The Psalmist wrote, "To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever" (Psalms. 30:12).
Nearly all Christian churches talk about the need for us to become "saved." By that they mean if we accept Christ as our Savior then we get to be saved from the consequences of our sins, which is death and hell, and are promised to be saved into the kingdom of God. It is understandable why God would want to keep us from suffering in hell but why does He want us to go to heaven?
It is generally taught by mainstream Christianity that the real reason God wants us to live in heaven with Him is so that we can worship, praise, and glorify Him as God throughout all eternity. While it is quite understandable that men should give eternal thanks to God for saving them from the consequences of their own sins, yet what most Christians teach goes far beyond such feelings of deep gratitude. It is their belief that the only reason why God created man in the first place - even before sin entered the world - was so He could have creatures whose only purpose for existing is to do nothing else but sing praises to Him as they repeatedly tell God how great, marvelous, and wonderful He is.
Here is how some Protestant Christians have described the purpose of salvation: "God's Mission is for us to glorify Him. Christ taught, 'Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven' (Matt. 5:16). Thus, the purpose of all created beings, especially those who are His children, is to glorify God. Therefore, when we glorify God we fulfill our purpose and God's mission for us. When Christ was about to be betrayed he said, 'Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him' (John 13:31). In this passage it states that God is glorified in Christ. So by glorifying Christ, God glorifies himself. Christ embodies God's mission of being glorified. He is the vehicle created to bring praise to God's glory."
And it is because of various scriptures such as Psalm 33:2 which reads, "Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings," which reinforce the idea that life in heaven will consist of saved Christians spending all eternity sitting on clouds, staring at the face of God and playing harps as they constantly and continually sing praises to Him forever and ever. What this view of salvation unintentionally but unmistakable does is paint a picture of God as being Someone who is so vain and conceited that He has to create creatures whose sole purpose in life is to do nothing but praise Him continually throughout eternity.
By way of contrast, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God's purpose in creating man is to help us someday become like Him. Thus, the LDS view of heaven is a place where man will be able to do all that God can do because they will possess all the power that God has. And because God is striving to help us attain this goal, He expects us not only to be obedient to His commands but to be appreciative of His efforts in our behalf.
Since the LDS church further teaches that God is literally the Father of all men and that all men everywhere in every period of time are literally His sons and daughters, the LDS concept of God's salvation for us is that we too will have the opportunity to beget sons and daughters in heaven and help them to become godlike in character as our Father in heaven has done for us. But to do this, men and women must be married not only for this time on earth but also for eternity as well. That is why the LDS church teaches the need for eternal marriage. This is known as the doctrine of exaltation.
However, most Christians feel that such a doctrine is unbiblical. To prove their point, they cite an incident in the life of Christ when a group of Sadducees came tempting Him with a question about the resurrection. Just like there are many different Christian denominations today who disagree with one another over various points of doctrine, so also were there many different Jewish denominations in the days of Jesus. The two most prominent of these were the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the main point of disagreement between them concerned the resurrection. The Sadducees did not believe that the body would rise again after death and so, since Jesus taught about the reality of the resurrection, they sought on this occasion to try their best argument against Him by putting before Jesus a hypothetical situation they thought showed the fallacy of the resurrection.
They asked, "Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven" (Matt. 22:24-29).
In Luke's account we read that Jesus answered them by saying, "The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke 20:34-36).
The way most Christians interpret these biblical verses is that when we get to heaven we will not be like God but rather we will be like the angels who, the Bible tells us, stand around the throne of God worshipping Him forever (Revelation 7:11). More than that, most Christians point to these two verses of scripture as evidence that Christ taught that those who inherit the kingdom of heaven are not married, nor can they be married. Therefore, they conclude that the doctrine of eternal marriage contradicts the teachings of Jesus. Instead, they believe that if a husband and wife in this life have been saved then they will be still be with each other in heaven, however, since their only purpose for being there is to sing praises to God, then there is no point to them being married to each other. It is their argument that in marriage a man and wife love each other and spend their time attending to one another's needs, but in heaven both husband and wife will instead give all of their love and attention to God. Therefore, most Christians are of the belief that there is no purpose to marriage in heaven.
However, a careful reading of these verses do not fully support such an interpretation. Jesus did not say, "For in the resurrection they are neither married (past tense), nor are given in marriage (present tense)." Instead what Jesus told them was that "in the resurrection they neither marry (present tense) nor are given in marriage." What Jesus told these Sadducees is that after the resurrection has occurred there will be no more marriage ceremonies taking place. In other words, if a person has not been married before the resurrection then it is not possible for them to become married after the resurrection. In that case, they will be equal to the angels, and most people believe that angels are not married.
This is in full harmony with what the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith when He said, "Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory. For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever" (D&C 132:16-17).
Jesus also told the Sadducees that they erred in their question because they did not understand the scriptures nor the power of God. And, of course, the only scriptures the Sadducees knew were contained in the Old Testament. In the book of Genesis we read that God told Adam and Eve that "a man [should] leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). All Christians understand this as referring to marriage, therefore it is clear that Adam and Eve were married to one another and their marriage was arranged and performed by God. Furthermore, marriage is the institution God has created for the bringing forth of children. Since God commanded Adam and Eve to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28) there can be no doubt that Adam and Eve were indeed married to one another and their marriage was sanctioned by God.
When God married Adam and Eve they lived in the garden of Eden and were able to dwell in His presence because they were sinless. And because they were sinless, they were not subject to death. Therefore, it is clear that God's intention was for the two of them to remain married forever. But, when they sinned they were not only cast out of the garden of Eden but also from the presence of God. Since then, all the children of Adam have been cut off from God's presence, but through the power of God, Christ's atonement has made it possible for us to once more dwell with Him. If Adam and Eve were able to be in the presence of God as husband and wife before they sinned, then there is no reason to suppose that we too can dwell in the presence of God as husband and wife after our sins have been removed.
But those who still think that we will merely be angels in heaven based on what we read in Matthew 22 have a problem reconciling this belief with numerous other scriptures. The New Testament tells us that according to God's purpose for us, He has "predestined [us] to become conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:29). Obviously, God's Son is greater than any angel. In fact, we are told that Christ was "made so much better than the angels" and "by inheritance [has] obtained a more excellent name than they." More than that, He is a son of God, which is something the angles are not (Hebrews 1:4-5).
The New Testament repeatedly tells us that as believers in Christ we too are the sons of God by adoption into the household of God (Galatians, 4:5-7, Romans, 8:14, Revelation 21:7, Ephesians 2:19). The scriptures also tell us that as believers in Christ we are "no more a servant but a son, and if a son then an heir of God through Christ." Angels are not sons but servants. Therefore, it is obvious that those who inherit the kingdom of God cannot be angels.
Furthermore, the scriptures tell us that we shall judge angels (1 Cor. 6:3). But how could we, as saved sinners, be in a position to judge sinless angels if we are equal to them? Obviously, to do that, we would have to have a position higher than them. If God's purpose for us is to be made in the image of Christ and Christ is greater than the angels, then that would put us in a position higher than the angels.
The scriptures also tell us that as the sons of God we do not yet fully comprehend what awaits us in heaven, yet when Christ does appear at His second coming "we shall be [just] like him" (1 John 3:2). We are also told that when that time comes we shall inherit all things (Rev. 21:7). As we have read earlier, angels are not sons and only children are entitled to the inheritance of their parents. Just like servants are not entitled to the inheritance of their masters, so likewise angels cannot inherit all that God has. If the sons of God will be just like Christ and will inherit all that He has, then it is clear that we will have greater power and glory than the angels.
Besides inheriting the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:24) we will also inherit an incorruptible crown of righteousness and glory (1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4). We will be made kings and priests to sit with Christ on His throne and rule and reign on the earth with Him (Rev. 5:8; 3:21). This is not the kind of description of an angel who sits on a cloud all day doing nothing but singing praises to God.
Then what did Jesus mean when He told the Sadducees that in the resurrection that people are like the angels who neither marry nor are given in marriage? The answer to this question seems to revolve around the issue of marriage. According to what Jesus told the Sadducees, it is those who are not married who will be like the angels. Then who is it that will inherit all that God has, wear crowns of glory, be kings and priests, and sit on thrones to rule and reign with Christ? The only other possible answer is, those who have been married before the resurrection has occurred. And this is what the LDS doctrine of eternal marriage is all about (see D&C 132:19-21).
Does that then mean every husband and wife who is a saved believer will inherit this kind of glory?
We can answer that question with an illustration. Suppose a man and woman want to get married but, not wanting to go through all the legal formalities, they ask their neighbor to marry them. Would they then be legally married? Of course not because such a union would not meet the statues and regulations of the state in which they live. And one of those regulations requires that they be married by someone who the state recognizes as having authority to perform marriages.
In the same way a man and a woman are considered to be eternally married by God only if they have met the statues and regulations of heaven and the marriage has been performed by someone heaven recognizes as having the authority to perform such a ceremony.
If this were not so, then God would have to recognize any marriage performed by anyone, any time, anywhere. And what about two people who have lived together for a number of years without formally getting married? Some state laws consider that a "common law" marriage. Would God likewise consider them as being married simply because the state does? Or what if a man married one woman in New York, another woman in Utah, and another woman in Texas? Although he has actually broken the law of the land, yet he nonetheless was married to three women by someone authorized to perform the marriage. Would God still recognize all three marriages? But if we say that God only recognizes those marriages that conform to man's laws then what if the laws of the state allowed homosexual marriages? Would God be obligated to honor such a union in heaven?
What the Bible clearly tells us is that God honors only those who honor the rules of heaven not the rules of man. Therefore, the question becomes, what are God's rules concerning marriage? Most people feel that if their marriage was performed by a Christian minister then surely it meets the requirements of heaven and has God's eternal approval. But does it?
Before we look at the answer to that question let's first ask another question. Suppose someone started an on-line college course of instruction on their own and then awarded a four-year college degree to each person who successfully passed their course. Would such a certificate be recognized by any other college or university, even though the on-line courses might be the same as those taught at other colleges? The answer is "no" unless the on-line courses have been accredited by the state.
A minister, pastor, or priest holds a degree that shows they have attended an accredited Bible college or seminary, that they have been properly trained for the ministry and have been duly ordained to preach the word of God. But where did that college get their authority to issue such a degree? In nearly all cases, somewhere back in time someone read the Bible and decided for themselves that they had a different understanding of it than others did, then started their own denomination based on their belief. Over time, as their ministry increased, they built a college and began instructing others in their faith. At the end of that course of instruction they then ordained ministers to preach their doctrine and gave them a certificate as proof of their ordination.
Let's say that someone has been ordained as a Baptist preacher. Their certificate of ordination is valid for preaching in a Baptist church but the Methodists, Presbyterian, and Episcopal churches wouldn't recognized it as having any authority in their church. Suppose that a Catholic priest converted to the Baptist faith. Their certificate of ordination would not give them any authority to preach in a Baptist church.
If men of God don't recognize the authority of other men of God outside of their own belief system, why would God recognize the authority of all ministers everywhere regardless of their denomination or doctrinal teachings? And what if an ordained ministered married two homosexuals? Would God be obligated to recognize such a union just because it was performed by "a man of God"?
Therefore, the question really becomes: What constitutes being married by the proper divine authority?
In ancient Israel the only priests whom God recognized were those whom He specifically designated. Aaron and his sons were specifically called to be the High Priests of the tabernacle and this priesthood was to continue throughout their lineage (Exodus 30:30; 2 Chr. 13:10). In addition to them, God commanded that the male members of the tribe of Levi were to assist the High Priest in his duties (Numbers 3:6). They became known as the Levitical priests.
In the days of Jesus He called and ordained twelve men to be apostles. Thereafter, these men ordained others to become apostles (Acts 1:15-26). The apostle Paul went about ordaining elders (Acts 14:23) and bishops (Titus 1:5). Afterwards it was the bishops who then ordained elders, deacons, and priests (Titus 1:5). In time, a record was kept of who ordained who so they could authenticate if someone claiming to be a priesthood holder was indeed ordained by someone who had the authority to perform such an ordination.
However, throughout the remaining centuries, this line of authority became dubious and hard to authenticate, especially once the Protestant movement began, as men took upon themselves the right to call themselves priests without being ordained by any church authority. In time, even the term "priesthood" was dropped to the point that today most Protestant churches no longer even acknowledge the need for any priesthood authority. Instead, they refer to themselves as ministers, pastors, or preachers and claim that the Bible is all the authority they need to act in the name of God.
In 1830 Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was ordained to be the first elder of that Church, not because he claimed for himself the authority to do so but because he was given a direct command from God (D&C 20:1-2). Neither did Joseph Smith take upon himself the calling of an apostle simply because he considered himself to be a man of God but because he was ordained to that position at the hands of Peter, James, and John, who anciently had been ordained as apostles by Jesus Himself (D&C 27:12-13).
Because of such an ordination, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asserts that it alone has the proper authority to act in the name of God because it is the only church that has received its priesthood authority directly from God. And it is the things done by the authority of that priesthood that God recognizes and approves. Part of that authority includes "the keys of the kingdom of heaven: [so that] whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19)
In ancient times the Lord commanded the Israelites to build a temple to His name wherein sacred ordinances were performed by His authorized priests. That temple was known as "the house of the Lord" (2 Samuel 7:5; 1 Kings 6:1; 7:51). Today, the Lord has again commanded His saints to build a temple that is to be "the house of the Lord" (D&C 84:5; 94:12; 97:15). And it is there that God has instructed men and women to go to be sealed together on earth and in heaven as husband and wives for all eternity by His authorized priests. As such, it is the only marriage ceremony that is recognized by God.
Whereas most Christians aspire only to become singing angels in heaven who do nothing more than sit around all day gazing admiringly at the face of God, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God has a grander, nobler design for man. To become "conformed to the image of His Son" Jesus Christ and "inherit all things" means more than merely becoming angelic singers.
God delights in blessing His children and wants them to inherit all the riches of heaven. Christ was exalted by God to sit on His right hand (Acts 2:33). To be conformed to the image of Christ means to become like Christ and the scriptures tell us that if we are humble God will exalted us as well (1 Peter 5:6). If Christ is our King, then God wants us to become kings just like His Son. If Christ is our High Priest then God wants us to become priests unto Him as Christ is. If Christ sits on a throne and rules, God wants us to do the same. That's what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ and inherit all things.
Just as it brings glory and honor to an earthly father to help their children grow to be successful, so it brings honor and glory to our heavenly Father to help His children grow to become exalted as His Son, Jesus Christ was. And it will be because of what God has done through His power to help His children become worthy of inheriting such glory that, out of the deep gratitude of their heart, those who do inherit all things will eternally praise God.