I was looking over Elder Nelson’s talk from April Conference and I ran across this quote:
In God’s eternal plan, salvation is an individual matter; exaltation is a family matter.
We often hear people repeat the cliche, “Heaven wouldn’t be heaven without my family.” Here, Elder Nelson apparently raises it to the level of doctrine.
When I first read the talk, I saw it as a typical laundry list of the things one must do to be saved. However, something more interesting is going on. The meat of the talk begins with Elder Nelson’s decision to define salvation and exaltation separately:
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.
The difference appears to be that salvation is the means to overcome our individual mortal inadequacies; exaltation, on the other hand, appears to be the work to be done after we are saved. Probably you all have long seen this distinction, but for me it altered my notion of what my life’s goals should be.
Note that, in the talk, he gives two paragraphs to individual responsibility and twenty four to family responsibilities. These twenty-four are divided in half, with the first half going to things that I would tend to consider issues of individual salvation (commandment keeping, participating in ordinances, and so forth). However, Elder Nelson places them in a context that situates temple marriage as the end goal of mortality.
The emphasis in the second half appears to be primarily on parental responsibility to teach children and on children’s responsibility to support parents (dead or alive). This intergenerational linkage, created through the sealing power present in temple marriage, seems to become the difference between salvation and exaltation. Exaltation, in this sense, is very much a communal activity.
This talk has given me a lot to mull over. We see several trends in Mormonism made manifest and expanded. The family religion aspects of Mormonism, which have always been present but have been particularly emphasized since the publication of the Family Proclamation, have become thoroughly intermingled with our notions of personal responsibility in salvation (and they may have overcome them to some degree). The forging of the world into a great eternal family, which always seemed to be Joseph Smith’s goal, appears to have become the key doctrine on which we are looking to move forward. However, there is also less emphasis in this talk on convert baptism, as it were. It is briefly mentioned, but it appears that the emphasis on personal and familial conversion is being emphasized over our need/desire to spread the word to those who are unfamiliar with it. Does anyone else see this trend or is it just because I grew up outside of Utah County and now live in it?
In any case, this shift in doctrine, if it is such, seems to bring with it a notion of selflessness. Our own salvation is barely scratching the surface of what God seems to want from us; he wants our family, our friends…he wants us all back. In what way are we working, not only for our own salvation, but for the good and the beneficial to those around us? In what way are we helping them to feel God’s love, know God’s influence, enter God’s presence? If neither we nor they can be exalted without each other, shouldn’t that turn our hearts to Christ, his example, and toward genuinely becoming like Him?
Anyhoo, those are my thoughts on that talk. What think ye?