The Prophet Joseph Smith approached the stand in the grove behind the Nauvoo Temple—it was 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 7, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois. He would be addressing the largest gathering ever of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.1 The general conference talk he gave that Sunday afternoon has become known as the "King Follett Discourse"2 and is universally believed to be the most significant sermon ever delivered by the Prophet during his ministry.3 What was unique about the talk was not the novelty of the doctrines presented; in fact, the key points had all been taught at various times previous to 1844. Instead, the significance of the King Follett Discourse lies in the fact that in it the Prophet Joseph provided a systematic overview of doctrines touching upon God, human nature, and the human potential for exaltation—godhood. The LDS researcher Van Hale has documented the four key principles contained in the discourse:
The Prophet Joseph structured his presentation of these principles by describing first the nature and personality of God, then human origins and destiny, and finally the person of Christ and his role in making possible the exaltation of human persons. This methodology for ordering content will also be used in this chapter to present an overview of the doctrine of exaltation as taught by the LDS Church, a doctrine which teaches of the divine potential of the human person.
What kind of being is God? The Prophet Joseph opens the King Follett discourse by posing this question and parenthetically remarks, foreshadowing his later comments in the address, that without knowledge of the nature of God, human persons will not accurately understand their own identities.5 God, most commonly referred to in LDS discourse as "our Heavenly Father," is an exalted or divinized man.6 In the Discourse the Prophet Joseph had this to say:
God Himself who sits enthroned in yonder heavens is a Man like unto one of yourselves—that is the great secret! . . . For I am going to tell you how God came to be God and what sort of a being He is. For we have imagined that God was God from the beginning of all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil so you may see. . . . The first principle of truth and of the Gospel is to know for a certainty the character of God, and that . . . He once was a man like one of us and that God Himself, the Father of us all, once dwelled on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did in the flesh and like us.7
In other words, God attained the perfections of divinity through a process of progression; He is of the same species as human persons.8
As does Christ, God possesses a resurrected and glorified body of flesh and bones.9 He is not extratemporal or -spatial; God does not exist outside of space and time, but, like us, lives within the space-time continuum.10 As an exalted being, God possesses all perfections; he is omnipotent and omniscient.11 The last point needs to be emphasized. The belief that God is an exalted man, that at some point eons ago he was as human as we are today, in no way implies that now he is less than fully divine.
Joseph Smith's teachings about the Deity in no way suggest that God is a finite being. Eloheim [God the Father] is an exalted man, but he possesses in their fulness the attributes of Godhead. . . . Simply because God has not always been God, it need not follow that he is not now a possessor of that fulness of light, truth, and glory that constitute him as infinite.12
Because of the infinite nature of God's love, he desired to share his love and divine life with others. Thus, prior to the existence of this universe as we know it, God produced spirit children.
God and the Heavenly Mother, God's eternal companion, bore spirit children in their own image and likeness.13 Thus, these children are gendered—male and female—in the likeness of their divine parents. But to understand fully this teaching, one first has to take into account the revelations of the Prophet Joseph which speak of and describe the nature of matter and intelligence.
Intelligence, the essential core or essence of the human person, is eternal and uncreated.14 The following is from the King Follett Discourse:
The mind of man—the intelligent part—is as immortal as, and is coequal with, God himself. I know my testimony is true. . . . Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle . . . there is no creation about it.15
Likewise, matter, the material substrate of the universe, is eternal and uncreated.16 Matter, though, exists in one of two forms: spirit matter, which is invisible to the unaided human eye, and physical, or tangible, matter, which is visible to the unaided human eye.
There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.17
What occurred, then, when these Heavenly Parents produced spirit children, is that they provided spirit bodies for intelligences by organizing preexistent matter.18 These bodies are material realities but, insofar as they are spirit bodies, composed of spirit matter, they would not be visible to unaided human vision. This event, whereby intelligences are clothed with spirit bodies and become conscious personalities, can be referred to as a spirit birth.19
All human persons who have ever been born on this earth, or who will be born, were first born of divine parents as described above and lived with them prior to their life on earth. This of course means that all human persons—past, present, and future—are literally brothers and sisters to one another because they are all the spirit children of God and his eternal companion. The firstborn of these Heavenly Parents is Jesus Christ, known prior to his life on earth as Jehovah. And thus, Jesus Christ is literally the elder brother to all human persons.20
Just as children born to earthly parents have the inborn potential to grow up and develop into the image and likeness of their human parents, so too all human persons, because of their divine heritage, have the inborn potential to grow and become as their Heavenly Parents: divine, perfected, exalted persons, or in other words, gods.21 The Heavenly Parents of all humanity knew, however, that their spirit children could not continue their progression and attain exaltation—godhood—if they remained where and as they were;22 and so God called a "grand council" and presented to his spirit offspring a plan whereby they could eventually become as he is, an exalted being.23
God presented to his children, gathered together with him and his eternal companion, a plan of salvation for their consideration. This plan was to be the means by which God's spirit children could continue their growth and development and thus attain exaltation. A world would be created—this earth—where they would be born of mortal, human parents and receive a body of flesh and bones. A veil of forgetfulness would come over them and they would not remember their premortal lives with their Heavenly Parents. All this would occur so that their obedience could be tested while in mortality. Mortal life would be a probationary state where through free choices and character development they could demonstrate their worthiness to return to the presence of their Heavenly Parents and continue their progression—a progression which has as its goal exaltation, becoming exalted personages like their Heavenly Parents.24
In this grand council God also told his spirit children that the first mortal parents (Adam and Eve) would transgress; sin and mortality would enter the world, and hence a redeemer would be necessary. Two of God's children volunteered to serve as the world's redeemer: Jesus Christ, the first-born and eldest of all, and Lucifer, another spirit-child. Although Lucifer proposed to redeem all of God's children it would have come about through the removal of free will; Lucifer also wanted to get glory for himself in the process. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, sought only to glorify God and to be obedient to the designs of his Heavenly Parents.
Ultimately, God chose Jesus Christ to serve as the savior and redeemer of the world. One third of all God's spirit children, however, took the side of Lucifer and rebelled against God. A war in heaven ensued; Lucifer and the rebellious spirits were finally cast out of their Heavenly Parents' celestial home to a place utterly lacking in glory or light—outer darkness. In punishment for their disobedience their progression towards exaltation was stopped short. They will not have the privilege of receiving a mortal body and experiencing life on earth.25
When the universe and this earth were brought into being it was at the command of God, under the direction of Jesus Christ. He organized the eternal and preexisting elements and fashioned all that is visible in the cosmos.26 A key point to keep in mind is that prior to this creative activity Jesus Christ had attained exaltation and become a god.27 At this point it will be helpful to describe the doctrine of the Godhead—that divine presidency which governs our universe.
The Godhead is composed of three separate and distinct persons: God, the Eternal Father; Jesus Christ (called Jehovah prior to his mortal ministry); and the Holy Ghost. Each of these persons is a god.28 While both God and Jesus Christ have resurrected and glorified bodies of flesh and bone, the Holy Ghost is a male personage and possesses a spirit body.29 The Godhead is spoken of as the one God because they are perfectly united in will.
Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are called the Godhead. They are unified in purpose. Each has an important assignment in the plan of salvation. Our Heavenly Father is our Father and ruler. Jesus Christ is our Savior. The Holy Ghost is the revealer and testifies of all truth.30
Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages . . . are called God the First, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator.31
It is perfect unity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that binds these three into the oneness of the divine Godhead.32
On June 16, 1844, the Prophet Joseph Smith, in the last sermon he gave prior to his martyrdom, spoke of the Godhead:
I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.33
Thus, while the three divine persons who make up the Godhead are separate and ontologically distinct, and can be described as three Gods, because of their perfect unity of purpose they are the one God, the one Godhead. In practice, LDS are strict monotheists: they worship God the Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Ghost.34
The very heart of the LDS doctrine of exaltation centers on the person of Jesus Christ.
Latter-day Saints believe that complete salvation is possible only through the life, death, resurrection, doctrines, and ordinances of Jesus Christ and in no other way.35
Through the infinite atonement which he accomplished at the close of his mortal ministry Christ made it possible for all the spirit sons and daughters of God to continue to progress and receive the blessings of exaltation. But before examining more closely the sacrificial work of Christ, the question needs to be answered, from what was Christ redeeming humanity? In other words, what occurred that blocked human progression towards exaltation? Quite simply, physical death and spiritual death.
The mortal parents of all humanity, Adam and Eve, transgressed God's command while in the Garden of Eden and so incurred the penalty of death—both spiritual and physical. Spiritual death refers to separation from God while physical death refers to the separation of body and spirit.36 Physical death, and all that is associated with it, such as the possibility for illness and suffering, was transmitted to all human persons.37 All persons born into this world eventually suffer the separation of their bodies from their spirits. And since exaltation involves becoming like God, who possesses a glorified body, to end up in a state of separation from one's body is an obstacle to progression that a person is helpless to overcome. This first barrier to exaltation is further compounded by the reality of sin.
Personal sin involves the willful disobedience of a person towards the commands and person of God; the natural consequence of sin is thus separation from God. Because of our sins we cannot return to the presence of God, who is all holy and cannot tolerate sin to the least degree. As with physical death, this spiritual death, or separation from God, short-circuits our ability to progress towards exaltation. Essentially, what occurs in sinning is that we shape our characters in ways that are incompatible with living the kind of life that God lives.38 And the bad news of sin is that we are helpless to make reparation for our evil choices, to make the kind of infinite atonement necessary to return to God's presence.39
However, when speaking on the subject of sin, it needs to be emphasized that according to LDS doctrine the descendents of Adam and Eve do not inherit their guilt or sin; the original transgression of Adam and Eve is imputed to them alone. Human persons are only guilty for their own personal sins. In view of the foreseen merits of Christ, Adam and Eve were forgiven after they had repented of their original transgression. Furthermore, because of the merits of Christ's atonement, all persons born into the world are born in a saved state. In other words, through the grace of Christ's atoning sacrifice the "original sin" of Adam and Eve does not touch or affect any other person. Sin only becomes a reality in a child's life when it has reached the age of accountability (age 8) and can freely choose for itself between good and evil; prior to reaching this age of accountability little children are natural heirs of exaltation.40
Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God . . . wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, and it hath no power over them. . . . But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world.41
Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.42
Thus, LDS doctrine rejects any notion of "original sin" which imputes spiritual death—separation from God—to infants and children for acts which are not their own.43
It is Christ, then, who is the Savior and the one who redeems humanity from sin and death. As was noted above, Christ was ordained and chosen by God before the world existed to serve as its redeemer. And Christ was able to make an infinite atonement to God because he is the only person born into mortality who was both human and divine.44 As was also noted previously, Christ attained godhood prior to his mortal birth. Moreover, he is the only begotten of the Father in the flesh.
Latter-day Saint scripture affirms unequivocally that the birth of Jesus Christ was the mortal advent on earth of an actual God, a second distinct member of the Godhead.45
God the Father became the literal father of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal father. That is why he is called the Only Begotten Son. From his mother he inherited mortality and was subject to hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, and death. He inherited divine powers from his Father. No one could take the Savior's life from him unless He willed it. He had power to lay it down and power to take up his body again after dying.46
The actual atoning sacrifice of Christ began in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ suffered to the point of sweating blood, and was completed on Calvary, when Christ sacrificed his life for the redemption of humanity.47 Thus, Christ's suffering and death overcomes the barrier of sin while his glorious bodily resurrection ensures that all persons will have their bodies restored to them in a glorified, perfected state.48 The question now becomes, how does this atonement, accomplished by Christ, become effective in the lives of human persons? To answer this question, which deals with the means whereby human persons can continue on the path of progression towards exaltation, one must turn to an examination of the saving ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The ordinances (or sacraments) of the gospel are sacred rites or ceremonies.49 Some can be categorized as ordinances of exaltation, insofar as they are necessary means whereby the grace of Christ is communicated to human persons so that they can attain exaltation, while others can be described as ordinances of healing or comfort, insofar as they are not essential to a person's progression and attainment of exaltation.50 What is of interest here are the former, those ordinances required for exaltation: baptism, confirmation, the endowment, and marriage for time and eternity.51
After a person has come to faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ52 and has repented of all wrongdoing, baptism by immersion, by one possessing valid priesthood authority, can be administered. It should be noted that the ordinance of baptism is only given to persons who have reached the age of accountability (age 8). Through baptism all sins are forgiven and a person becomes a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.53 Because it is the first ordinance that can be received, baptism is often described as the gateway to the celestial kingdom, that is, the highest kingdom of heaven wherein one's progression towards exaltation can take place.54
Soon after baptism, oftentimes immediately after baptism, a person will receive the ordinance of confirmation. Confirmation is administered by the laying on of hands by men possessing valid priesthood authority. Two things occur as a result of confirmation: a person has his or her membership in the LDS Church "confirmed" and he or she is given the gift of the Holy Ghost.55 This gift entitles a person who lives a worthy life to the right to receive "guidance and inspiration from the Holy Ghost."56
The final two ordinances necessary for exaltation, the endowment and marriage for time and eternity, can only be performed in "houses of the Lord," that is, temples of the LDS Church.57 Only adults—baptized and confirmed members of the LDS Church—who are morally worthy can gain admission to a temple to receive their endowment or be married.58 The exact content of the endowment is never talked about or discussed outside of a temple because of the sacred nature of this ordinance. However, Elder James E. Talmage, an apostle of the LDS Church, has published an authoritative overview of the endowment which, although a bit lengthy, provides the basic information needed to appreciate its significance.
The temple endowment, as administered in modern temples, comprises instruction relating to the significance and sequence of past dispensations, and the importance of the present as the greatest and grandest era in human history. This course of instruction includes a recital of the most prominent events of the creative period, the condition of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience and consequent expulsion from that blissful abode, their condition in the lone and dreary world when doomed to live by labor and sweat, the plan of redemption by which the great transgression may be atoned, the period of the great apostasy, the restoration of the gospel with all its ancient powers and privileges, the absolute and indispensable conditions of personal purity and devotion to the right in the present life, and a strict compliance with gospel requirements. . . . The ordinances of the endowment embody certain obligations on the part of the individual, such as covenant and promise to observe the law of strict virtue and chastity, to be charitable, benevolent, tolerant and pure; to devote both talent and material means to the spread of truth and the uplifting of the race; to maintain devotion to the cause of truth; and to seek in every way to contribute to the great preparation that the earth may be made ready to receive her King, the Lord Jesus. With the taking of each covenant and the assuming of each obligation a promised blessing is pronounced, contingent upon the faithful observance of the conditions.59
After a person has received his or her endowment, the final ordinance needed for exaltation is marriage, specifically a temple marriage.
Marriages performed outside LDS temples typically will have as part of the exchange of vows something to the effect of "until death do us part"—not so with an LDS temple marriage. A marriage solemnized in a temple, with the officiant being a man validly possessing the priesthood and the sealing power, will last not only until death, but for all eternity as well.60 Hence, temple marriages are often referred to as eternal marriages. Moreover, children born to a couple who have been married in the temple are automatically "sealed" for time and all eternity to their parents. This means that families and family relationships can be eternal. Through a temple marriage, not only is the marriage relationship eternal, but the relationships between parents and children are eternal as well.61 If baptism is the gateway or entrance into the celestial kingdom (the highest kingdom of heaven), then an eternal marriage is the gateway or entrance into the highest level of the celestial kingdom, wherein human progression can reach fruition and exaltation can be attained.62
The significance of eternal marriage cannot be overstated. The unit of exaltation—human divinization—is not an individual but a married couple, a man and a woman.63 And herein lies the meaning of the pattern and example set by the Heavenly Parents of humanity. Just as God is not single or solitary, but has an eternal companion, the Heavenly Mother, with whom he produced spirit offspring, so it will be with those persons who attain exaltation, or godhood. For an eternally married couple to be exalted, to become gods, means attaining the perfection and capacities which their Heavenly Parents already possess, including the capacity to organize matter and produce spirit offspring.64
Our exaltation depends on marriage. . . . Heavenly Father has given us the law of eternal marriage so we can become like him. We must live this law to have spirit children. . . . We learned [in the Grand Council] that if we followed his plan, we would have all power in heaven and on earth; we would become heavenly parents and have spirit children just as he does.65
The ability of an exalted couple to enlarge their family by having spirit children is most commonly referred to as the blessing of eternal increase.66 And it is precisely by gaining the experience of being a parent in mortality, together with one's eternal companion, that one begins to learn how to be a heavenly parent.67
The attainment of exaltation is, however, not just a matter of receiving the requisite ordinances. A person must "endure to the end,"68 or in other words, develop through their choices and good works a righteous and godly character. Of course, this raises the thorny issue of exactly how human salvation is accomplished. Is exaltation attained through grace or through human works? Is it a free gift that comes through the atonement of Christ or must it be earned? Although often characterized as being a program of "salvation by works," LDS doctrine in fact teaches that salvation is not an either-or proposition. It is not either grace or good works, but rather both grace and good works.
Too often we fail to recognize the invaluable reconciliation of the grace-works issue in the Book of Mormon. Stated simply, grace is a necessary but insufficient condition; works is a necessary but insufficient condition; the works of man (those things we can do), when coupled with the grace of God (those things only the Lord can do), are sufficient for salvation. . . . It is misleading to suggest that Joseph Smith and the Saints forsook the doctrine of salvation by grace in favor of a view of exaltation by works. . . . The inspired translation of Romans 4:16 points up the mandatory union of divine assistance and individual deeds: "Therefore ye are justified of faith and works, through grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed."69
Ultimately, then, no one can experience the fullness of salvation, or be exalted, without the grace that comes through the atonement of Christ; yet the atonement of Christ will be of no worth to a person if that person does not accept it, an acceptance that is made manifest through human cooperation, through which people "bring to pass much righteousness."70
The growth and progression that a person experiences both in the premortal existence and in mortality (earth life) will continue even after death. Ultimately all persons who have ever lived on the earth will, through the grace of Christ's atonement and bodily resurrection, experience the resurrection of their own bodies. Then, at the final judgment, when human history as we know it on this earth will end, almost all the spirit children of God will be assigned a degree of glory.71 However, Lucifer, the rebellious spirit children who were cast out of heaven during the premortal existence, as well as those persons who "had testimonies of Jesus through the Holy Ghost and knew the power of the Lord" but nevertheless "denied the truth," will not be assigned a degree of glory but will be cast into outer darkness—to be eternally miserable and unhappy.72
The lowest kingdom of glory is called the telestial kingdom. The persons assigned to this level of heaven are the unrepentant sinners who never accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ—either in mortality or in the postmortal world. Prior to entering the telestial kingdom, they will have to undergo an extensive period of suffering to atone for their own sins because they rejected the atoning sacrifice of Christ. All who are in this kingdom of glory will be visited by the Holy Ghost, but not by God the Father or Jesus Christ.73
The second kingdom of glory is called the terrestrial kingdom. This level of heaven will have in it two kinds of people: those who were members of the LDS Church but did not live in such a way that they could inherit the highest kingdom of glory and those who refused to accept the restored gospel of Jesus Christ while in mortality but did accept it in the postmortal world. Persons in the terrestrial kingdom will be visited by Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, but not by God the Father.74
The highest degree of glory is called the celestial kingdom. Those assigned to this kingdom of glory are children who died before the age of accountability (age 8), persons who were faithful and worthy members of the LDS Church, and, because they never had the possibility of joining the LDS Church in mortality, persons who accepted the gospel in the postmortal world. Persons in the celestial kingdom will live with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. There are, moreover, three levels within the celestial kingdom, and admittance to the highest level—which is the only level of glory in which a person can realize his or her capacity for exaltation—is dependent on having entered into an eternal marriage and living faithfully within the context of that relationship.75
All who inherit the telestial and terrestrial kingdoms will never be able to attain exaltation. Similarly, those in the two lower levels of the celestial kingdom will not attain exaltation precisely because they are saved as single persons; they did not enter into an eternal marriage, so their progression will be limited.76
The celestial kingdom will consist of God's heavenly family linked together in love as husbands and wives, parents and children, and brothers and sisters forever. As single individuals, human beings may be saved in lesser degrees of glory, but only families can be exalted.77
The ultimate destiny of all those who do not enter into the highest level of the celestial kingdom is to serve as angels or ministering servants to those who are found worthy to attain exaltation.78
Although it has been recorded in LDS scriptures that a few persons have already been exalted and attained godhood—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob79—it seems that most couples who inherit the highest level of the celestial kingdom will continue to progress for an unspecified amount of time before they perfect their potentiality, attain exaltation, and become as God is now.80 In the King Follett Discourse the Prophet Joseph stated:
When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel—you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil [died] before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave.81
Ultimately, those couples who are exalted become gods: omniscient beings with the capacity to organize matter into new universes, provide intelligence with spirit bodies and thus have spirit children, and offer these spirit children the possibility of exaltation.82
We must seek earnestly to obey every covenant that we make in the temple. The Lord has said that if we are true and faithful, we will pass by the angels to our exaltation. We will become gods.83
Those who receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ will receive special blessings. . . . They will become gods. . . . They will have their righteous family members with them and will be able to have spirit children also. These spirit children will have the same relationship to them as we do to our Heavenly Father. They will be an eternal family. . . . They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge.84
Every man who reigns in celestial glory is a God to his dominions.85
Thus, exalted couples, when they become gods, imitate and continue what was done for them by their own loving Heavenly Parents.
All human persons are of the same race as God the Father. To quote again from the Prophet Joseph Smith: "God himself who sits enthroned in yonder heavens is a Man like unto one of yourselves—that is the great secret!"86 As an exalted man, God has already succeeded and become a god and now desires to enable all his spirit children to attain the same rank and glory that he enjoys.87 As the literal offspring of God, all persons have innately a divine potential. And although the human essence is eternal and uncreated, every person is radically dependent on God, and specifically, on the atoning sacrifice of Christ, in the process of attaining salvation, a process which is aptly described in LDS scripture as "the great plan of happiness."88 In LDS doctrine, the fullness of salvation is, in fact, the fulfillment of our God-given potential—exaltation, to become a god.
To help concretize the doctrine of exaltation, consider the following image. Taken from official doctrinal expositions signed by President Joseph F. Smith (the sixth prophet of the LDS Church) and President Heber J. Grant (the seventh prophet of the LDS Church), this image underscores the ideas of growth and development.89 Think of an infant cradled by its parent. The infant and the parent are both human beings. Yet, from observation alone, apart from any other knowledge or experience, one would be hard-pressed if asked to prove this assertion. The infant and its parent look different, sound different, are amazingly unequal as to their abilities or actual capacities. Apart from some knowledge and experience, one could never guess that the infant has already the inborn capacity to grow and develop into the maturity and capacity of the adult parent. And although the child possesses, as a fact of its being, this innate capacity to grow up and thus possess for itself the already-possessed maturity of its parent, it is, nevertheless, utterly dependent on the love and providence of its parent for the realization of this potential.
In a similar way, the LDS doctrine of exaltation explains human salvation as being fundamentally about a process of human growth and progress. Being literal spirit children of divine parentage, all persons who come into this world possess already the capacity to grow up and become just like their Heavenly Parents—with all the same powers and abilities. But, as with the children we see every day, this growth and progress can only take place in radical dependence on the love and grace of God the Father, by freely accepting his "great plan of happiness," a plan whose heart and center is the person of Jesus Christ, whose atonement then enables us to attain the full measure of our existence—to become a god.