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The Mormon doctrine of exaltation is that we can become like God is, and in essence, attain godhood. This has sometimes been summarized, "As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may become." I understand that this means, in part, that a believer can become his own "God" and ruler of his own world.

  1. Under what circumstances does a believer become his own "God" and ruler of his own world? Is that world their own planet?

  2. What is the LDS scriptural backing for this doctrine? (I'm pretty sure it is not in the Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox canon, but I do suspect it is somewhere in the Book of Mormon or D&C. If I wanted to read the primary source of the doctrine, where would I go?)

  3. Is there an "alternate universe" with other gods and sentient beings? What is the nature of this "alternate universe" or world?

    • Is such a world a physical planet, an alternate universe, or something else?

    • Is this promotion to divinity concurrent with our timeline?

    • Is this world or universe something that interacts with our own? In other words, could we communicate a denizen of such a place using purely natural or physical means (rather than "divine" or "spiritual" means)? (For example, assuming we somehow had the technology to transcend light-years of distance with instantaneous communication, would we be able to speak with them?) Would a denizen of one of these "other universes" be able to interact with ours?

    • Are there already other such universes in existence, or is our God the first?

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Wait, they get their own planet??? –  Sȱɳɨȼ Ʈħe ǶḝÐɠḝħȱɠ Apr 10 '13 at 16:40
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"The idea of Exaltation" is actually official LDS doctrine that led to the rest, not the other way around. –  Mason Wheeler Apr 10 '13 at 16:51
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@Matt That's what I'm asking you to correct (and I'd like to think I made that abundantly clear!) –  Affable Geek Apr 10 '13 at 16:53
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It's worth noting that a good, concise explanation of Exaltation is very difficult to give, as it's basically the highest point of LDS doctrine, and to understand it well--beyond a brief overview that's more of a caricature than anything actually useful--requires an understanding of a lot of other doctrine first. You would get a better explanation by speaking with LDS missionaries, (who do explain Exaltation, after building up to it in a well-structured manner,) than by looking for specific answers here without laying the groundwork. "Line upon line, precept upon precept." (Isaiah 28:10) –  Mason Wheeler Apr 10 '13 at 17:50
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Good Question. In my experience this aspect of Mormonism is what causes so many evangelicals to classify it as nonchristian. –  Dougvj Apr 10 '13 at 17:57
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2 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Matt already addressed the aspect of exaltation and its meaning. I will add a little to answer the third question.

In the Pearl of Great Price, A compilation of ancient revelations restored through Joseph Smith and currently considered canon, we read in the Book of Moses Chapter 1:29-30

And he [Moses] beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?

Further in Verses 33-35 we read:

And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many. But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

These verses form a canonical basis for belief in extraterrestrial intelligence in Mormonism. The doctrine of exaltation is indepedent from this belief, it is more explicit than implicit in this case. However, all of this is reference to God's creations and God's heavens, His greatness and glory, not those of some other theoretical being.

The existence of other inhabited worlds that are not created by God are implied by the doctrine of exaltation, but are never explicitly stated. As to the nature of these other implied realms, we don't have any idea and to speculate is not appropriate.

It is clear, however, that according to Mormon doctrine:

  • There are other inhabited worlds (presumably in our own universe) created by God. Not some implied other god, but our God.
  • Our God, according to revelation in Mormon theology, has created everything in the observable universe. This is supported by the Book of Abraham, certain passages in the Book of Mormon, as well as statements by Modern Prophets.
  • The nature or explicit existence of other universes or "worlds" not created by God is not revealed to us in Mormon Theology, as it detracts from the focus on God, Christ and his Atonement, His goodness and mercy in creating the Plan of Salvation for us.
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+1 for the last point. It can be fun to speculate about cosmic questions, but in the end they don't do anything useful for our salvation, and can distract us from what's really important. Anyone studying the deeper points of LDS theology really ought to keep the warning implicit in Jacob 4:14 in mind, and remember that it can apply to anyone, not just the ancient Jews it's specifically talking about there. –  Mason Wheeler Apr 10 '13 at 19:17
    
"There are other inhabited worlds in our own universe" - does "world" here mean "planet"? –  Alypius Apr 11 '13 at 2:25
    
+1 although I'll point out that nowhere does it say that these worlds are in "our universe". It just says "other worlds". –  Dave DeLong Apr 11 '13 at 3:31
    
@DaveDeLong You're right it's not explicit. The problem is our abuse of the meaning of the word "universe." I edited this to appear less authoritative. –  Dougvj Apr 11 '13 at 5:35
    
"we don't have any idea and to speculate is not appropriate." Why would it be inappropriate to speculate on this topic? –  fredsbend Aug 22 '13 at 20:37
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Before we dive into the answers, we need to understand the Mormon perspective on the doctrine of exaltation.

The focus of all LDS teaching is on salvation through Christ and His Atonement. Exaltation is all about bringing us back to Christ and to know Him by becoming like Him. Exaltation is not "getting your own planet." That phrase is foreign to Mormons. The Gospel Principles manual says:

Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.

And with exaltation come these things as some blessings:

Our Heavenly Father is perfect, and He glories in the fact that it is possible for His children to become like Him. His work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

Those who receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ will receive special blessings. The Lord has promised, “All things are theirs” (D&C 76:59). These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:

  1. They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62).
  2. They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23).
  3. They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase.
  4. They will receive a fulness of joy.
  5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20). President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The Father has promised through the Son that all that he has shall be given to those who are obedient to His commandments. They shall increase in knowledge, wisdom, and power, going from grace to grace, until the fulness of the perfect day shall burst upon them” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:36; italics in original).

Exaltation is a broad and deep topic of LDS doctrine, much of which can only be learned, as the LDS believe, by revelation and attending the temple and receiving those ordinances. It is sacred to them.

With that in mind, remember that the teaching of any speculation or topic not directly relevant to our salvation is discouraged in the LDS church. You know how it can be: opinions or ideas get taught in class or over the pulpit, and maybe get misconstrued as truth, then all of a sudden you have congregations teaching and absorbing false doctrine, and their focus is removed from the Atonement of Christ.

So as far as I know, there is no official doctrine in the LDS church at this time which directly answers your third question. The LDS would probably say, "We don't know. It hasn't been revealed." Any other attempted answer would merely be speculation based on reasoning and maybe science, but not on the revelations from God which the LDS would require in order to account it as doctrine.

But your first two questions have more secure answers:

1. In the same chapter in that manual referenced above, it says

To be exalted, we first must place our faith in Jesus Christ and then endure in that faith to the end of our lives. Our faith in Him must be such that we repent of our sins and obey His commandments.

He commands us all to receive certain ordinances:

  1. We must be baptized.
  2. We must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  3. Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.
  4. We must receive the temple endowment.
  5. We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.

In addition to receiving the required ordinances, the Lord commands all of us to:

  1. Love God and our neighbors.
  2. Keep the commandments.
  3. Repent of our wrongdoings.
  4. Search out our kindred dead and receive the saving ordinances of the gospel for them.
  5. Attend our Church meetings as regularly as possible so we can renew our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament.
  6. Love our family members and strengthen them in the ways of the Lord.
  7. Have family and individual prayers every day.
  8. Teach the gospel to others by word and example.
  9. Study the scriptures.
  10. Listen to and obey the inspired words of the prophets of the Lord.

Finally, each of us needs to receive the Holy Ghost and learn to follow His direction in our individual lives.

2. From the same source as above, there are some scriptures referenced:

  • D&C 132:3–4, 16–26, 37 (pertaining to exaltation)
  • D&C 131:1–4 (eternal marriage is key to exaltation)
  • D&C 76:59–70 (blessings of celestial glory explained)
  • D&C 84:20–21 (the power of godliness is manifest through priesthood ordinances)

I was going to quote them, but it got kind of long. You can read them here.

There are also more scriptures to be found in the Bible and other books. A satisfying, but perhaps not comprehensive list, can be found in the Topical Guide under "Exaltation."

I would not expect this answer to satisfy some of the readers. Mason Wheeler has already explained, in the comments, the reason for this, and I will quote it here for emphasis, because I would suggest the same in this case:

It's worth noting that a good, concise explanation of Exaltation is very difficult to give, as it's basically the highest point of LDS doctrine, and to understand it well--beyond a brief overview that's more of a caricature than anything actually useful--requires an understanding of a lot of other doctrine first. You would get a better explanation by speaking with LDS missionaries, (who do explain Exaltation, after building up to it in a well-structured manner,) than by looking for specific answers here without laying the groundwork. "Line upon line, precept upon precept." (Isaiah 28:10)

(On a personal note, I often do this type of thing in my studies. For example, if I wanted to learn calculus but only knew arithmetic, I wouldn't go check out a calculus book and expect to understand it. I visit with professors and practice the problems on my own until I can grasp the more advanced concepts.)

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@Matt This is an excellent answer, and I don't want you to take my green check mark on the other as any kind of negatory. The primary reason for choosing the other is that it does sort of hit more on Question 3, which was my curiosity. I also understand (now) why it is not a doctrine that front and center in the advertising - and that helps a lot. This really was helpful to me, and I thank you for it. –  Affable Geek Apr 10 '13 at 20:54
    
That's fine. I personally prefer the variety of answers rather than a single answer to (difficult) questions. That's what makes Stack Exchange sites awesome. –  Matt Apr 10 '13 at 21:15
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