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Fundamental to the Mormon belief in God’s “Plan of Salvation”, for all mankind, is what they believe to be the true identity, attributes, and roles of the three members of the Godhead, and our relationship to each member of the Godhead.
The Mormon belief about the Godhead, as well as all of the Mormon beliefs, are rooted in the teachings of the founding Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, as found in his own personal published revelations, his interpretation of the Bible, and the Book of Mormon.
In explaining the Mormon theology regarding the “Plan of Salvation”, I will forego some scriptural references and historical quotes. It is not my purpose to document the bibliography or origins of the theology, or to argue in favor or against its biblical correctness. I am simply setting forth the basic theology, as a basis for understanding the Mormon belief about the process by which truth is revealed, or confirmed, to mankind.
Mormons believe that God, “the Eternal Father”, often referred to by Mormons as “Heavenly Father”, is the supreme being of the universe, and literal spiritual father of all of humanity, that does now, ever has, or ever will live on this earth or other worlds.
To understand this, it is useful to understand the Mormon concept of the soul of mankind. According to the Doctrine and Covenants, the spirit and mortal body of man, together, make up his soul. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 88. Compare to page 16 of the 1981 edition.)
In the interest of brevity, please assume now, and hereafter, that each reference to “man”, in the context of this discussion, includes both man and woman. I apologize to any feminists who prefer that I refer to both collectively as “woman”. It is, after all, Mormon theology that we are discussing here.
While most people believe that the mortal body of man is a material reality, Mormons believe that the spirit is also made of “finer or purer” matter, as well, and can be “discerned with purer eyes”. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 131. Compare to page 266 of the 1981 edition.)
Separately, the intelligence of man has been defined in a variety of ways, including the “light of truth”. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 93. Compare to page 182 of the 1981 edition.)
Each of the components of the soul of man has a somewhat different origin.
The intelligence of man “was not created or made, neither indeed can be” according to the Doctrine and Covenants. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 93. Compare to page 182 of the 1981 edition.) This particular element of our identity, according to Mormon theology, always existed.
In a pre-earthly existence, the Mormons believe that our spirits were “begotten” of God. As such, Mormons believe that we are, literally, the spiritual offspring of God, and lived in His presence in a spiritual state of existence prior to the beginning of our sojourn on this earth, in our mortal bodies.
While in this spiritual state of pre-mortal existence, the Mormon theology holds that we experienced the presence of God the Eternal Father, who was not limited to a spiritual state, but rather, was a complete “glorified and perfected” soul. This would have included His intelligence, spirit, and physical body, in a “glorified and perfected” state of existence.
As such, God was, and is, according to Mormon theology, omnipotent (all powerful), and omniscient (all knowing).
Mormons believe that the “glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth”. There is not an overwhelming abundance of publicly distributed material making official doctrinal declarations of the church on the subject of the omnipotence of God, so I have taken some liberties with my own interpretations and understanding of Mormon theology as follows:
The power of God emanates from, or is manifested in the application of an intelligent and volitional focus of energy in an anticipated outcome or objective.
Some may argue that God no longer acts in faith, because he has a perfect knowledge of all things. On the other hand, Joseph Smith declared that “the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which he framed the worlds, was faith”. (Joseph Smith, Jr., 1805-1844. Compare to Lectures on Faith, First Lecture, delivered during 1834 and 1835 to the “School of the Prophets” at Kirkland, Ohio.)
Joseph Smith also declared that “faith is the moving cause of all action in temporal concerns, so it is in spiritual.” (Compare to Lectures on Faith, First Lecture) So it would seem that according to the Mormon theology, the omnipotence of God had much to do with the faith of God.
I would argue, as I have argued earlier, that at the particular point in which the knowledge, or belief, that a given outcome will result from a particular application of energy, is sufficient to motivate one to take action on that belief, or knowledge, in order to bring about the anticipated outcome, faith has been made manifest.
Faith is the emergence of applied energy that is motivated by knowledge, or belief, in an anticipated outcome. Faith is the phenomenon that is made manifest when an awareness of certain realities, that are understood to have a relationship to an anticipated outcome, and a desire for that outcome, give rise to the volitional action of applied energy to the outcome.
To know something will occur under certain circumstances, or to believe that it will occur, is not to contribute to its occurrence. Neither knowledge, nor belief, contributes to any outcome, without intelligently focused volitional action taken in anticipation of the outcome.
Thus, the omniscience of God does not alone account for His omnipotence. The omnipotence of God comes from the convergence of His intelligence, or omniscience, and His volitional will to purposefully harness and focus energy.
It, perhaps, goes without saying, that God’s knowledge of how to harness and focus energy purposefully, without destroying Himself, with that energy, is not irrelevant to His immortality and continued existence and omnipotence.
We, on the other hand, as mortals, have a hard time getting out of our own way, as it were. We are constantly bungling into various forms of self destruction, as we haphazardly apply our increasing, but limited, knowledge of the realities that surround us to serve our own desires, pleasures, and egos.
As romantic as this theology sounds, I believe that it also happens to be somewhat consistent, on some very interesting levels, with certain physical realities of the universe as we are discovering them.
We know that light can be converted into magnificent power through magnification and focus which is best achieved in an environment of a sort of atomic harmony. We are also coming to understand that our very awareness as human beings or, in some respects, our intelligence, is largely a manifestation of harmonious impulses of energy, and that the expansion of our intelligence is best achieved when we are in a state of harmony with realities that we come to know of.
Now, given that Mormons believe that our very spirits were made up of finer matter, and that we had intelligence, or the “light of truth”, it follows that the presence of God’s glorified and perfected soul would have had a powerful and very real impact on the finer matter of our spirits and intelligences, at the energy level, in our pre-earthly state, as we experienced this presence.
I think it reasonably follows, that the energy force of God’s presence would have had an enormous impact on our spiritual selves, and left us with a certain physical attraction or recognition of that force, in the same sense that a pin becomes magnetized when left in the presence of a powerful magnet.
The atoms of the two objects naturally harmonize their energy. The greater naturally drawing the lesser into harmony with the realities of its own existence. Examples of this are seen in the reality of the physical universe in which we live.
Whether we believe in God or not, this is the reality of electromagnetic energy. As such, it is basic to the Mormon theology that our spirits acquired a sensitivity for truth or “light”, while in the presence of God, that would be carried into this next life with us, resulting in the ability to feel a certain confirmation of truth, at the spiritual or, in other words, finer matter level.
Understandably imprinted, according to the Mormon theology, in the pre-mortal soul of man, from experiencing the presence of God, is the desire to progress to the state of becoming like God.
Mormons believe, as taught by the fifth president of the Mormon Church, Lorenzo Snow, “as man is, God once was” and “as God is, man may become.” (Conference address, June 1840) This is fundamental to the Mormon paradigm of life and eternity.
Devout Mormons believe that this quest for “eternal” or “celestial” life is the most important quest. It is the quest to become like God. Mormons believe that a God-like state is achievable in the “life after death” for all who qualify for a continuation of “eternal progress” by conformity in their lives, through obedience to revealed truth, while in this mortal life.
Such conformity, it is believed, unleashes, for devout Mormons, additional revelations of truth and additional opportunities for the application of faith.
In this way, it is believed that the mortal existence of man is an absolutely necessary step in becoming like God. It is taught that we must acquire physical bodies, and we must acquire and perfect the application of our faith as we pursue increasing intelligence. The development of faith, if properly pursued along with the pursuit of intelligence, should increase our volitional power.
The will to assess, surmise, calculate, and then take intelligent action in anticipation of a desired result, without the experience based knowledge of the surety of the desired outcome, is precisely the particular personal strength and power that we seek in our effort to become empowered as human beings, and ultimately to become like God. I would be surprised if Anthony Robbins, the notable success guru, would argue with the process, as it relates to the achievement of personal goals of any kind.
Mormons believe that this developmental process is the very purpose of our sojourn on this earth. They believe that the developmental objective requires a physical body, through which we experience more completely the realities of the universe.
This plan also, according to the Mormon theology, required that a veil of forgetfulness be placed over our minds, upon entry into this mortal existence, so that we would be left largely dependent on the development of experience based intelligence and faith in order to survive and progress, as opposed to a vivid recollection of our pre-mortal life in God’s presence.
Just as it would seem impractical and unfair to expect an infant to figure its own way out in the world, without guidance along the way, the Mormon theology holds that God has not left us without guidance in this earthly sojourn.
The veil of forgetfulness was necessary, so that we would be required to make our way through life by exercising and developing faith, but it was seen as equally necessary that certain basic truths be revealed to the children of “Heavenly Father” on this earth, as they are prepared to receive them.
According to Mormon theology, these truths would be revealed through appropriately appointed prophets. We would recognize these prophets to be true prophets of God, as opposed to false prophets, and these truths to be true, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
This process would consist of a core feeling, or sense of recognition of the truths, at a personal level, being validated, or re-affirmed, by an additional and stronger sense or feeling of truth, characterized as a “burning in the bosom”, brought on by a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. The particular role of the Holy Ghost, in Mormon theology, is precisely this.
Mormons believe that the purpose of God, as it relates to humankind, is “to bring to pass [their] immortality and eternal life”. (Pearl of Great Price, Selections from the Book of Moses. Compare to page 4 of the 1981 edition.) Immortality is understood to be a state of ongoing life without death. Eternal life, on the other hand, is a quality of life, like that of God.
An eternal life, in the Mormon theology, is a life that would be characterized by omnipotence, omniscience, and immortality. One final and additional characteristic of eternal life is significant to Mormons. Arguably, for some, it is the most significant aspect of eternal life. It is the continuation of family life and power to procreate.
Mormons believe that extended families will continue in their family relationships throughout the eternities, for those souls who qualify for celestial or eternal life. They also believe that qualifying “celestial” souls will have the ability to beget spiritual offspring, and populate their own worlds.
They do not believe that other, non-qualifying souls, even those who are otherwise “saved”, will enjoy a continuation of family relationships, or even the power to procreate. Only those who qualify for celestial glory, or eternal life, do. Souls who do not qualify for the celestial kingdom of glory are relegated to lesser kingdoms of glory.
A very significant difference between the celestial kingdom and lesser kingdoms, in Mormon theology, is the continuation of eternal progressive development. Eternal progress (progressive spiritual development) continues for those who qualify for the celestial kingdom. Those who only qualify for lesser kingdoms will, according to Mormon theology, never progress beyond those lesser kingdoms, and are in that way “damned”.
To Mormons, “damnation” is not to be relegated to a certain physical place, where ongoing physical torment occurs, but rather, to be limited for the rest of eternity, by the natural bounds created as a result of one’s own lack of demonstrated discipline, intelligence, and faith.
Damnation, then, is not so much what one is assigned, but rather, what one chooses, by virtue of what they have allowed themselves to become.
Qualifying for eternal life is understood to be a process of spiritual development achieved through obedience to truth, as it is progressively revealed to the individual, “line upon line”, and “precept upon precept”. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 98. Compare to page 190 of the 1981 edition.)
Participation in certain covenant based ordinances is believed to evidence this progress, as it is achieved through obedience. These ordinances are also believed to unlock an increase in spiritual harmony with truth, for the individual, which progressively results in manifestations of greater and more advanced truths, to the individual.
These covenant based ordinances are only considered to be valid if administered by appropriate priesthood officiators.
The ordinances begin with baptism, and include participation in weekly sacraments. Ultimately, the higher or more advanced ordinances are administered in the Mormon temples only to members who have demonstrated a “base line” of worthiness to enter the temple.
The ultimate or most advanced ordinance administered by Mormon priesthood officiators in the temples involves the “sealing” of a man and a wife in an “eternal marriage”. (Doctrine & Covenants, Section 131. Compare to page 266 of the 1981 edition.)
Mormons believe that their priesthood officiators have the special “keys” and authority to seal a couple together on earth, in a marriage that will survive through the eternities, assuming each party to the marriage continues faithfully and obediently to honor their various covenants up to and including those which are a part of that marriage.
All children born under the covenant of that special sealing ordinance of marriage are automatically sealed to the parents, for “all time and eternity”. These sealings are believed to be valid beyond the “veil” and into the next life, by virtue of God’s priesthood authority vested in the temple officiators, for those members of the church who remain faithful to their covenants.
The sealing is broken by the sinner who breaks his temple covenants and fails to repent and get back on track. Such are disqualified for celestial life in the hereafter, and disjoined from the eternal families. They become immortal bachelors or bachelorettes.
For those who might be tempted, upon looking over at their aging spouse, to consider that being single might be more desirable than celestial life, we are reminded that the celestial bodies will be restored to the prime of their life. That may be a helpful incentive for some.
With the understanding of this overall “Plan of Salvation” in mind, it can be seen that the Mormon’s larger paradigm of life considers the greater context of their view of the pre-existence, and the life after death, and the relationship that choices in this life will have through the eternities.
The spiritual sensitivity for truth brought into this life coupled with the complimentary manifestations of the Holy Ghost make up the method by which Mormons believe they can expect to navigate their way back to the celestial kingdom in the next life. Recognizing truth, in the proscribed way, is the key.
Every devout Mormon will search their heart for an understanding of truth. All too many, unfortunately, will rely on feelings to the exclusion of rational processing of relevant information or facts.