I was pondering a topic for my gospel principle post this week when my thoughts went to a talk titled “Salvation and Exaltation” given by then-Elder Russell M. Nelson in the April 2008 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I feel that this topic is important to all of God’s children and that I was prompted to share some of the ideas from it on my blog. There is not a lot of new information for long-time members of the Church, but it is good information for new members or investigators and a good refresher for all of us.
This conference was the first one after the death of President Gordon B. Hinckley. A solemn assembly was held to sustain the new Prophet and President of the Church, Thomas S. Monson, and a new Apostle, Elder D. Todd Christofferson. Elder Nelson commented on the solemn assembly and went into the topic of his talk.
The Lord revealed why “he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets.” It is “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Thus, the ministry of the Apostles – the First Presidency and the Twelve – is to bring about that unity of the faith and to proclaim our knowledge of the Master. Our ministry is to bless the lives of all who will learn and follow the “more excellent way” of the Lord (See 1 Corinthians 12:31; see also Ether 12:11). And we are to help people prepare for their potential salvation and exaltation.
Elder Nelson explains that the job of the Apostles is to help all of us become worthy and prepared to meet God. He then proceeds to explain what salvation and exaltation mean.
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.
After explaining about salvation and exaltation and the difference between them, Elder Nelson teaches that we gain salvation as individuals and exaltation as families.
The development of faith in the Lord is an individual matter. Repentance is also an individual matter. Only as an individual can one be baptized and receive the Holy Ghost. Each of us is born individually; likewise, each of us is “born again” individually. Salvation is an individual matter.
Individual progression is fostered in the family, which is “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children” (Proclamation on the Family). The home is to be God’s laboratory of love and service….
Resurrection, or immortality, comes to every man and every woman as an unconditional gift.
Eternal life, or celestial glory or exaltation, is a conditional gift. Conditions of this gift have been established by the Lord, who said, “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 14:7). These qualifying conditions include faith in the Lord, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and remaining faithful to the ordinances and covenants of the temple.
No man in this Church can obtain the highest degree of celestial glory without a worthy woman who is sealed to him. (See Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-3.) This temple ordinance enables eventual exaltation for both of them….
This life is the time to prepare for salvation and exaltation . In God’s eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter exaltation is a family matter.
… But the final responsibility to prepare for salvation and exaltation rests upon each person, accountable for individual agency, acting in one’s own family….
Elder Nelson teaches that Heavenly Father has a plan for the eternal happiness of all His children. He allows each of us to choose the kind of life that we desire to live. If we are satisfied with mere immortality, we can accept His free gift. If we desire exaltation and the opportunity to be with our family for all eternity, He has added requirements.
This earth was created in order for us to be tested and tried. Each experience in our life, whether good or bad, can help us to choose what kind of life we want to live after we leave this earth. Heavenly Father inspired prophets to provide temples where families can be sealed together for time and all eternity. The choice is ours. We can have all that the Father offers to us, or we can settle for less. What is your choice?