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
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
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
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.
Lake City: Deseret Book, 1998), 53
|Hyrum Smith: If I thought
I should be saved, and any in the congregation be lost, I should not
|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.
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
|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
|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
|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,"
29, no. 3 (Summer 1989), 45