Salvation and exaltation are words that we hear often in relation to life after death. Both words refer to a condition of the next world, but they do not mean the same thing. This life is a time to prepare for the conditions in which we wish to live during the rest of eternity. The decisions that we make in this life will determine our destiny in the next world. I am grateful to know that the Lord has not left us helpless in choosing the way to go. He has prophets and apostles to counsel us and guide us on the path we choose.
Then-Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about Apostles and their responsibility in helping us toward salvation and exaltation in April 2008 General Conference talk.
Elder Nelson first references the Apostle Paul’s teachings about Apostles and prophets. The ancient Apostle taught that the saints “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” He also taught that the Lord revealed why “he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets” for the purpose of “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.” Elder Nelson continues by saying the following.
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. And we are to help people prepare for their potential salvation and exaltation.
The third article of faith declares that “through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
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.
As part of that preparation, one must first hear and understand the gospel. For this reason the gospel of Jesus Christ is being taken to “every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.”
Elder Nelson continues by teaching us that there are both individual and family responsibilities in gaining salvation and exaltation. We each have the individual responsibility to develop faith in the Lord and to repent of our sins. We each are responsible to be baptized and to receive the Holy Ghost. “Each of us is born individually; likewise, each of us is `born again’ individually. Salvation is an individual matter.” Elder Nelson continues by explaining the family responsibilities in gaining exaltation.
Individual progression is fostered in the family, which is “central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” The home is to be God’s laboratory of love and service. There a husband is to love his wife, a wife is to love her husband, and parents and children are to love one another.
Throughout the world, the family is increasingly under attack. If families fail, many of our political, economic, and social systems will also fail. And if families fail, their glorious eternal potential cannot be realized.
Our Heavenly Father wants husbands and wives to be faithful to each other and to esteem and treat their children as an heritage form the Lord. In such a family we study the scriptures and pray together. And we fix our focus on the temple. There we receive the highest blessings that God has in store for His faithful children.
Thanks to God’s great plan of happiness, families can be together forever – as exalted beings….
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.” Those 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. This temple ordinance enables eventual exaltation for both of them.
Elder Nelson continues by teaching that our family responsibilities include helping our extended family – our children, parents, and ancestors – to receive the “Sealing ordinances that are essential to exaltation.” “A wife needs to be sealed to her husband; children need to be sealed to their parents; and we all need to be connected with our ancestors.”
We can understand from Elder Nelson’s teachings that salvation is an individual responsibility and that exaltation is a family responsibility. We are responsible for making the necessary covenants and being obedient to the commandments to reach salvation for ourselves. We are also responsible to help and encourage our loved ones to reach their own salvation AND to work together to become eternal families. We can be saved as individuals, but we can only be exalted as families.