[Complete series] The True to the Faith (TTTF) entry “Exaltation” is just three words: “See Eternal Life.” Interesting. I think the Church still believes in and teaches what Mormons have traditionally referred to as “exaltation,” but leaders prefer to use different terms now, such as Eternal Life, which is given a two-page discussion. Are we feeling less exalted these days?
I’m inclined to think it’s just a better sense of decorum and more attention to friendly get-along-with-your-neighbors PR. “Exaltation” sounds a little too triumphant in a day when religious tolerance and ecumenicalism are among the institutional virtues religions are expected to publicly embrace. The term is fine for an EQ lesson or even a Sunday talk from the pulpit, but (following this theory) leaders prefer to speak of “salvation” or “eternal life” in public discussion.
As evidence, I’d first point to TTTF itself, which declines to give an independent definition for “exaltation.” The “eternal life” entry says nothing about temple ordinances or celestial marriage, so that entry actually says very little concerning the traditional LDS understanding of “exaltation.” The only possible reference to the LDS belief that higher temple ordinances are required to attain the highest form of salvation — to enjoy the full presence of God in the afterlife and a full measure of His promised blessings — is the statement that we must show “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” in order to obtain salvation, a rather elliptical way to refer to celestial marriage or the temple. The “eternal life” article quotes 2 Nephi 31 extensively, but D&C 132 not at all and D&C 131 only by reference.
A second source to consider is the recent post at M-Star quoting an LDS stake president responding to a TV interviewer’s question about the LDS view of salvation. The SP responded that everyone will be resurrected, but only some will “be exalted,” namely those who “follow the teachings of Jesus Christ” and “repent of their mistakes.” Sounds like salvation, not exaltation, to me, but TV sound bites don’t accommodate lengthy explanations or careful doctrinal distinctions.
By contrast, the short Encyclopedia of Mormonism article “exalation” is much more direct. Exaltation is “a state that a person can attain in becoming like God — salvation in the ultimate sense.” It is “available only in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom” and requires “the Endowment and the eternal marriage covenant of the temple.” It is a short and accurate summary of the traditional LDS view of exaltation and it was directed to the general public, not a strictly LDS audience. On the other hand, the article was published in 1992, 13 years ago. Has the tone of the LDS message changed that much in 13 years?
That’s the question, I think. I don’t believe the LDS doctrine of exaltation has changed at all, but the way it is discussed by senior leaders and the vocabulary they use when discussing it seems to have changed. Anyone have any other examples (or counterexamples)?