This Sunday, in Gospel Doctrine Class, the study is on 2 Nephi 31-33. One of the summary statements in the heading of chapter 31 says, “Eternal life comes to those who kept the commandments after baptism.” Since I posted about eternal life just a couple of months ago (see the post for 1-13-12) and there showed that the Bible says eternal life is the present possession of believers through faith, I thought I would, in this post, explore what Mormonism says about eternal life. I’m going to do that with quotes from the last chapter of their basic manual, Gospel Principles. If you would like to read the entire chapter, you can do that on lds.org.
The first thing to note is that Mormonism equates eternal life with exaltation. “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.” (p. 275) Note that this says eternal life is not only equal to the kind of life God lives but also to becoming like him. That is illustrated with the list in the middle: great glory, perfection, possessing all knowledge and wisdom, Father of spirit children, creator. In other words, Mormonism teaches that people will be able to possess all knowledge and wisdom, that they will become creators etc.
This is expanded a couple of paragraphs later. (The italics are my emphasis).
“These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:
1. They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62).
2. They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23).
3. They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase.
4. They will receive a fulness of joy.
5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20).”
Mormonism plainly teaches that people can become gods. I’m emphasizing that because many Mormons have told me that Mormonism doesn’t teach that. I don’t know how many told me that it says that they will be like God, but not become a god. But note what this official manual states. “They will become gods.” Gods who have everything that Heavenly Father and Jesus have. And lest we forget, that is what Mormonism is talking about whenever it talks about eternal life. Eternal life and exaltation are the same thing.
This chapter also includes a couple quotes from Joseph Smith. (Again the italics are mine) “The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] 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” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 268).”
“Joseph Smith taught: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God. … He was once a man like us; … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 345–46).”
I highlighted that last part because again many Mormons have stated to me that Heavenly Father never was a man. Some have told me that the famous couplet, “As man is, God once was; As God is, man may become”, no longer applies. When I explored that with them, they said it wasn’t just that this wording is not used that much anymore, but that is not what Mormonism teaches. It’s obvious that this chapter of their basic manual says otherwise.
The bottom line is that when Mormonism talks about eternal life, it means something vastly different than when Christians talk about it. (See my January 13th post for a full look at the Christian view.) This is a point both Mormons and Christians need to keep clearly in mind when talking with each other.