The Gospel of Jesus Christ
Within the Gospel of Jesus Christ we are commanded to do many things. Most are an effort to help us grow closer to the Lord in character and purpose. Others help us avoid the snares of temptation. Also the The Lord commands all of us to commit our agency to his will through covenants and ordinances. Generically many would describe the Gospel as the following:
- Love God and our neighbors. (Mark 12:30–31)
- Keep the commandments. (John 15:10)
- Repent of our sins. (Mosiah 26:36
- Search out our kindred dead and receive the saving ordinances of the gospel for them. (Mal. 4:5–6; 3 Ne. 25:5–6; D&C 110:13–16; John 5:25; 1 Cor. 15:29; 1 Pet. 3:18–20; 1 Pet. 4:6; D&C 76:73)
- Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament. (1 Corinthians 10:16)
- Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord. (Romans 10:5; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 12:27)
- Have family and individual prayers every day. (Prayer)
- Teach the gospel to others by word and example. (1 Timothy 4:12)
- Study the scriptures. (Doctrine and Covenants 26:1)
- Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord.
In short it is best said as follows:
We believe that the first principles and aordinances of the Gospel are: first, bFaith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, cRepentance; third, dBaptism by eimmersion for the fremission of sins; fourth, Laying on of ghands for the hgift of the Holy Ghost. (Articles of Faith, #3 & #4)
But what are the “Absolutes of the Gospel” that are not abstract such as obedience, charity, repentance, etc. and yet are essential for each individual’s heavenly progression. Such characteristics are ever elusive hence the term “enduring to the end”. So what are the specific covenants and ordinances without which all is but in vain. I say “vain” to be clear that all without Christ is for not. Without His Grace we cannot be saved let alone exalted (see Moroni 10:21, Alma 5:21, Acts 15:11 etc.)
As used in Romans 10:9–10, the words “saved” and “salvation” signify a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. Through this covenant relationship, followers of Christ are assured salvation from the eternal consequences of sin if they are obedient. “Salvation” and “saved” are also used in the scriptures in other contexts with several different meanings.
Salvation from Physical Death. All people eventually die. But through the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected—saved from physical death. Paul testified, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). In this sense, everyone is saved, regardless of choices made during this life. This is a free gift from the Savior to all human beings.
Salvation from Sin. To be cleansed from sin through the Savior’s Atonement, an individual must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37–38). Those who have been baptized and have received the Holy Ghost through the proper priesthood authority have been conditionally saved from sin. In this sense, salvation is conditional, depending on an individual’s continuing in faithfulness, or enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God (see 2 Peter 2:20–22).
Individuals cannot be saved in their sins; they cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring a belief in Christ with the understanding that they will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of their lives (see Alma 11:36–37). However, through the grace of God, all can be saved from their sins (see 2 Nephi 25:23; Helaman 5:10–11) as they repent and follow Jesus Christ.
Being Born Again. The principle of spiritual rebirth appears frequently in the scriptures. The New Testament contains Jesus’s teaching that everyone must be “born again” and that those who are not “born of water and of the Spirit . . . cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). This teaching is affirmed in the Book of Mormon: “All mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters; and thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God” (Mosiah 27:25–26).
This rebirth occurs as individuals are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It comes as a result of a willingness “to enter into a covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days” (Mosiah 5:5). Through this process, their “hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, [they] are born of him” (Mosiah 5:7). All who have truly repented, been baptized, have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, have made the covenant to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ, and have felt His influence in their lives, can say that they have been born again. That rebirth can be renewed each Sabbath when they partake of the sacrament.
Salvation from Ignorance. Many people live in a state of darkness, not knowing the light of the restored gospel. They are “only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). Those who have a knowledge of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the purpose of life, the plan of salvation, and their eternal potential are saved from this condition. They follow the Savior, who declared, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Salvation from the Second Death. The scriptures sometimes speak of salvation from the second death. The second death is the final spiritual death—being cut off from righteousness and denied a place in any kingdom of glory (see Alma 12:32; D&C 88:24). This second death will not come until the Final Judgment, and it will come to only a few (see D&C 76:31–37). Almost every person who has ever lived on the earth is assured salvation from the second death (see D&C 76:40–45).
“If I do not live my religion, but turn away from the principles of light and life, my spirit will die. You have heard me speak of that a great many times, and so you have brother Brigham. There are thousands upon thousands whose bodies will die by the power of the second death; and then they never will return again. Many call that annihilation.
It is just the same with that as it is with this pitcher: it was made in England; it was once in its mother element, and it was taken out of the earth, and went through a certain process. It was then modeled and fashioned into the shape in which you now see it.
Now, will the day come when this pitcher will return to its mother earth? It will; and it may be thrown into some part of the earth where it may be thousands and millions of years before that pitcher or the elements of which it is composed will be brought back again; and so it will be with thousands and millions of the people: they never will be brought back into the shape they were in once.
Some men enquire, “Why?” Simply because they have dishonored the spirit and bodies that God gave them; therefore God will make a desolation of those bodies and spirits, and he will throw them back into the earth; that is, that portion that belongs to the earth will go back there. And so it will be with our spirits: they will go back into the elements or space that they once occupied before they came here.” – Spiritual Dissolution, A Discourse by President Heber C. Kimball, Delivered in the Bowery, Sunday Afternoon, September 27, 1857. Reported by G. D. Watt, J. V. Long. Journal of Discourses 5:271
President Brigham Young further clarified this processes when he stated:
“We read in the Scriptures of the second death not having power over certain ones. The first death is the separation of the spirit from the body; the second death is, as I have stated, the dissolution of the organized particles which compose the spirit, and their return to their native element.” – Eternal Punishment, President Brigham Young, made in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, January 12, 1862. Reported by G. D. Watt. Journal of Discourses 9:147
This then brings us to Exaltation:
Eternal Life, or Exaltation. In the scriptures, the words saved and salvation often refer to eternal life, or exaltation (see Abraham 2:11). Eternal life is to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and dwell with Them forever—to inherit a place in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom (see John 17:3; D&C 131:1–4; 132:21-24). This exaltation requires that men receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that all Church members make and keep sacred covenants in the temple, including the covenant of eternal marriage. If the word salvation is used in this sense, no one is saved in mortality. That glorious gift comes only after the Final Judgment.
Requirements for Exaltation
The time to fulfill the requirements for exaltation is now (see Alma 34:32–34). President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “In order to obtain the exaltation we must accept the gospel and all its covenants; and take upon us the obligations which the Lord has offered; and walk in the light and the understanding of the truth; and ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God’” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:43).
To be exalted, we first must place our faith in Jesus Christ and then endure in that faith to the end of our lives. Our faith in Him must be such that we repent of our sins and obey His commandments.
He commands us all to receive certain ordinances, hence I refer to these as The Absolutes of the Gospel:
- We must be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins.
- We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.
- We must be Washed and Anointed.
- We must receive the temple Endowment.
- We must be married for eternity, Celestial Marriage.
- We must receive a Second Anointing.
After We Have Been Faithful and Endured to the End
The Lord has 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” (D&C 14:7). President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “If we will continue in God; that is, keep his commandments, worship him and live his truth; then the time will come when we shall be bathed in the fulness of truth, which shall grow brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:36).
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).
“Here, then, is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you,… To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God…. ” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 346, 347)
LDS Apostle James Talmage wrote, “We believe in a God who is Himself progressive, whose majesty is intelligence; whose perfection consists in eternal advancement – a Being who has attained His exalted state by a path which now His children are permitted to follow, whose glory it is their heritage to share. In spite of the opposition of the sects, in the face of direct charges of blasphemy, the church proclaims the eternal truth: ‘As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.'” (emphasis added) (Articles of Faith James Talmadge, p. 430)
Our Father in heaven was once a man as we are now, capable of physical death. By obedience to eternal gospel principles, he progressed from one stage of life to another until he attained the state that we call exaltation or godhood. In such a condition, he and our mother in heaven were empowered to give birth to spirit children whose potential was equal to that of their heavenly parents. We are those spirit children. (Achieving a Celestial Marriage p 132)
Our Heavenly Father knows our trials, our weaknesses, and our sins. He has compassion and mercy on us. He wants us to succeed even as He did.
Imagine what joy each of us will have when we return to our Heavenly Father if we can say: “Father, I lived according to Thy will. I have been faithful and have kept Thy commandments. I am happy to be home again.” Then we will hear Him say, “Well done … ; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:23).
Blessings of Exaltation
Our Heavenly Father is perfect, and He glories in the fact that it is possible for His children to become like Him. His work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Those who receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ will receive special blessings. The Lord has promised, “All things are theirs” (D&C 76:59). These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:
- They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62).
- They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23).
- They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase.
- They will receive a fulness of joy.
- They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20). President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The Father has promised through the Son that all that he has shall be given to those who are obedient to His commandments. They shall increase in knowledge, wisdom, and power, going from grace to grace, until the fulness of the perfect day shall burst upon them” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:36; italics in original).