The phrase ?Alpha and Omega? is one of the many name-titles of Jesus Christ found in both the New Testament and the Doctrine and Covenants ? The two words are, respectively, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, the beginning and the end. They symbolize the nature and roles of Jesus Christ: he is the beginning and the end in that he holds all power over our salvation from creation through the end of the world.
Prior to their birth into mortality, all people were begotten spirit children of God and lived with him. This condition is commonly referred to as the premortal existence. The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles declared that ?in the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize [their] divine destiny as [heirs] of eternal life.?
Latter-day Saints believe that in the premortal existence Lucifer was a spirit son of God who angrily rebelled against the Father and the plan of salvation and as a result was thrust down from heaven along with those rebellious spirits that followed him, becoming ?the devil and his angels? (D&C 29:37; see also Moses 7:26; Abraham 3:23?28; D&C 76:25?29).
John the Revelator also testified that the Saints overcame Satan by the power and blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11), which was already in operation in our premortal existence. In other words, the Atonement already operated in our behalf before Jesus physically enacted the Atonement in mortality. That is why John refers to Jesus Christ as ?the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world? (Revelation 13:8).
He [Abraham] was then shown the organized intelligences in the kingdom of heaven, one more intelligent than another in a grand order of existence extending to the Lord himself, who is ?more intelligent than they all? (Abraham 3:19, 22). All of this was to teach Abraham a profound lesson that he could then teach to the Egyptians, who were noted observers of the heavens. As the stars in heaven are ordered, so are the spirits of God?s vast kingdom. As the stars are governed, so is God?s kingdom.
As used in a variety of ways in the scriptures, damnation is experienced in various levels and durations. It is sometimes used synonymously with hell, as in those ?damned souls? (Mormon 9:4) who ?blaspheme against the Holy Ghost? (Mark 3:29). In contrast with those who ?received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized? (D&C 76:51) and those ?who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men? (D&C 76:75) who come forth in the first resurrection, there are those ?that have done evil? (John 5:29)??they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers? (D&C 76:103)?who come forth in the last resurrection, ?the resurrection of damnation? (John 5:29).
?Gog and Magog? is a phrase used to identify the last two great battles of earth?s seven-thousand-year temporal history, one before the Millennium and one after. Though the first of these battles is usually called Armageddon, Gog and Magog are also names sometimes applied to the great battle of the last days, raging at the very moment the Second Coming of Jesus Christ occurs on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Though John the Revelator calls the premillennial conflict ?the battle of that great day of God Almighty? as well as the more common ?Armageddon? (Revelation 16:14, 16), Ezekiel refers to it as the battle of ?Gog, the land of Magog? (Ezekiel 38:2).
All who have ever lived in mortality will be resurrected with immortal bodies of flesh and bones because of the mercy and grace of the Savior, but not all will receive the same glory in the resurrection. Jesus spoke of two resurrections?a ?resurrection of life? for the righteous and a ?resurrection of damnation? for those ?that have done evil? (John 5:29) ? From additional revelations on the resurrection given by God in this dispensation, Latter-day Saints believe that the different resurrections spoken of by Christ and Paul are both qualitative and chronological. First, ?the resurrection of the just? (JST, John 5:29) with the righteous and the celestial receiving more glory, and last, ?the resurrection of damnation? (John 5:29) for those who receive less glory and for the sons of perdition, who receive no glory.
While this eternal judgment is often referred to as the Final Judgment, God?s judging of men and holding them accountable to his laws and commandments actually occurs many times during their probation?in premortality, on earth, in the spirit world, and at the resurrection. The eternal judgment involves both intermediate judgments and final judgments ? Although there are various ?judgment days??both intermediate and final?throughout our lives in the premortal, mortal, and postmortal worlds that are all parts of the overall eternal judgment, there is a last judgment after all are resurrected. That last judgment is not so much an assignment to the various kingdoms of glory (since that is already determined by the time of the resurrection) as it is an acknowledgment that God?s judgments are indeed just.
In a sense, when individuals deprive themselves through unworthiness and an unwillingness to repent, they experience damnation in that their spiritual progress is stopped and their blessings are forfeited. For this reason the apostle Paul taught that one who partakes of the sacrament unworthily ?eateth and drinketh damnation to himself? (1 Corinthians 11:29; see also 3 Nephi 18:28?29). Likewise, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith in this dispensation that ?he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, . . . the same is damned? (D&C 58:29). Thus, escaping the effects of damnation, whether in mortal life or in eternity, requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance of sin, and obedience to the commandments, principles, and ordinances of the gospel.
Judgment, Eternal?Numerous scriptural passages teach of a day of ultimate reckoning when all of God?s children will be judged ?according to their works? (Revelation 20:12; see also 1 Samuel 2:1?10; Daniel 7:10; Matthew 12:36; Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10; 2 Nephi 9:15; Alma 5:15; 3 Nephi 27:16; Mormon 3:20; D&C 43:29) ? All mankind are brought back into the presence of God as part of this final judgment scene. The culmination of this judgment is when ?all shall bow the knee, and every tongue shall confess to him who sits upon the throne forever and ever? (D&C 76:110; 88:104; see also Philippians 2:9?11; Revelation 5:13).
We are immortal beings?we had no beginning, and we will have no end. All persons who receive a physical body will be resurrected to a kingdom of glory. Those who live on this earth and commit the unpardonable sin will be resurrected to a kingdom of no glory (D&C 88:32), subject to the second and final spiritual death, banished to outer darkness.
The word evil has several meanings in scripture. Evil is that which is corrupt, undesirable, bad, worthless, ugly, and painful ? Evil is that which flows spontaneously from the heart of fallen people, the ?works of the flesh? (Galatians 5:19?21); it is the natural workings of the natural man, the enemy of God (Mosiah 3:19). The brother of Jared confessed in prayer that ?because of the fall our natures have become evil continually? (Ether 3:2). Modern revelation teaches us that wicked men ?love darkness . . . because their deeds are evil? (D&C 10:21).
?He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,? the resurrected Christ declared to his disciples, ?but he that believeth not shall be damned? (Mark 16:16). Damnation is the opposite of salvation and eternal increase; it is having one?s spiritual progress halted and the partaking of God?s glory, presence, and the fulness of eternal life blocked.
?Marriage is ordained of God? (D&C 49:15), and ?what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder? (Matthew 19:6). Our Heavenly Father desires that all of his children be able to enjoy supreme happiness in marriage and family life. Living according to his higher law would make divorce nonexistent. Unfortunately, mortal men fall short of that higher law and, as a result, the Lord allows for the dissolution of marriages through proper, legal divorce ? When proper civil authority grants divorces, the Church recognizes and accepts such decrees. The sealings of husbands to wives, performed in holy temples, however, are not dissolved by a civil divorce decree. There is no such thing as a temple divorce. Only the First Presidency, which holds all the keys of the kingdom?including the power to loose as well as to bind (Matthew 16:19)?has the authority to render a cancellation of a temple sealing.
Every man who has the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon him enters into a covenant with God. President Boyd K. Packer has explained: ?The covenant rests with man; the oath with God. The Melchizedek Priesthood is received by covenant. A man?s covenant with God is: to be faithful and magnify his callings in the priesthood; to give heed to the words of eternal life; and to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. (See D&C 84:33, 43, 44.) ?God, for his part, declares with an everlasting oath that all who receive the priesthood and obey the covenants that pertain to that priesthood shall receive `all that [the] Father hath. . . . And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood?? (emphasis added).
Exaltation. To Moses the Lord said, ?For behold, this is my work and my glory?to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man? (Moses 1:39). Immortality is living forever with a resurrected, glorified body. Eternal life is living forever in the presence of God and enjoying the kind of life, attributes, glory, and power he possesses. Both immortality and eternal life are made possible through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ.
As revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the higher or Melchizedek Priesthood comprehends or encompasses the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood (4:207) and ?holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world? (D&C 107:8). Thus, the Melchizedek Priesthood administers ?the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church? and ?the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven? (D&C 107:18?19).
An endowment is a rich gift. Thus, to be endowed is to be given a rich gift. In Latter-day Saint temples, worthy members receive such a gift through a ritual presentation called the endowment. At the heart of this endowment is the knowledge and power, given through ordinances, that enable faithful participants to receive exaltation and all that God the Father possesses. (D&C 84:33?38)
The pattern of Aaron?s call to the priesthood was the model and pattern in the Church of Jesus Christ of the meridian dispensation: ?And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron? (Hebrews 5:4). That is how priesthood holders must be chosen and ordained today, as Aaron was: by God through his authorized administrators (D&C 27:8; 132:58?59). Those who magnify their calling in the priesthood ?become the sons of Moses and of Aaron? (D&C 84:33?34).
The central, saving doctrine is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of humankind; that he lived, taught, healed, suffered, and died for our sins; and that he rose from the dead the third day with a glorious, immortal, resurrected body (1 Corinthians 15:1?4; D&C 76:40?42). The Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of these central truths as the ?fundamental principles? of our religion to which all other doctrines are but appendages ? In seeking to discern what is the doctrine of the Church today, we might consider: Is it found within the four standard works or within official declarations or proclamations? Is it taught or discussed in general conference or other official gatherings by general Church leaders today? Is it found in the general handbooks or approved curriculum of the Church today? If it meets at least one of these criteria, we can feel secure in teaching it.
To Latter-day Saints, revelation from God comes through two different but related lines of communication. These are what Elder Dallin H. Oaks called ?the personal line and the priesthood line.? Each is essential in coming to know the mind and will of God. Personal revelation is, as Elder Oaks taught, ?an essential feature of [God?s] marvelous gospel plan which allows each one of His children to receive a personal witness of its truth ?The personal line is of paramount importance in personal decisions and in the governance of the family.? Personal revelation can guide us in our unique circumstances and responsibilities ? Likewise, only the president of the Church, as God?s sole mouthpiece and revelator on earth, has the right and authority to receive revelation and declare God?s mind and will for the entire Church, even the whole world. This is what Elder Oaks referred to as the ?priesthood line.? Additionally, no true revelation for others or for ourselves under our stewardship will be contrary to the teachings of scripture, established doctrines of the Church, or counsel and teachings of living prophets.
Dead works are works performed without proper authority. At the time of the organization of the Church, certain Baptist converts who had accepted the message of the restored gospel hesitated to be baptized, inasmuch as they had already been baptized by immersion in their former faith (D&C 22:2; Pratt, 16:293?94). Dead works are also the administration of such ordinances as baptism that are performed unnecessarily, as for such persons as little children who have not yet reached the age of accountability (Moroni 8:23).
To restore means to return to a former condition or to bring back. The term restoration and its synonym restitution have multiple meanings in the scriptures and in Latter-day Saint teachings. The most common use of the term refers to the series of events and divine revelations whereby the fulness of gospel principles, ordinances, priesthood authority, and the true Church of Jesus Christ were restored to the earth. These events, beginning with Joseph Smith?s First Vision in 1820, the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon, and the organization of the Church in 1830, are all part of what Latter-day Saints refer to as the Restoration?the fulfillment of Peter?s prophecy of ?the times of restitution? that will precede the second coming of Christ (Acts 3:21; see also Matthew 17:11; Ephesians 1:10; Revelation 14:6?7; 1 Nephi 13:20?34; 2 Nephi 9:2; D&C 1; 110; 112:30; Joseph Smith?History 1).
A most impressive example of Aaron?s power, authority, and wisdom as a teacher is demonstrated in the dramatic conversion story of King Lamoni?s father (Alma 22). ?When Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scripture? to him (Alma 22:12), teaching him the three pillars of eternity?the Creation, the Fall, and the Atonement (Alma 22:13-16)?with profound and transforming results for the king, queen, and their household. (Alma 22:17-23).
The Lord?s law of chastity is that ?the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife? (First Presidency). Chastity, often referred to by Latter-day Saints as moral cleanliness, involves abstaining from all sexual behaviors or relationships outside the bonds of marriage. President Joseph F. Smith taught: ?Sexual union is lawful in wedlock, and if participated in with right intent is honorable and sanctifying. But without the bonds of marriage, sexual indulgence is a debasing sin, abominable in the sight of Deity.? The scriptures testify that chastity?sexual purity?is ?most dear and precious above all things? (Moroni 9:9) and that God ?delights in the chastity of women [and men]? (Jacob 2:28).
To Nicodemus the Pharisee, Jesus declared, ?Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God? (John 3:3). The spiritual rebirth of which the Savior spoke involves both the ordinance of baptism (?born of water?) and the mighty change of heart that comes through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost (?born of . . . the Spirit?) (John 3:5). Both are required for salvation. ?Baptism by water is but half a baptism,? the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ?and is good for nothing without the other half?that is the baptism of the Holy Ghost.? Being born again is the spiritual transformation that results when we have actually received the Holy Ghost and experienced the remission of sins that accompanies it ? Whether the transformation is sudden or a slow process of growth with almost imperceptible changes, being born again brings with it fruits that can be felt and discerned within our hearts and observed in our lives. The degree to which we experience these things is an indication of the degree to which we have experienced the ?mighty change? of heart (Alma 5:14).
The Master gave general signs that would precede his coming, but he clearly taught that ?of the day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only? (Matthew 24:36) ? The Lord?s message is clear?knowing when the Savior will come is not as important as being spiritually prepared for it.
Synonymous with the scriptural terms ?born again,? ?born of the Spirit, ?second birth,? and ?spiritual rebirth,? the baptism of fire is the actual reception of the Holy Ghost by an individual ? In the scriptures, fire is a symbol both of purification and of the presence of God. The term ?refiner?s fire? (Malachi 3:2) denotes a transformation of something from a lower state to a higher through a process that eliminates impurities and coarser elements. Spiritually speaking, the Holy Ghost refines and purifies us and brings about a ?mighty change? of heart and soul (Mosiah 5:2, 7).
In a sense, we die as to premortality in order to be born into mortality. Likewise, we must die as pertaining to time in order to be born into eternity. The separation of the physical body and the eternal spirit is a necessary part of the plan of God, for, as Alma explained, to reclaim man from this temporal death would destroy the great plan of happiness (Alma 42:8). Truly, death passes upon all men and women to fulfill ?the merciful plan of the great Creator? (2 Nephi 9:6). It is merciful in the sense that it delivers us from the toils and agonies and pains of this life. ?When men are prepared,? the Prophet Joseph Smith observed, ?they are better off to go hence?.
Modern revelation attests that the transition from time into eternity is immediate. As we breathe our last breath, our spirit leaves our body and takes up its abode in the world of spirits. Joseph Smith taught, ?The righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection.?
The scriptures speak of those who qualify for exaltation as being the ?church of the Firstborn? (D&C 76:54, 67, 102). The church of the Firstborn is composed of faithful Saints who have proven true and faithful to their covenant ? The church of the Firstborn is the Church beyond the veil, the organized body of Saints who qualify for exaltation, or the blessings of the Firstborn.
The principle of common consent, as practiced in the modern Church, has roots in the practices of the ancient Church, as seen in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In Moses? day, ?all the people answered with one voice? (Exodus 24:3) and sustained the calling of Joshua (Numbers 27:18?20). The membership of the New Testament church, in similar manner, ?assembled with one accord? in sustaining the calling of Barnabas and Paul (Acts 15:25). Although the Church is not a democratic institution, the principle of common consent safeguards individual agency and allows for the ?voice of the people? to be heard ? Common consent?or a sustaining vote?is not so much a vote for a person or action but rather an individual covenant to faithfully support, strengthen, speak well of, and pray for those who are sustained. It is also a reflection of our testimony and an acknowledgment of the mantle and authority of the man who holds the keys and who is called by the Lord to preside. The act of raising our hands in a sustaining vote is an outward sign of our inward commitment to the gospel and a demonstration of our conviction that the Spirit guides our Church leaders.
Priesthood is the power of God manifest on earth and in the heavens ? It is the power by which worlds, the sun, moon, and stars were created. It is the power that gives life and light to all things. It is the power by which all things are governed ? Priesthood is the power and authority God gives to others to assist in his work and glory ?to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man? (Moses 1:39). ?Wherever the ordinances of the Gospel are administered,? the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ?there is the Priesthood.?
The prophet Daniel ?beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit. . . . One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him? (Daniel 7:9, 13). Most commentators in the Christian world believe this to be a reference to God, but Joseph Smith learned by revelation that it is in fact a reference to Michael, who is Adam. In chronicling the persons who will be in attendance at the council at Adam-ondi-Ahman, the revelation mentions Moroni, Elias, John the Baptist, Elijah, Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, ?and also . . . Michael, or Adam, the father of all, the prince of all, the ancient of days? (D&C 27:5?11).
Apostasy means ?away from standing? or ?falling away.? Whenever an individual or a group begins to entertain critical thoughts or feelings or to act in ways meant to condemn or fight against the truth, those individuals thereby begin the sure decline toward apostasy ? The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that ?man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.?
At the Savior?s second coming, ?all the proud . . . and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble? (Malachi 4:1) because, the Lord declared, ?I will not spare any that remain in Babylon? (D&C 64:24). After the inhabitants of Judah, the southern kingdom, were taken captive by armies of the Babylonian Empire (about 605?598 b.c.), the empire?s capital city, Babylon, was figuratively used in scripture to mean the corrupt world that is ruled and influenced by Satan. The inhabitants of this symbolic worldly city are described as those who ?seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world? (D&C 1:16). Therefore, the Lord declares, ?Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon? (D&C 133:14; see also Revelation 18:4?5).
Leaders of the Church from the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith to the present have unequivocally taught of the eternal significance of the family and the sacred role of parents. ?No other success can compensate for failure in the home? was a maxim often cited by President David O. McKay. Likewise, President Harold B. Lee often taught Church members that ?the most important of the Lord?s work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own homes.? It is because of these prophetic admonitions?ancient and modern?coupled with the knowledge that families are indeed intended to be eternal, that Latter-day Saints place so much emphasis on strengthening family relationships. We believe that what we do in our homes here will affect our progress and family relationships in the hereafter.
The concept of a restoration through the calling of modern prophets necessarily implies a belief in an apostasy, or a falling away. The apostasy of the early Christian church after the death of the apostles is sometimes referred to as the Great Apostasy because of its duration (more than a millennium and a half) and its depth. It was foreseen by ancient prophets (Amos 8:11?12; Isaiah 24:5), was universal in scope, and was a time when the powers of God and the doctrines of salvation were either not on earth or existed in an altered form. Warnings of this apostasy can be found in the New Testament (Acts 20:28?30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1?4; 1 Timothy 4:1?3; 2 Timothy 4:1?4; 1 John 2:18?19).
The Prophet Joseph Smith extended a challenging invitation to the Saints: ?I would exhort you to go on and continue to call upon God until you make your calling and election sure for yourselves, by obtaining this more sure word of prophecy, and wait patiently for the promise until you obtain it.? Latter-day Saints who have received the ordinances of salvation, including the blessings of the temple, may thus press forward in the work of the Lord and with quiet dignity and patient maturity seek to be worthy of gaining the certain assurance of salvation before the end of their mortal lives. But should a person not formally receive the more sure word of prophecy in this life, he or she has the scriptural promise that faithfully enduring to the end?keeping the covenants and commandments from baptism to the end of mortality (Mosiah 18:8-9)?eventuates in the promise of eternal life, whether that promise be received here or hereafter (D&C 14:7; 53:7; 2 Nephi 31:20; Mosiah 5:15)
In a sense, when individuals deprive themselves through unworthiness and an unwillingness to repent, they experience damnation in that their spiritual progress is stopped and their blessings are forfeited. For this reason the apostle Paul taught that one who partakes of the sacrament unworthily ?eateth and drinketh damnation to himself? (1 Corinthians 11:29; see also 3 Nephi 18:28?29).
Little children are subject to the effects of the Fall, just as all of us are; they are not, however, held accountable for their actions. In summary, little children are saved without condition?without faith, repentance, or baptism. Their innocence is decreed by and through the tender mercies of an all-loving Lord. Children are innocent through the Atonement, and we are called upon to become as innocent as little children in the very same way?through applying the atoning blood of our Savior (Moroni 8:10).
The Church honors and reveres the Bible; it is one of the standard works of our faith. Members of the Church are commanded to teach the principles of the gospel ?which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon? (D&C 42:12). President Heber J. Grant, who served as president of the Church from 1918 to 1945, reflected the attitude of the faithful regarding the Bible: ?All my life I have been finding additional evidences that the Bible is the Book of books, and that the Book of Mormon is the greatest witness for the truth of the Bible that has ever been published.? The First Presidency similarly noted in 1992: ?The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelation?
There are important contrasts between the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood and the greater or Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood deals with the temporal matters and outward ordinances of the law and the gospel (D&C 107:20; see also 1 Chronicles 23:27?32), including ?the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins? (D&C 13:1). The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the ?keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church?to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom,? ?even the key of the knowledge of God? (D&C 107:18?19; 84:19). Through its ordinances ?the power of godliness is manifest,? and the face of God may be beheld (D&C 84:20, 22).
In the ultimate sense, anyone ?who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory? (D&C 88:22); such individuals experience damnation in that they do not inherit exaltation. Thus, their rewards, powers, privileges, and glories are limited, incomplete, and fixed (D&C 76:112); in other words, they are damned.
The plan of salvation and its attendant laws and principles were ?ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was? (D&C 121:32). Abraham saw in vision that before the formation of the earth, ?the Gods took counsel among themselves? (Abraham 4:26) ? This is commonly referred to as the Grand Council in Heaven.
Latter-day Saints reject the traditional Christian view of an ex nihilo creation?meaning that God created the world, mankind, and all living things out of nothing ? Matter is element, and elements are eternal D&C 93:33 The Creation was thus a divinely managed organization of matter that had always existed.
Eternity to Eternity, from?The scriptures declare that ?from eternity to eternity? and ?from everlasting to everlasting,? God is the same (D&C 76:4; 20:17). From one premortal existence to the next (McConkie, 166), God?s qualities, attributes, and character are constant, trustworthy, and dependable; they never change. He is and always will be a God of truth, justice, judgment, mercy, long-suffering, and love.
New Jerusalem?One of the foundational doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the latter-day city of Zion, also known in the scriptures as the New Jerusalem, ?will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory? (Articles of Faith 1:10). During the Millennium, there will be two world capitals of God?s kingdom on earth?the city of Jerusalem on the eastern continent and the New Jerusalem on the American continent. Jerusalem will be a gathering place for the righteous descendants of Judah and other tribes of Israel, whereas the New Jerusalem will be primarily for the seed of Joseph. From both of these spiritual epicenters, as Isaiah prophesied, ?shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord? (Isaiah 2:3).
Dust of the Earth ? Mormon described us in our fallen condition as ?less than the dust of the earth? (Helaman 12:7) because whether it be a particle of dust or a majestic mountain, all God?s other creations instantly obey him. On the other hand, with our unsteady hearts, we are ?slow to do good? but ?quick to hearken unto the words of the evil one? (Helaman 12:4). Even though King Benjamin?s people had been diligent (Mosiah 1:11) in keeping the Lord?s commandments, after they heard their king?s witness of their indebtedness to Jesus Christ, they fell to the ground and ?viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth? (Mosiah 4:2). In pleading to God for help, Abraham likened himself to merely ?dust and ashes? when considering his nothingness without the Lord?s help (Genesis 18:27).
Dust of the Earth ? Often words of prophets, preserved long after the prophet?s death, are described as coming from the dust of the earth, as though these inspired teachers were speaking to us from the grave (Moroni 10:27). Nephi prophesied that long after the destruction of his people, their words would ?speak unto [us] out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit? (2 Nephi 26:16; Isaiah 29:4).
MILLENNIUM ? The mortal Saints will live to ?the age of man? (D&C 63:50) during the Millennium, an age that Isaiah explained to be one hundred years (Isaiah 65:20). At that point they will pass from mortality through death into resurrected immortality instantly, ?in the twinkling of an eye? (D&C 43:32; 63:51; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 3 Nephi 28:8). For these there will be no time for the body in the grave, no sojourn in the postmortal world of spirits, for they will be received into glory immediately after their death: ?Wherefore, children shall grow up until they become old; old men shall die; but they shall not sleep in the dust, but they shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye? (D&C 63:51).
The term ?Dark Ages? has been used to denote the period of history perceived as the cultural, economic, and demographic deterioration in Western Europe, beginning with the decline of the Western Roman Empire (which officially ended in a.d. 476) up to the beginning of the Renaissance (the rebirth of classical culture) in Italy. The idea that this period was a dark age is generally attributed to the Renaissance scholar Petrarch in the 1330s. The term was at one point adopted to characterize the whole of the Middle Ages (roughly a.d. 300?1300). The phrase ?Dark Ages? employs traditional light-dark dualism, well known to religious writers throughout the centuries. The phrase contrasts earlier and later periods of intellectual brilliance and cultural achievement with the medieval age of decline in learning and literacy in Roman literature, including a decrease in contemporary written history, a diminishing of European population groups, and a lack of significant achievement in material culture. The sense in which Latter-day Saint Church leaders over the years have used the phrase ?Dark Ages? is tied to a decline in spiritual learning and scriptural literacy in the Middle Ages. President Joseph Fielding Smith noted that ignorance prevailed in the Dark Ages: ?A man with learning could enter the ministry, and the common people were kept in darkness, more particularly concerning the scriptures, and the idea prevailed that the scriptures were not to be had by the common people? (1:178).
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord gave the commandment to ?teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom? and the promise that his grace would enable us in the process of becoming educated. He then expanded our earthly educational curriculum to include a study of ?things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms? (D&C 88:77?79).
To be exalted means to ?dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever? (D&C 76:62) and to possess the fulness of the glory of the Father?to be among those ?into whose hands the Father has given all things? (D&C 76:55). Those who are exalted become gods (D&C 76:58) because ?all things are theirs? (D&C 76:59), and they shall ?be above all, because all things are subject unto them? (D&C 132:20). Exaltation means to possess as joint?heirs with Jesus Christ all of the Father?s ?thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.? Perhaps the most important distinction between exaltation and all other forms of salvation and glory is the ?continuation of the seeds forever and ever? (D&C 132:19). That is, exalted beings will enjoy eternal family relationships. ?And in order to obtain [exaltation], a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it? (D&C 131:2?3).
To have eternal life is to enjoy the fulness of salvation ? A finer distinction between the varying degrees of salvation and ultimate exaltation and a more comprehensive understanding of the celestial kingdom (D&C 131; 132) comes from the additional light of the Restoration as found in Joseph Smith?s vision of the glories in heaven (D&C 76). From these latter-day revelations, we learn that all but the sons of perdition are ?saved? to a kingdom of glory, whereas those who inherit the highest glory in God?s celestial kingdom are ?exalted? ? The Prophet Joseph Smith called exaltation ?the fullness of salvation,? which is obtained only by abiding the celestial law and ?going through with all those ordinances [of the temple]? (6:184).