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Eternal Progress

Latter-day Saints have differed in their views on whether people will be able to progress beyond the degree of glory they inherit in the resurrection. Is a place in the telestial or terrestrial kingdom an irrevocable consignment, or could inhabitants advance in time to the celestial kingdom? At stake in this question is our understanding of divine love and human potential. Would our Heavenly Parents ever write off their children as beyond hope of change? Are people ever beyond hope of change? An optimistic view says no. Joseph Smith's revelations lend support to the idea that our Heavenly Parents' labors will not end until they are reunited with every one of their children (D&C 29:28-30; 121:32).

The Saints have likewise disagreed about whether God continues to progress. The idea that God's power and knowledge are not absolute is disturbing to many because it implies that God is fallible. But for several 19th-century LDS teachers, the concept that God progresses was the basis for believing in their own boundless growth. If God progresses, then all reality is in a process of open-ended becoming. We have the potential to act as God's colleagues: co-workers in the fullest sense and equal participants in the heavenly councils. In this vision, our unique life experiences equip us to contribute equally unique gifts and insights to the divine work—gifts and insights that perhaps not even God could contribute.

Endless Growth and Advancement

Joseph Smith: All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement and improvement.
"The King Follett Discourse: A Newly Amalgamated Text," BYU Studies 18, no. 2 (Winter 1978), 204

B. H. Roberts: Intelligence, purity, truth, will always remain with us relative terms and also relative qualities. Ascend to what heights you may, ever beyond you will be other heights in respect of these things, and ever as you ascend more heights will appear, and it is doubtful if we shall ever attain the absolute in respect of these qualities. Our joy will be the joy of approximating them, of attaining unto ever increasing excellence, without attaining the absolute.

Defense of the Faith and the Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1907), 1:529

David O. McKay: A man's idea of the significance of the words "eternal progression" will largely determine his philosophy of life. . . . The great secret of human happiness lies in progression. Stagnation means death.

Pathways to Happiness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1957), 237, 240

Gordon B. Hinckley: Heaven lies in the growth that comes of improvement and achievement.

What of the Mormons? (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1947), 24

Chieko N. Okazaki: Our Father in Heaven . . . does not want inferiors. He wants partners.

Disciples (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 53

Universal Salvation

Hyrum Smith: If I thought I should be saved, and any in the congregation be lost, I should not be happy.
Times and Seasons, August 1, 1844, 597-598

James E. Talmage: It is reasonable to believe . . . that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for.
The Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1899), 420-421

John A. Widtsoe: God is not a partial Father; each child is alike in his love. Since the plan of salvation is for all, it is fully consummated only when it has been accepted by all.
Conference Report, October 1936, 98

John A. Widtsoe: The divine purpose goes on rapidly when we cooperate; slowly when we oppose. In the end, the purposes of the Almighty will be fulfilled, for He has eternity in His keeping, and can wait, with loving assistance, while man works out his own destiny by the exercise of his free agency. Thus man gains in strength, and moves upward.
An Understandable Religion (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1944), 195-196

God's Eternal Progress

Brigham Young: According to [one] theory, God can progress no further in knowledge and power; but the God that I serve is progressing eternally, and so are his children: they will increase to all eternity, if they are faithful.
Journal of Discourses 11:286-287

Wilford Woodruff: If there was a point where man in his progression could not proceed any further, the very idea would throw a gloom over every intelligent and reflecting mind. God himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power, and dominion, and will do so, worlds without end. It is just so with us.
Journal of Discourses 6:120

B. H. Roberts: God's immutability should not be so understood as to exclude the idea of advancement or progress of God. . . . And is it too bold a thought, that with this progress, even for the Mightiest, new thoughts, and new vistas may appear, inviting to new adventures and enterprises that will yield new experiences, advancement, and enlargement even for the Most High?
Seventy's Course in Theology (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1907-1912), 4:69-70

B. H. Roberts: To this Supreme Intelligence are the other intelligences necessary. He without them cannot be perfect, nor they without him. There is community of interest between them; also of love and brotherhood; and hence community of effort for mutual good, for progress, for attainment of the highest possible.
A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), 2:399

Eugene England: I realize that thinking of God as genuinely progressing and therefore in some sense less than absolutely perfect is fearful. I feel that fear—that ultimate insecurity— myself when I think there is no source of all the answers, no final bulwark against all danger, and frustration, and change, and loss, nothing to prevent even God from weeping. But Enoch tells us that God does indeed weep (Moses 7:28) . . . I must accept the witness of the Prophet Joseph that the universe is ultimately open, an invitation to adventure and change . . .
"Perfection and Progression: Two Complementary Ways To Talk About God,"
BYU Studies 29, no. 3 (Summer 1989), 45

This website is an independent effort to discern the Spirit's voice in LDS teaching. The site is not sponsored by the LDS Church. Quotations from the teachings of any individual should not be taken to imply that the individual does or would endorse this website or other statements made here.