our lives, when aligned with the simple principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are to be disciplined in a spiritual manner. We are called to be mindful in our relationship with our Heavenly Father and with one another.

Let us briefly examine these mindful spiritual disciplines of a Christian life and see how they guide us into embracing the truth of salvation and guide us to exaltation.

What the Plan of Salvation is and nature of True Happiness

A brief answer to what the plan of salvation is and how it relates to true happiness rests upon the following truths:

  1. Salvation from Physical Death
  2. Salvation from Sin
  3. Spiritual Awakening and Renewal (being born again/Spiritual Rebirth)
  4. Salvation from Ignorance
  5. Salvation from the Second Death
  6. Eternal Life and Exaltation

According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the plan of salvation is regarded as a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ [11]. This is based on the idea that one believes from their heart and confesses Jesus Christ (see, Romans 10:9-10). While modern Protestant and Evangelical Christians (with varying degrees of interpretation and understanding of certain scripture passages) view Salvation as one focal doctrine of truth. Christ redeemed fallen mankind from sin and imputed His righteousness unto him. According to, the definition of Salvation is this:

Christians believe that Jesus’ death means that salvation is on offer to everyone. It is a free gift. It cannot be earned. Anyone who puts their trust and faith in Jesus Christ, turning from their current way of life and declaring him to be the Son of God will receive salvation. As the Bible book Romans says, ‘anyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Jesus) will be saved.’ Christians refer to this free gift of salvation from Jesus as ‘grace’. This is God’s plan for everyone. There is no other way to be saved. In the Bible book, John, Jesus says ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’. The Bible book, 1 Timothy, speaks of ‘God our Saviour who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth’.

Christianity teaches that there will be a day of judgement, when everyone will stand before God and have to answer for all that we have said and done. God will deal with sin. He will view everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as their saviour as innocent. It will be as if they had never sinned. They have been acquitted. They are now reconciled with God. But Christianity teaches that anyone who has rejected Jesus will not have this protection from the consequences of sin. They will face God’s judgement on their own.

Another way of looking at how modern Christians understand Salvation is by what Mike Leake in his May 16, 2018 column [12]. Leake quotes John MacArthur in defining that we are rescued/delivered from sin and guilt. This is what we are saved from. Leake goes on and briefly informs his readers that we are saved to God in order to have a right relationship with him. This salvation comes as God’s grace unto us and by which we confess Christ Lord of our lives.

Another article at Got Questions iterates the same concept regarding salvation. The writer of that article includes the idea that one is saved from God’s wrath and judgment upon sinful and fallen humanity.

Concerning the doctrine soteriology writes this:

The word “salvation” is the translation of the Greek word soteria which is derived from the word soter meaning “savior.” The word “salvation” communicates the thought of deliverance, safety, preservation, soundness, restoration, and healing. In theology, however, its major use is to denote a work of God on behalf of men, and as such it is a major doctrine of the Bible which includes redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, conviction, repentance, faith, regeneration, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, preservation, and glorification. On the one hand, salvation is described as the work of God rescuing man from his lost estate. On the other hand salvation describes the estate of a man who has been saved and who is vitally renewed and made a partaker of the inheritance of the saints.

The concept is within reasonable understanding of what Salvation is. While this latter definition includes the idea of glorification as part of its definition – it merely moves to help one understand that there are two components to salvation. The work of God toward humanity and the described estate of a man who has been saved and who is vitally renewed and made partaker of the inheritance of the saints.

None of these definitions appear to deal with the complex and rich depth of the doctrine of Salvation pertaining to fallen humanity. It merely appears to be more focused on the deliverance of humanity from sin and not from sin and death as the LDS Christian has come to understand.

Yes, it is true that predominate Christian belief regarding salvation centers on one being born again it does not go far enough to expound on the purpose of salvation in it’s fullest context and scriptural truth. The richness of salvation includes the truth and teaching of exaltation. Here is what Brigham Young stated [13]:

A few words more upon the subject of the eternal existence of the soul. It is hard for mankind to comprehend that principle. The philosophers of the world will concede that the elements of which you and I are composed are eternal, yet they believe that there was a time when there was no God. They cannot comprehend how it is that God can be eternal. Let me ask this congregation, Can you realise {sic} the eternity of your own existence? Can you realise {sic} that the intelligence which you receive is eternal? I can comprehend this, just as well as I can that I am now in possession of it. It is as easy for me to comprehend that it will exist eternally, as that anything else will. I wish to impress upon your minds the reality that when the body which is organized for intelligence to dwell in, dies, and returns to its mother earth, all the feelings, sensibilities, faculties, and powers of the spirit are still alive, they never die, but in the absence of the body are more acute. They are organized for an eternal existence. If this congregation could comprehend that the intelligence that is in them is eternal in its nature and existence; if they could realize that when Saints pass through the vail {sic} , they are not dead, but have been laying the foundation in these tabernacles for exaltation, laying the foundation to become Gods, even the sons of God, and for crowns which they will yet receive − they would receive the truth in the love of it, live by it, and continue in it, until they receive all knowledge and wisdom, until they grow into eternity, and have the vail {sic} taken from before their eyes, to behold the handiworks {sic} of God among all people, His goings forth among the nations of the earth, and to discover the rule and law by which He governs. Then could they say of a truth, We acknowledge the hand of God in all things, all is right, Zion is here, in our own possession.

He ends such thought with this statement whereby any man or woman who lives worthily is now in a state of salvation. The key here is living a worthy life that keeps us in a state of protection, a state of deliverance, and a state of moving toward our divine purpose.

See, God’s plan was not merely to provide a solution to our human dilemma and problem of sin. God’s plan was laid out to provide a way for humanity to be tested in a state of mortal existence. This is precisely what Lehi taught his son Jacob. He begins to share with this young boy that because of the knowledge Jacob had of God, he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain (see 2 Nephi 2:2).

Lehi continues his counsel and instruction to Jacob. Sharing with the young boy how salvation is come unto men (see, 2 Nephi 2:3) and that such salvation is free. And not only does Lehi counsel Jacob regarding the blessings and power of Christ redemption from sin (as a means to fulfill the sacrificial law; see 2 Nephi 2:5); the aging father also shares that Christ will layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. In this manner we see that Christ will be the first fruits unto God. This, of course, is referring to the resurrection. And those who are resurrected and Christ having interceded on behalf of those who believe on Christ will be judged according to the truth and holiness which is in Him. 2 Nephi 2:10 goes on to say:

Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One [Jesus Christ] hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement.

Here we look to what Russell M.Nelson had to say [14]:

In the English language, the components are at-one-meant, suggesting that a person is at one with another. Other languages employ words that connote either expiation or reconciliation. Expiation  means ‘to atone for.’ Reconciliation comes from Latin roots re, meaning ‘again’; con, meaning ‘with’; and sella, meaning ‘seat.’ Reconciliation, therefore, literally means ‘to sit again with.’…In Hebrew, the basic word for atonement is kaphar, a verb that means ‘to cover’ or ‘to forgive.’ Closely related is the Aramaic and Arabic word kafat, meaning ‘a close embrace’-no doubt related to the Egyptian ritual embrace….While the words atone or atonement, in any of their forms, appear only once in the King James translation of the New Testament, they appear 35 times in the Book of Mormon. As another testament of Jesus Christ, it sheds precious light on His Atonement.”

The ends of the law in this passage reflect the law given by YHWH (Jesus Christ) to the children of Israel. What we are reading here is similar to what Paul wrote in Romans 10:4 – For Christ is the aend of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. In the Greek, end is telos (τέλος, ους, τό) and is denoted here to mean aim or purpose.

Understanding this – what we come to know is Lehi is expressing a truth that the Law given by YHWH (Jesus Christ) points to Him. It is the goal, the aim, or the purpose of the law to point one toward the salvation that is through Jesus Christ. He stands a the High Priest making intercession for each one of us. The Law had an affixed punishment that refers to the specific sacrifices necessary to be presented unto the High Priest. Such punishment that is affixed to sacrifice for the atonement and salvation of humanity was affixed to Christ in order to answer the ends of the Law and become the defining purpose by which we receive deliverance from sin and death.

However, Lehi does not stop there. He continues in his sermon and describes the exact purpose of our human existence. Without the purpose of God’s plan of salvation and happiness for humanity – there would be no reason for our mere existence (see 2 Nephi 2:11-29).

Eternal Life and Exaltation as part of Christ’s Infinite Atonement

Since we briefly covered what the plan of salvation is – and how it relates to true happiness – we are able to explore the more esoteric concept of the Latter-day Saint Christian Faith. That is the idea that we have a divine destiny that is part of Christ’s infinite atonement. Where modern Protestant and Evangelical Christian leaves off, concerning their doctrine of salvation, LDS holds to the rational and scriptural authority of Exaltation.

According to the Gospel Principles manual one will find this teaching defined as:

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.

If we prove faithful to the Lord, we will live in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom of heaven. We will become exalted, to live with our Heavenly Father in eternal families. Exaltation is the greatest gift that Heavenly Father can give His children (see D&C 14:7).

At the April 2008 General Conference, Russell M. Nelson spoke the following:

To be saved—or to gain salvation—means to be saved from physical and spiritual death. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected and saved from physical death. People may also be saved from individual spiritual death through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by their faith in Him, by living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel, and by serving Him.

To be exalted—or to gain exaltation—refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm. These blessings can come to us after we leave this frail and mortal existence. The time to prepare for our eventual salvation and exaltation is now.

Theodore M. Burton shared this insight in his address at the July 1972 General Conference:

Exaltation comes as a gift from God, dependent upon my obedience to God’s law. No works I do solely of my own power can bring this to pass. Only by the grace of God has this course been opened to me, but only through obedience to the laws of God can I claim my inheritance in the celestial kingdom of my Heavenly Father as a son within his family. I cannot be exalted in my sins, but must work until I overcome them.

This idea is not a new thought. It is well documented within the New Testament texts. However, it is unfortunate that many modern Christians today declare such teachings anathema to what they perceived to be Biblical Truth. So much so that they attempt to interpret that such idea of exaltation and humanity’s divine destiny is the same lie that the adversary spoke in tempting Eve “thou shalt be like God“. What they fail to realize is this: If the Adversary were lying to Eve about becoming like God – then how do Christians justify and interpret the following passage in Genesis 3:22 – And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.

Man attained knowledge of good and evil. This tree was in opposition to the Tree of Life. What was the purpose of God creating a paradisaical garden for Adam and Eve and then placing a tree of knowledge of good and evil in its midst and then making a command of not partaking of the fruit? The reality is that Christ’s atonement (and the plan of salvation and true happiness of humanity) rests upon the reality of what John wrote in Revelation: Behold, the Lamb of God who was slain before the foundation of the world [15]? The plan of salvation was conceived prior to the creation of humanity and this earth. Within this eternal plan of happiness – humanity was (and is) given an opportunity to develop a life that imitates the Savior.

In a BYU Speech on August 14, 2012 Tad R. Callister shares this insight:

In spite of God’s altruistic aims on our behalf, perhaps no doctrine, no teaching, no philosophy has stirred such controversy as has this: that man may become a god. It is espoused by some as blasphemous, by others as absurd. Such a concept, they challenge, lowers God to the status of man and thus deprives God of both His dignity and divinity. Others claim this teaching to be devoid of scriptural support. It is but a fantasy, they say, of a young, uneducated schoolboy, Joseph Smith. Certainly no God-fearing, right-thinking, Bible-oriented person would subscribe to such a philosophy as this. While some of these advocates are hardened critics, others are honest and bright men who simply disagree with us on this doctrine. So wherein lies the truth? Hopefully the following will invite the Holy Ghost to whisper the quiet but certain truth to all those who honestly seek it.

Callister continues with support from five differing and verifiable sources:

  1. The Scriptures – specifically the Gospels and teachings of Christ, the teachings and discourses of the Apostle Paul
  2. The teachings of the Early Church Fathers (Ante-Nicene Fathers)
  3. Poets and Authors (for instance C.S. Lewis)
  4. Logic (Christ is the Logos and literally means “Reason and Logic” where Christ is the voice – or word of God manifested in the Flesh)
  5. History possesses evidence of our divine destiny

Callister also continues on with the idea that these five witnesses gives us insight on the reality of our divine possibility.

The best way to simply understand the doctrine of exaltation (or Theosis according to Eastern Orthodox teaching and tradition) is to understand that the purpose of salvation and eternal life includes the perfecting of the saints.

When we peel off the philosophies and sophistries of men – we come to fully understand the nature and purpose of Salvation. The eternal plan of our Heavenly Father and how it relates to the human condition. Briefly explored the nature and premise of exaltation as pertaining to the perfecting of the saints through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How, we are to imitate Christ in our very own lives.

What then are the principle truths of a mindful and spiritual Christian life? Now that we have established a fundamental understanding of salvation and exaltation the next treatise will be on the nature of the spiritual disciplines within the Christian life. How these spiritual disciplines work toward perfecting us and preparing us to stand before Christ and our Heavenly Father.


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[1] Brigham Young was the second President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the colonizer and builder of a great commonwealth of Latter-day Saints in the American West, and a devoted husband and father. He was a faithful disciple and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Jesus is our captain and leader,” he testified (DNW, 24 May 1871, 5). “My faith is placed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and my knowledge I have received from him,” he affirmed (DNW, 21 Nov. 1855, 2). His life was centered in building up and sustaining the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. Young, B. (1997). Chapter 1: The Ministry of Brigham Young. In Teachings of presidents of the church: Brigham Young. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved March 17, 2021, from

[2] The Journal of Discourses is not considered authoritative or an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Much of the content is transcribed and published between 1854 and 1886 in England by George D. Watt. There are some questions concerning the historical accuracy of these transcriptions. Watt was skillful with using shorthand in transcribing many messages for the Deseret News and petitioned that a subscription-based publication be available to those Saints who did not have access to the messages published in the Deseret News. For more information see this Overview on the Journal of Discourses.

[3]  Journal of Discourse Volume 1, Discourse 1 – Salvation

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid; see, Psalm 62:12, Proverbs 24:12, Romans 2:6-11, 1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10, Colossians 3:25, 1 Peter 1:17, and Revelation 20:12

[11] See, Salvation

[12] Mike Leake, What Is Salvation? (Also: Why It’s Needed and How to Get It) May 16, 2018.

[13] JD 1:5 − p.6, Brigham Young, January 16, 1853

[14] Russell M. Nelson, The Atonement, Ensign, November 1996 – From the October 1996 General Conference session.

[15] See Revelation 13:8