While working on a translation of Nephi Anderson‘s Added Upon earlier this week, I came across a passage where he uses the word Celestialized. Of course, I couldn’t find the word listed in my bilingual dictionary, and it occurred to me that this must be a fairly unique word–one that isn’t used very often outside of Mormonism.
Here’s how Anderson uses the term:
“Death is simply the losing of our earthly tabernacles for a time. We will be separated from them, but the promise is that our elder brother will be given power to raise them up again. With them again united we shall become even as our parents are now, eternal, perfected, celestialized beings.”
I did find Celestialize in a few English dictionaries, always with the somewhat ambiguous definition “To make Celestial.” Without going into too much theology, the definition is what made me wonder how “Mormon” the word is—I have the impression that we have a much more rich idea of this concept than other religions. We believe things can and are being made celestial, that many of us will also be celestialized. And I wonder if this doesn’t give the word an additional or perhaps a slightly different meaning for Mormons than simply “To make Celestial.” I suspect that we now use terms like “exhalt” in the places where we would use “celestialize.” As far as I can tell, only Mormons use Celestialized to modify people and planets.
While we never use the word Celestialize these days, Celestialized is still used. The most recent use in lds.org’s Gospel Library is in Robert Millet‘s January 1994 Ensign article The Man Adam. Celestialized does show up regularly in BYU’s index of conference addresses and the Journal of Discourses (which goes back to about 1840) especially in the early Utah period (1859 to 1885) and after 1940.Oddly enough, Anderson’s use of the term apparenttly comes at a time when the term wasn’t being used in General Conference.
I also tried to get a sense for when it was first used (I don’t have access to the OED at home, so I haven’t checked that) by searching Google Books. There, I found about 200 uses prior to 1860, the earliest from 1814. But there were many that were from Mormon-related sources (in the Millennial Star 1850, 1853, 1854, 1858, 1859, and in books by non-Mormons about Mormonism, 1852, 1857, 1858).
So, its clear that the word didn’t come out of Mormonism, but perhaps there is a specific Mormon context or meaning to the word because of our theological views.
I may be making too much of this. Most of my interest is in deciding whether or not to include it as a “Mormon Term” in the Mormon Terms online dictionary, and in the wording of the definition. But even outside of Mormon Terms, I’m fascinated by the use of this term.