In my previous article on Growth, I mentioned that God was perfect, and as such did not grow, unlike us. This raises the question, what does eternal progression mean?
Far too often, we misunderstand the relationship between growth in this mortal life, and eternal increase. As pointed out previously, our bodies are not necessary for, and even interfere with our mental and spiritual growth. God grants us growth and perfects us. Thus because of this, divine growth is neither slow nor gradual; it is immediate and complete.
An example of this is when a man first finds Christ in his life. Anyone who as been truly converted can say without a doubt, that the Lord freed them from their sins. When one is freed from the bondage of sin, it is not a slow gradual thing. One is either free or in bondage, there is no state of half bondage. One is either clean or unclean, there is no such thing as partially filthy.
Likewise God cleanses, perfects, and sanctifies all of his children in an instant, as soon as they accept the prerequisite conditions to become so. It is a quantum leap in change, not a gradual increase. Perfection is not a long sought out eventual goal. It is granted, as stated in Moroni 7, through Christ. While true perfection is not possible in this life, it is easily granted in the resurrection.
In fact as stated before, the prerequisites for living in the Kingdoms of glory are cleanliness, perfection, and holiness. We need to be in that state prior to receiving our final inheritance.
Now if we look to the scriptures, neither the words “eternal progress” nor the words “eternal increase” are found anywhere in the standard works. In fact, the word progress itself is used only six times simply to denote a moving forward in a journey, or the growth of the church. It has nothing to do with the eternal.
So where does this idea come from? What does it mean, and who does it apply to? These are all very important and serious questions. The term “eternal progression” appears to have been originally coined by Brigham Young. But regardless of where the term comes from we can look at the words themselves to understand how and to who it applies.
As stated before, Eternal is the name of god. As such, one can in replace the word Eternal with “Divine” or “God-like” to gain a greater understanding of what it means. For example Eternal marriage is a divine marriage, or a marriage that is the same as His. Eternal Life is a life similar to His, and so on and so forth. Thus Eternal progression, is to progress as He does.
Thus it clearly applies to those that are on the same level as Him, namely those of a Celestial glory. Likewise since He is perfect and holy, there is no issue of growing or gaining, as he has all knowledge, power and also owns the universe. How He progresses is fundamentally an issue of progressing in one's journey towards a goal, the goal of raising progeny and creating worlds without end. As Joseph Smith himself taught “...God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children.”
President Joseph Fielding Smith put it aptly “Do you not see that it is in this manner that our Eternal Father is progressing? Not by seeking knowledge which he does not have, for such a thought cannot be maintained in the light of scripture. It is not through ignorance and learning hidden truth that he progresses, for if there are truths which he does not know, then these things are greater than he, and this cannot be. Why can't we learn wisdom and believe what the Lord has revealed?”
Here we can clearly see that there is no focus on personal growth, as that is fundamentally a selfish thing. Is not my studying and becoming smarter simply about self? God has moved beyond such trifles, and instead is a source of light to all.
So too must we move past this mentality of eternally trying to get better. While it is important for us to try to better ourselves in this world, it is not the focus of the eternities and as such should not be our focus here as well. That is a Telestial mindset at best. As stated before those of a celestial mindset live for others and forget themselves as Jesus did.
Doing as He did is an important key to understand Eternal increase. Joseph Smith stated further “What did Jesus do? Why I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself.”
From this we clearly see that our raising up a kingdom via the increase of our progeny is the key to progression. We raise up seed unto Him, and commit our kingdom unto Him. Progress in this fashion, is no different than the progress of generations. The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the grandfather who is then glorified by the posterity of his sons and daughters.
Thus it is that we are able to achieve these higher exaltations, which exaltations are subsets of the Celestial Glory, continuing to infinity, each patterned after the last, but greater and more glorious.
It is a fractal pattern, each individual in the Celestial glory being unique and different despite following after the same pattern. This glory is not something we can comprehend without seeing the eternities for ourselves.
What He has in store for us is so great that it cannot be uttered by man, but we can see even the smallest beginnings of that glory in our own homes. It is in the home where love is born. It is there that purpose is found. It is there that the eternities are mirrored.
Eternal progression or Eternal Increase can also be stated to be the only true and Eternal purpose. Beyond salvation and perfection, it is the holy and sacred crown of All. Thus we need to take responsibility and treat the home with the the reverence and respect that it deserves.
All too often we get caught up in whatever activities that we have in our lives that distracts from the real purposes that are right in front of our face. If we cannot take care of our families now, and if we do not seek after the welfare of our own seed, then how could we possibly care for progeny in the world to come?
The Lord is there for us, and seeks to raise us up to Him. But we must do as He does and lose ourselves in the service to our family. For he that is greatest of all is the servant of all. If we do these things and use the powers and dominions granted to us to protect and serve those for whom we are responsible, then I know that we can have the joy of having posterity in the eternities to follow, of this I testify, Amen.