As our society’s “Mormon moment” continues, with the award-winning Book of Mormon musical selling out shows and a second Latter-day Saint announcing a run for the presidency, I think we’ll see more attempts by some to “expose” what they see as embarrassing or bizarre aspects of the church. Perhaps chief among their targets will be our doctrine of exaltation. But the descriptions given of this belief will likely be grossly warped, as they usually are.
Case in point: not only was exaltation mocked as a weird, scary secret in an anti-Mormon CNN blog post a couple of weeks ago, but an article in The American Conservative this week garnered two consecutive comments that depicted exaltation in an erroneous light:
They believe that their destiny is to become a god on another planet.
Furthermore, they claim that we are all potential gods (if we are good little Mormons) with our own universes to rule one day.
Neither of these remarks is accurate. My goal here is to define what Mormons do and don’t believe about exaltation, as best as I can.
Below are my notes from a talk I gave in my ward today, about fatherhood and priesthood. I had to cut a few things out for time, most notably a story about President Monson’s father’s example of priesthood service with his son, and a paragraph about honoring my own dad. The notes are choppy, but I think you could get the gist of it.
Thomas S. Monson quote:
My own father, a printer, gave me a copy of a piece he had printed. It was titled “A Letter from a Father” and concluded with this thought: “Perhaps my greatest hope as a parent is to have such a relationship with you that when the day comes and you look down into the face of your first child, you will feel deep within you the desire to be to your child the kind of parent your dad has tried to be to you. What greater compliment could any man ask? Love, Dad.” (“Treasured Gifts,” 12/06)
My version: tucking son in bed, feeling sentimental, tell him that someday he’ll grow up and we’ll be best friends. He laughs and says, “Don’t be silly, you’ll be dead.”
Speaking on assignment from bishop about fatherhood and priesthood.
Imagine that someone you love very dearly has rejected you. You were close once, and you’ve spent untold time and energy serving them, but now they’ve turned away from you and everything you stand for.
For many, this scenario is all too realistic. But now imagine that millions, even billions, of your loved ones have done this.
Welcome to God’s world.
I think of this a lot.
I think of this when I feel hurt by someone I care about. Knowing that my Father in Heaven has been through this, but literally a billion times more, puts my own pain in perspective and makes me respect and reverence God all the more for the noble way He still loves us.
I think of this when I’m critical of others. It’s so easy to justify thinking less of people, and holding back on anything I might do for them, emotionally or physically. But when Jesus said in Matthew 5:45 that “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust,” he made a powerful point about the nature of God’s love.
Nobody else would have as much good reason to cut off those who’ve rejected their love, because nobody else has been so fully rejected by so many, or had so much love turned away.
But God doesn’t do that. He still pours out as many blessings as possible on all of us, constantly striving to help us have as much joy as we can, even if we deny its source or even actively fight against Him.