Salvation and Exaltation

Theodore M. Burton


 

As I listened to the radio a few days ago, I heard a minister tell his listeners: “Confess Christ and you shall be saved. Admit Christ into your heart and he will save you.”

Then he quoted Ephesians 2:8 for his clinching argument: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” [Eph. 2:8]

Then he gave his final advice: “Is this too much to ask of you? Thousands and hundreds of thousands have found lasting peace and happiness by accepting Christ as their Savior. Join with us in Christian faith and you shall be saved.”

I wonder how many people have been lulled into a false sense of security by such teaching. As a missionary knocking at the doors of people, I had literally hundreds of people tell me that they were not interested in learning more about Jesus Christ, for they were already saved. The shocking thing about this is that they were right. What that minister said was true, but the difficulty is that it was not the whole truth.

I am personally concerned about this problem because I realize how much damage partial truth can do. Limited knowledge is a dangerous thing. What we need is more truth—unlimited truth—until finally we know all things.

What does it mean when people say, “I am saved”? Generally it means they are saved from death. This type of general salvation comes to all people by the grace of God alone. General salvation comes regardless of obedience to gospel principles or laws and results solely in resurrection from the dead. In this respect, salvation is synonymous with immortality, in that the resurrected person will live forever. Resurrection comes to every person born into this world through the sacrifice made by Jesus Christ, whether one confesses Christ or not. Whether a person is wicked or righteous, each person will receive the gift of immortality through Jesus Christ.

As Paul explained to the Corinthian Greeks:

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Cor. 15:20–22.)

All mankind will thus receive general salvation, excepting the sons of perdition. Following their resurrection, “they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.” (D&C 88:32.)

These sons of perdition (perhaps only few in number) will be resurrected but will not be redeemed from the power of Satan because they are still filthy; as the prophet Alma said of them: “… they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.” (Alma 12:18.)

I suppose that having a body and not being able to do anything with it will be a true hell. All other persons will be saved by the grace of God from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment.

The true value of the sacrifice of Christ means much more than this general salvation which comes to all mankind. There is an additional salvation that God has planned for his children. This additional salvation is an individual salvation and is conditioned not only upon grace, but also upon obedience to gospel law. One of the prophets in the Book of Mormon explained why he and his associates were so concerned about teaching more about Jesus Christ, as he wrote:

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne. 25:23.)

That full reconciliation to God is extremely important to me. It is the idea of a personal atonement or reconciliation that can bring me back into the presence of God as one of his covenant sons that appeals to me. That kind of conditional salvation I call exaltation.

Exaltation comes as a gift from God, dependent upon my obedience to God’s law. No works I do solely of my own power can bring this to pass. Only by the grace of God has this course been opened to me, but only through obedience to the laws of God can I claim my inheritance in the celestial kingdom of my Heavenly Father as a son within his family. I cannot be exalted in my sins, but must work until I overcome them.

Amulek the prophet explained this most clearly as he said of God:

“And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.” (Alma 11:37.)

Then Amulek spoke of the reason for the coming of Christ:

“And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else.

“Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death; for behold, the day cometh that all shall rise from the dead and stand before God, and be judged according to their works.” (Alma 11:40–41.)

Those works, which follow the true exercise of faith, include repentance, baptism, receipt of the Holy Ghost, and continued righteousness to the end of our lives.

I have a cousin, Rodney Moyle, who lives near Boise, Idaho. When he comes to Salt Lake City he usually drops into my office to say hello. I love to visit with him, for he always leaves me with a new gem of thought. On his last visit he asked me, “If you had your heart’s desire and could take it with you out of this world, what would you take?”

The answer for me was obvious: “My family and loved ones!” I can take them with me through obedience to God’s laws. Only through obedience to gospel law is that higher degree of salvation possible which will include both me and my family.

That possibility of an eternal family relationship is what is meant by exaltation and eternal life. This eternal preservation of my family relationship can be my inheritance in God’s kingdom if I will pay the price to achieve it. Even those in the celestial kingdom who have not paid the full price of obedience to attain such further exaltation will have immortality only and not eternal life within God’s family organization.

Thus, full salvation in its true and full meaning is synonymous with exaltation and eternal life. This inheritance within the actual family of God the Eternal Father, through Jesus Christ, is the burden of the scriptures and should be the goal of every man, woman, and child born upon this earth. This full salvation is obtained only in and through the family unit preserved throughout eternity.

When the angel Moroni came to give Joseph Smith his first instruction in restoring the gospel in this dispensation, he quoted the prophet Malachi with a little variation from the way it is written in the Bible:

“For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” (JS—H 1:37.)

In order to understand this passage of scripture, for root read “progenitors” or “ancestors” and for branch read “posterity” or “children.” Unless, then, through obedience to the laws of God you can qualify yourself to go to the temple and have your family sealed to you, you will live forever separately and singly in an unmarried state. It seems to me that would be a very lonesome type of existence—to live without the warming influence of family life among those you love, who in turn love you.

God said of those who were not willing to pay the full price of exaltation through full obedience to his whole law: “Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

“For these angels did not abide in my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.” (D&C 132:16–17.)

It is for this reason that the Lord promised that he would reveal unto us the priesthood by the hand of Elijah the prophet before the second coming of the Lord, to plant in our hearts the promises that were made to our fathers so that our hearts could be turned to our fathers and to our children. If we cannot achieve this goal of eternal family exaltation, our lives on this earth will be utterly wasted when Christ shall come the second time.

It is well, then, for you to think of your families and how you can have your inheritance in the Lord sealed upon you and those you love. In Rodney’s words, let me ask you, “If you had your heart’s desire and could take it with you out of this world, what would you take?”

May God bless you to choose well, for I testify to you that God lives and that his priesthood power is on this earth, by means of which you can obtain your exaltation in his kingdom as his covenant sons and daughters through full obedience to his law. This I testify in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.