Given we are now in what my friend Ed Stetzer calls the “Mormon Moment,” many people want to know just what Mormonism teaches. They often want to understand the “Grand Narrative” or “Big Picture,” if you will, about Mormon doctrine. In this article I will tell you, based on my more than thirty years of studying Mormonism, what I call the “Mormon Saga.” It is a story that summarizes the grand mythology of Mormonism as derived from its Four Standard Works (The King James Version Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price), LDS temple dramas, and other authoritative Mormon sources. As you read, see if you can discern how this story of salvation history contrasts to that portrayed in the Bible. Remember, the LDS teaches that many “plain and precious” truths were lost in the early centuries after the deaths of Jesus’ Apostles. The true church and its true doctrines supposedly were miraculously restored in the mid-19th century by Joseph Smith, Jr., who is the source for these teachings.
Long ago, and in a solar system far away, lived a righteous man named Elohim and is wife. When he died, because of his righteousness and obedience to his father god, he and his wife entered into a heavenly realm called the Celestial Kingdom. After a number of years, Elohim progressed in his power and knowledge and was granted the privilege by his father god of attaining exaltation as a god of his own spirit world. He and his wife now exist as physical gods of flesh and bone.
Elohim and his wife made a home on a planet near the star Kolob. There they began the process, as had their father and mother god before them (and an unknown number of other such gods), of procreating billions of spirit sons and daughters into a non-physical existence. This was the “First Estate” of their children’s lives. They named the first-born of those children Jehovah. Jehovah was Elohim’s most noble and obedient son and eventually was granted a certain level of divinity. Elohim was referred to by his spirit children as Heavenly Father (hereafter referred to by that name in this article). Another of the sons of Heavenly Father was named Lucifer.
As time went on and the number of spirit children increased, Heavenly Father decided that it was time that they be given the opportunity of progressing to exaltation as had he and his wife. He decided that, as was done in all previous worlds, he would take some of the eternal matter in the universe and make a new inhabitable world (Earth). This was so his spirit children could be born into bodies of flesh and bone, a necessary requirement for eventual exaltation.
Heavenly Father then called a Great Council in Heaven of his spirit children to present his plan for their future. He told them that they would all be sent to earth to live, become mortal, and be tested as to their worthiness to eventually be exalted. He also indicated that one of them would have to act as a Redeemer to restore immortality to them later. This process was the same as had been done countless times before in the infinite history of the universe. Lucifer volunteered to be the Redeemer. He also stated that he would force all the Heavenly Father’s children to be exalted no matter what. They would have no choice in the matter.
Heavenly Father then rejected Lucifer’s bid saying that he would never force his children to make the decision to follow him but would allow them to make a choice. They would have free-agency to obey him as he had with his father god. At that point Jehovah, the elder brother of them all, volunteered and was chosen to be the Redeemer. He declared that all the children will be allowed to make their own moral and spiritual choices.
Heavenly Father’s rejection of his offer and the choosing of Jehovah as Redeemer greatly angered Lucifer. As a result, he convinced one-third of his spirit brothers and sisters to join him in rebellion against Heavenly Father and Jehovah. This “Great War in Heaven” was eventually won by Heavenly Father, Jehovah, and other valiant spirit children. As a result, Lucifer and the other rebellious spirits were cast out of heaven never to receive bodies of flesh and bone and doomed to eventually be cast into Perdition (Hell) forever. They landed on earth and Lucifer became the devil (Satan), and his followers became the demons who tempt and try to take over the bodies of humans. Incidentally, some of the spirit sons and daughters who did not rebel were nonetheless not valiant in their defense of Heavenly Father. They were given a curse that they would be born physically with dark skin and would be prevented from being able to receive exaltation (Note: this racially tinged teaching was in effect expunged by a “revelation” to LDS President Spencer Kimball in 1978).
This Island Earth
When the “Great War in Heaven” concluded, the victorious Heavenly Father proceeded with his plan. He made the earth from existing eternal matter and then chose two of his favorite children (Michael and an unnamed female) to be the first man and woman to populate it. Heavenly Father formed a human body from the earth, transferred Michael’s spirit to it, and named him Adam. From Adam he formed the woman Eve. He placed them in a perfect environment in the Garden of Eden. At this point they were still immortal beings and could have lived forever in that wonderful place.
Heavenly Father, however, gave them two commandments. He first ordered them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil for if they did they would lose their immortality and die. He also ordered them to be fruitful and populate the earth. That is, they were to be the first earthly physical parents and ancestors of his spirit children so they could have bodies of flesh and bone and progress potentially to exaltation. This is the Second (and present) Estate of human life.
The two commands presented a dilemma for Adam and Eve because immortal beings cannot physically procreate. So, in order for them to obey the second command, they would have to disobey the first and become mortal and lose the earthly paradise Lucifer, not knowing of the Heavenly Father’s plan, was allowed to tempt Eve who ate of the fruit and became mortal. She then gave it to Adam, who, seeing the dilemma and not wishing her to be alone in death, also ate.
Thus, they both became mortal human beings and, though having violated one command, were then able to obey the other and fulfill the Heavenly Father’s plan for mankind. So, in reality, Adam and Eve had made the right choice. The fall was a good thing after all, for without it we would all be stuck in the pre-existent spirit world without bodies.
Nonetheless, the fall did come with serious negative consequences. Mankind was cast out of the Garden into the “lone and dreary world” of death and decay. However, as indicated before, God had made a plan for mankind to be redeemed and to recover immortality.
Jesus Saves (Partly)
In the course of history in the Heavenly Father’s good time, Jehovah, the oldest of Heavenly Father’s children and already a divine being, was sent down to earth to be the earthly Redeemer. In order for this to occur, Heavenly Father himself left his heavenly abode to go down to earth (which he does very rarely). He selected a virtuous young woman named Mary to be the mother of his own physical son. Mary willingly submitted and conceived a divinely sired fetus with the spirit of Jehovah in her womb. He had 46 chromosomes, 23 came from Mary and 23 came from the Heavenly Father. When she gave birth she named the boy Jesus, as God had order her to do. Jesus was, thus, the “Only-begotten son of Heavenly Father in the flesh.”
For 33 years Jesus walked the earth. He lived a sinless life and perfectly obeyed Heavenly Father’s commands. Eventually, the time came when Jesus, as the chosen Redeemer, would have to make the payment for mankind’s redemption. So, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus suffered great emotional pain even to the point of sweating blood. Then he was taken and nailed on the cross and died. Three days later Jesus arose and won the victory over mortality. As a result, all the Heavenly Father’s children (except those who rebelled in the Great War in Heaven) who had died, or will die physically, will eventually be resurrected from the dead with restored immortal bodies. Thus, Jesus’ atonement and redemption is universal in its application. Everyone who has ever lived, regardless of their faith or behavior, therefore, will be saved from death.
Judgment and the Three Levels of Glory
The story, however, does not end there. After the future resurrection of all people, the resurrected Jesus will reign on the restored earth for a thousand years. During that time, billions of people will have the chance to accept the Mormon gospel and be baptized. At the end of the millennium will be the Final Judgment where Heavenly Father, the resurrected Jesus, and (some assert) Joseph Smith, Jr. will decide the eternal fate of all humans based on their faithfulness to the Heavenly Father’s commands.
Each person will be assigned to live forever in one of three levels or Kingdoms of Glory. This will be the Third Estate. The lowest level will be the Telestial Kingdom. This pleasant place will be, after they have suffered a while to make up for their evil sins, the final habitation of those who were wicked and immoral. It will be a nice place to live, but they will never have the personal presence of Heavenly Father in their midst.
The second, or middle level of glory, will be the Terrestrial Kingdom. This level will be for inactive or lapsed Mormons and people of good will who, though not becoming Mormon, nonetheless lived good lives on earth. Heavenly Father’s presence will not be known there as well.
The third and highest level will be the Celestial Kingdom. This kingdom is the dwelling place of the Heavenly Father. It will be inhabited only by faithful baptized members of the LDS church who have obeyed all the requirements to reach this level of glory. Those requirements include moral living, celestial (temple) marriage, receiving the priesthoods (men only), and receiving the temple endowments (secret rites conducted in sacred LDS buildings that prepare qualified Mormons to enter the Celestial Kingdom). Once a man and his wife arrive in the Celestial Kingdom, if they have been exceptionally faithful and righteous, and if the Heavenly Father sees fit, they may be exalted by him to godhood. They will then start the whole process again in their own world and become gods and goddesses of their own spirit children. Those Mormons not deemed worthy enough to be exalted, nonetheless, will reside for eternity in Heavenly Father’s presence along with their intact family members.
© 2012 Tal Davis