The Mormon “Twelve Step Program” to Exaltation: Part 2

The Mormon “Twelve Step Program” to Exaltation: Part 2

In the first installment of this two part article (see: THE MORMON “TWELVE STEP PROGRAM” TO EXALTATION: PART 1 – we discussed the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/ Mormons) believe that two levels of salvation are available to mankind. The first level is called “General Salvation” which is granted freely to all humanity by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That salvation provides resurrection from the dead and restoration of immortality.

The second level is “Individual Salvation” of each person. That salvation is dependent on his or her individual adherence to, and faithful lifelong practice of, LDS church laws. I call these the Mormon “Twelve Steps to Exaltation” In our first installment we looked at and analyzed the first six of those requirements. They include (1) faith; (2) repentance; (3) baptism; (4) receiving the Holy Ghost; (5) receiving the priesthoods (men only); and (6) participation in the LDS Temple endowments.

We now examine the other six steps.

The next necessary step to exaltation is the LDS Celestial (Temple) Marriage. Mormons are well known for their strong emphasis on marriage and families. People are often impressed by the size and closeness of Mormon families.

To understand this aspect of Mormonism, we must comprehend how it fits in to the process of Mormon salvation. In Mormonism there are actually two sorts of marriages. The first is a marriage that is “for time” only. This kind of marriage lasts only “until death do us part.” Any marriage initiated by a wedding in a church, court house, garden, beach, or wherever, and conducted by a pastor, priest, justice of the peace, or whoever, is for earthly time only and will end at the death of either spouse. The other kind of Mormon marriage is called “Celestial Marriage” and is “for time and eternity.” That marriage does not end at death but continues on after death where a husband and wife (or wives) will be reunited and spend eternity together.

Celestial Marriage can only be established by a wedding ceremony conducted by a member of the Melchizedek Priesthood in special sealing rooms found only in Mormon temples. For that reason those sealings are sometimes called “temple marriages.” Since the weddings must be conducted in temples, it means that if the bride’s or groom’s parents, or other family and friends, are not Mormons, or are Mormons who do not have a valid “temple recommend” (pass signed by an LDS Bishop), they will not be allowed to witness the ceremony.

Thus, in Mormonism, a Celestial Marriage is an essential aspect of the process of exaltation. No one who is not in a celestial family can expect to go to the Celestial Kingdom or ever be raised to godhood.

Christians who first learn of this system are often amazed. They once again ask, “Where did that come from?” The answer is that Joseph Smith, Jr., devised the concept as a way of justifying his practice of plural marriage (polygamy). He called each one of his many secret marriages a “Celestial Marriage” ordained by God himself. By the time polygamy was banned in the church in 1890, Celestial Marriage had become a fully established doctrine in the religion. Plural Marriages continued to be (and still are) sealed in temples, but only effective for eternity after death.

The Bible, of course, makes no mention of any sort of eternal marriage. In fact, Jesus made it clear that marriage was only instituted for this mortal life. Jesus was asked a hypothetical question by the Sadducees (Matthew 22: 20- 28). They asked about a widow who had been married seven times to seven brothers, as to whose wife she would be in the resurrection? He answered, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22: 29-30; see also Mark 12:24-26). This is in direct contradiction to the Mormon doctrine of Celestial Marriage.

As incredible as it may seem, all three of the essential Mormon ordinances for exaltation (baptism, marriage, and endowments) are also available to those who died before they could hear the Mormon Gospel and join God’s true church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day of Saints. The catch, however, is that all three of the rites have to be performed in this world. So how, then, do dead people perform them? The answer is that a live Mormon can go to a temple and do them for dead people by proxy.

Yes, if a person died before being baptized in the LDS, a faithful church member can go to any of the temples to be baptized on their behalf in specially built pools. Also, if a couple died before their marriage was sealed for eternity in an LDS temple, a living couple can go to the temple to be married on their behalf. And finally, if, after their baptism by proxy, a person died before they received the temple endowments, someone can receive them on their behalf.

It is regarded by Mormons that doing these proxy rituals for the dead is a major responsibility of faithful church members. They are encouraged to go to a temple and do “work for the dead” as often as they can. Anyone shirking that responsibility is seen as less than a dedicated Mormon. It is especially considered as a requirement for exaltation.

We have already looked at why the whole Mormon temple and priesthood system is invalid (see steps 5, 6, and 7). But even more the very idea that we can do ordinances for dead people is unbiblical. Hebrews 9:27 clearly says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” In fact, the temple rituals for the dead are very close to the occult practice of necromancy (spiritism) – a practice totally condemned by God (Deuteronomy 18: 11).

Mormons have a reputation for healthy living – no smoking, no alcohol, no caffeine. The source of that personal ethical code is what is known in LDS nomenclature as the “Word of Wisdom.” In 1833, Joseph Smith and the early Mormons, after leaving New York when opposition to the movement had risen there, were residing in Kirtland, Ohio. On February 27 of that year, Smith supposedly received a revelation from God instructing the Mormons what foods to eat and what substances to avoid.

The revelation was later canonized as Section 89 in the Doctrine and Covenants. The commentary published with the revelation summarizes it the following way:

“1-9, The use of wine, strong drinks, tobacco, and hot drinks is proscribed; 10-17, Herbs, fruits, flesh, and grain are ordained for the use of man and of animals; 18-21, Obedience to gospel law, including the Word of Wisdom, brings temporal and spiritual blessings.”

We agree that these principles certainly promote healthy lifestyles. However, for many reasons we cannot regard the statements as anything other than the musings of Joseph Smith, Jr. The assertion that they are in anyway necessary for full salvation is legalism. Legalism, even if it supports healthy habits, flies in the face of the Christian doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone (Ephesians 2: 8, 9).

The LDS teaches that its president, who is currently 85 year old Thomas Monson, is a “living prophet, seer and revelator.” That is to say that all of the men who have held that position, beginning with Joseph Smith, Jr., are capable of receiving direct revelations from God. In fact, if he receives such a revelation, he can literally nullify or alter any prior doctrine or practice of the church, even those specified in the church’s four canonized scriptures. Those scriptures include the King James Version of the Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.

It is considered an obligation for all faithful members of the church publically to affirm or “sustain” the Prophet. Every year at the church’s annual World Conferences held in Salt Lake City, all members present are expected to lift their hands when called upon to show their allegiance to God’s chosen leader on earth.

In the Old Testament we have the record of God speaking through prophets to the people of Israel to address spiritual issues of national concern. They also made predictions of events that were to come in the future, most notably the coming of the Messiah who the New Testament identifies as Jesus of Nazareth. The book of Hebrews makes a remarkable statement concerning Jesus’ unique place in redemptive history:

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1: 1-3, NASB).

That passage and others indicates that prophets like those of the Old Testament era are simply no longer necessary since God has revealed Himself totally in His Son Jesus Christ. The New Testament does mention in various places people who exercised a spiritual gift of prophecy (see 1 Corinthians 12-14; Acts 11:27: 13:1; 15:32). However, those who had that gift were never seen as having the same degree of authority as did the prophets of old. Their purpose was to proclaim God’s word, not to give new doctrine. Only Jesus and the Apostles had that kind of authority. Furthermore, Jesus warned of the danger of false prophets (Matthew 7:15; see also Deuteronomy 18: 20-22).

One issue that is sometimes raised in political races is just how much income tax the various candidates paid. A related factor is how much they contributed to charities for which they can take deductions. One of the most commonly reported types of charitable giving is to church. Most Christian churches subsist on the tax deductible offerings they receive from their members. Traditionally many evangelical churches encourage their members to give a tithe, or ten percent, of their income (though most members give much less than that). However, very few would ever make that a requirement for membership and certainly not for salvation.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requires its members give a titheing (ten percent of their gross annual income) to the church. Once a month they are also asked to give a “fast offering” of the cost of two consecutive meals they skip that month. All monies collected go directly to the LDS world headquarters where church officials then disburse it worldwide for church causes. It is estimated that as much as 7 billion dollars in tithings are collected each year. Curiously, the LDS has not made a public report of its income in the United States since 1959.

Once a year each member is required to meet one-to-one with their local bishop for a Tithing Settlement to assure they have met their obligations. Any members not paying their tithing may be in danger of losing their temple recommend. If that happens they will be unable to fulfill the sacred duties of the temple necessary to be members in good standing and to achieve exaltation. Rare exceptions to the law of tithing may be allowed in certain cases.

The final step in the program of Mormon exaltation is that each faithful member is expected to attend the weekly Sacrament Meetings in their local Ward (assigned congregation). The Sacrament Meetings are conducted each Sunday, which Mormons regard as the Sabbath. Some meeting houses, in communities where Mormons are densely populated, may house more than one Ward, each of which will meet at a different time.

The meetings usually last about an hour and consist of music, singing, testimonies, and sermons. The most important part, however, is the weekly sharing of the Sacrament (Lord’s Supper). Young boys holding the Aaronic Priesthood distribute the elements, consisting of bread and water, to members in the congregation. Again, members not attending regularly may be in danger of losing their temple recommend.

Christian denominations differ on how they understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. Some see it in a sacramental way and others in a symbolic way. In any case, few Protestant or Evangelical churches regard it as a necessary ingredient for salvation.

So what are the LDS Twelve Steps to Exaltation? As we have seen in this two-part series, they are regarded as essential elements in the Mormon system. Mormons deem them absolutely necessary to attain the highest levels of glory in the Celestial Kingdom and to attain godhood. We have seen how most of the steps have no basis in Biblical teaching and the others are distortions of Scriptural standards. They are further indications of the non-Christian counterfeit nature of Mormonism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

© 2012 Tal Davis