The Church at a Glance (Mormons)- (Special Presentation- "Far More Will be Exalted Than We Think")

Far More Will be Exalted Than We Think

Heavenly Father, a Successful Parent – BRM Sermons

[By Bruce R. McConkie (BRM), 1976;
from Robert L. Millet’s accounts of the BRM sermons;
includes Journal entries and some highlights and notes by R Eugene]
A glorious concept, declared by Bruce R. McConkie, is re-told by Bro. Robert Millet: “Far more of our Father’s Children will be exalted than we think”.

Before proceeding, we should be clear on Elder McConkie’s meaning of the word “exalted” and “exaltation”. His meaning is certain when viewed within the context of his sermon(s). To become exalted is to enjoy “exaltation in the highest heaven with Eternal Life”, which is the kind and quality of Life that the Father enjoys. His phrase, “more than we think” refers to our cultural tendency to under-estimate the number, among all of God’s Children, who will ultimately be exalted.

In these sermons, Elder McConkie clarifies another cultural tendency. We under-estimate the number among those of God’s gathered people who will, ultimately, be exalted. Again, “far more will exalted than we think”. To what extent may this exaltation be underestimated? Among certain select gatherings, Elder McConkie expressed his anticipation of exaltation that is universal. This, however, can only be understood in conjunction with Elder McConkie’s doctrine of “the Blessings of PreMortal Israel”.

These concepts were first taught by Elder McConkie, to a gathering of CES (Church Educational System) employees and spouses. The second sermon [1], at a BYU Fireside on 5 September 1976, was more general in approach, yet specific enough to confirm the concepts. Surely this subject-matter was upon Elder McConkie’s mind at the time.

The following is Bro Robert Millet’s account of the first event, addressing CES employees and spouses:

My orientation and my outlook on life changed in the fall of 1976. One night my wife, Shauna, and I gathered with about five hundred other teachers from the Church Educational System for an evening with Elder Bruce R. McConkie. We met in a chapel, at the institute of religion, near the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Because of his calling as a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, our admiration and respect for his gospel scholarship, and the meaningful occasions we had enjoyed with him before, we came to the meeting prepared to be filled. We were not disappointed. He spoke for about half an hour on the implications of the recent reorganization of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He spoke of priesthood, keys, and succession. Then he invited questions from the group. Some of the questions related to the seminary course of study for the year; others were about doctrinal matters in general. One question, and the answer that followed, changed my life; they affected the way I thereafter understood God, the plan of salvation, and how the gospel should be taught.

A young seminary teacher in the back of the chapel asked, in essence, “Elder McConkie, as you know, we are studying the New Testament in seminary this year. How do we keep our students from being discouraged (and how do we avoid discouragement ourselves) when we read in the scriptures that strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life and few there be that find it?”

I will never forget Elder McConkie’s powerful but totally unexpected answer. He stood up straight at the pulpit and said, “You tell your students that far more of our Father’s children will be exalted than we think!” A stunned silence was followed by the expelling of air (such as a person would experience when he has been hit in the stomach by a baseball bat), and then the

[1] Robert L. Millet was Dean of Religious Education, BYU, and Director of the Religious Studies Center when these two BRM sermons were delivered during the fall of 1976. See Are We There Yet, pp. 6-12, 2005 Deseret Book.

chapel erupted in guarded but animated chatter among the teachers. The seminary teacher rose to his feet again and said, “I don’t understand that. Could you please explain what you mean?” I’d be pleased to,” Elder McConkie said.
What followed was one of the most enlightening and eye-opening discussions I have ever been involved with. Thinking back, I suppose it lasted for twenty or thirty minutes. After this many years, it is obviously impossible to recall the exact words that were spoken, but I remember as if it were yesterday many of the important ideas that Elder McConkie sought to convey, and more particularly, what I felt. In substance and thought content and certainly in spirit, this is what was said:

Indeed, the scriptures speak often of a strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life and frequently emphasize that few of the sons and daughters of God will find their way to the end of that path. But these are scriptural passages that must be viewed in proper perspective. In the long run, we must ever keep in mind that our Father and God is a successful Parent, one who will save[1] far more of his children than he will lose. If that seems startling at first, we need to ponder for a moment.

In comparison to the number of wicked souls at any given time, the number of faithful followers may seem small. But what of the children who have died before the age of accountability – billions of little ones from the days of Adam to the time of the Second Coming, of whom the scriptures affirm that they are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven? (D&C 137:10). What of those through the ages who never had the opportunity to hear the message of salvation in this life but who (because of the yearnings in their heart for light and truth) will receive it in the post-mortal spirit world?
And, we might ask, “What of the hosts of the righteous who qualified for salvation from Enoch’s city, Melchizedek’s Salem, the golden era of the Nephites, or other holy societies of which we have no record? (D&C45:58 What of the countless billions of those children to be born during the glorious millennial era – a time when disease and death and sin as we know it have neither sting nor victory over human-kind?” This will be that time of which the revelations speak, when “children shall grow up without sin unto salvation” (D&C45:58.

Given the renewed and paradisiacal state of the earth, it may well be that more persons will live on the earth during the thousand years of our Lord’s reign – persons who are of at least a terrestrial nature – than the combined total of all who have lived during the previous six thousand years of the earth’s temporal existence. Indeed, Elder McConkie asked us, “Who can count the number of saved beings in eternity?” Our God, who is triumphant in all battles against the forces of evil, will surely be victorious in the numbers of his children who will be saved.

At that point, when we as a congregation were riding a spiritual high, Elder McConkie popped our balloon momentarily: ‘”But all of that doesn’t have much to do with you and me, does it?” [2]
We sheepishly nodded in agreement and came back to earth. And then he explained that Latter-day Saints who chart their course toward eternal life, receive the ordinances of salvation, and strive with all their heart to be true to their covenants will gain eternal life. Even though they are certainly not perfect when they die, if they have sought to stay on course, in covenant, in harmony with the mind and will of God, they will be saved in the highest heaven.
We ought to have hope, he counseled us. We need to be positive and optimistic about making it. He startled us then with, “I would suppose, for example, that I am now looking out upon a group of men and women who will all go to the celestial kingdom.”

We left the chapel both electrified and sobered. That night I lay awake pondering on what I had heard and I reflected on it again and again in the days that followed. Shortly thereafter I sat down at the end of a very full and tiring Sabbath and turned on the television to watch a Brigham Young University devotional. To my surprise, the address was by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. It was a rebroadcast of a fireside he had delivered to the students entitled “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.” After discussing the plan of salvation, the greatest truths and heresies in all eternity, and the vital role of Jesus Christ as Redeemer, Elder McConkie said:

“As members of the Church, if we chart a course leading to eternal life; if we begin the processes of spiritual rebirth, and are going in the right direction; if we chart a course of sanctifying our souls, and degree by degree are going in that direction; and if we chart a course of becoming perfect, and, step by step and phase by phase, are perfecting our souls by overcoming the world, then it is absolutely guaranteed – there is no question whatever about it – we shall gain eternal life. Even though we have spiritual rebirth ahead of us, perfection ahead of us, the full degree of sanctification ahead of us, if we chart a course and follow it to the best of our ability in this life, then when we go out of this life we’ll continue in exactly that same course” (Speeches of the Year, 1976, 400-401; see also Conference Report, October 1976, 158-159; “The Seven Deadly Heresies,” Speeches of the Year, 1980, 78-79).
We must never forget that there is no ceiling on the number of saved beings in eternity, no cap, no quota by which the Father of us all must be governed. Like any parent, he surely desires that all of his sons and daughters receive the message of salvation, work righteousness, and return to him honorably. Not all will; that is true. But many will. A great many.

(End of Bro. Millet’s account.)

What a glorious concept it is to contemplate Elder McConkie’s declaration that “far more of our Father’s children will be exalted than we think!” Likewise glorious, but more difficult to comprehend, is how a select group of CES employees and their spouses, may all eventually receive the full blessings of exaltation. Perhaps this perspective can be better understood through a closer look at some of Elder McConkie’s related teachings. In “The Blessings of PreMortal Israel”, he unfolds the ineffable blessings promised to premortal Israel, as group. Also clarified, are the promised blessings upon Ephraim, who are Father’s teachers of leaders from the glorious premortal existence (see also Catherine Thomas, “The Calling and Election of Israel”).

We often realize, however, that we lack motivation to develop Christ-like behavior. And, those with “eyes to see” will eventually understand how “the realization of these blessings depends on (our) faithfulness”. We are not without personal risk. There are some that catastrophically fall, becoming permanently lost and darkened. Fortunately, these are relatively few in number. But from Bruce R. McConkie’s remarks many can find great hope and eventual consolation: “Our Father is a successful parent” and “far more of our Father’s children will be exalted than we think!”

[1] See REU journal entry, 21-23 Aug 1996. In a conversation with Bro. Robert Millet at Brigham Young University. Bro. Millet told my wife and me that Elder McConkie (BRM) used the word “exalt”, instead of “save”, in this “Heavenly Father is a successful Parent…” statement. He continued to reaffirm the accuracy of his recollection, that the wording was also preserved in his notes which were in his possession at the time of our August 1996 conversation. Bro. Millet said that the intent of the word “exalt” is also clear by reading the context surrounding both this CES address (fall of 1976) and a second BRM BYU fireside address (5 Sep 1976). This second address, shortly after the CES address, was part of Bro. Millet’s personal experience and reinforcement of this great doctrine of comfort that Elder McConkie was now publicly teaching. When Bro Millet first published the CES account, in his book The Life Beyond (Bookcraft, 1986, p.137), he explained to us that the publisher required that he change the wording from “exalt” to “save”.

[2] It is my observation (reu) that Elder McConkie may have been following a pattern that was used by the Prophet Joseph Smith, from time to time: Elder McConkie has disclosed a precious treasure of heavenly insight. Now he is testing the audience and contemplating whether to continue to un-teach this doctrine of “more…will be exalted than we think”. The Prophet also did this when uncertain whether the people were ready for the doctrine he was revealing to the saints. Apparently, it was the good fortune of this gathering of seminary teachers, to have been found worthy in having the more sacred doctrine re-enforced to them as Elder McConkie continued with his sermon. He continues with application to the CES audience, and to the Lord’s covenant people (Ephraim / Israel), to the doctrine of exaltation in the highest heaven.



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