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Friday, March 14, 2014

The Gospel Topics Area at LDS.org Now Includes a Statement on Becoming Like God

One of the most controversial aspects of LDS belief is the concept of becoming more like God, or thesis as some early Christians called it. The Church addresses this topic in a statement, "Becoming Like God," one of several recent statements on heavy issues in the Gospel Topics section of LDS.org. It's also a topic I address on my LDSFAQ page, "The Divine Potential of Human Beings - or Do Mormons Believe They Can Become Gods?"

Other recent topics include:

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Short answer: yes, that's what they believe.

ji said...

The scripture is clear that we can be joint heirs with Jesus Christ in receiving all that the Father has, and that, as such, we will be gods. I use lower case purposefully, and note that the scripture does, also.

I'm a Latter-day Saint, but I don't believe some thoughts on this matter that other Latter-day Saints have espoused. To me, I observe the old adage that long ago, God made man in his own image, and ever since, man has been trying to create God in man's own image. Some Latter-day Saints do this. I try not to. For some of these ideas, I prefer to think of them as threads in the tapestry of Mormon thought rather than as normative doctrine.

So we must be careful in asserting what all Latter-day Saints (or all Mormons, if you will) believe.

For me, the newsroom posting goes beyond my level of comfort. I inquired with the newsroom about the article, and its representative assured me the article is intended to be a scholarly article and not a doctrinal article, and that the several footnotes at the bottom are there to reinforce this purpose. I was somewhat pleased to hear this answer.

Anonymous said...

As a born-and-raised member, I have little interest in the notion of godhood. It's simply not something I like to ponder or imagine for my future after this life, especially when the idea of genderless segregated heavens is introduced by the likes of Joseph Fielding Smith and others. Simply unappealing and undesirable. Just give me peace and rest, not work, planets, and a stable of wives churning out spirit babies, thank you very much.

Steve Martin said...

God made us to be creatures….and then gives us the power to become children of God.

But not like God.

The essence of the first sin was desire to rise above our created status.

That, is our problem. We want to be our own little gods.

Anonymous said...

I think that the essence of the first sin was when counsel was accepted from the Devil rather than from God.

The atonement does give us the ability to become children of God:

"Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."

Galatians 4:7

Steve

pierce said...

Understanding our eternal destiny is truly the cornerstone of our beliefs. It gives clarity and meaning to commandments as well as doctrines such as works, faith, and repentance. It's a shame that many in the church tend to marginalize it when it truly is the most important doctrine that we possess.

But that doesn't mean that we have to accept or focus on what that entails, and we certainly don't have to accept acocryphal ideas surrounding it, as ji said. We don't have to view it the way Anon (following ji) does. D&C 76 does not talk about planets and a stable of wives churning out babies. That is an extremely degrading view of an important doctrine (and is not actual doctrine).

It think more recognition of this teaching will make better saints out of the saints and help them keep the end-game in mind.

ji said...

Our eternal destiny to become gods is "truly the most important doctrine that we possess"? I think not. I know not.

Pierce said...

"For behold, this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."
Moses 1:39

God made us for a reason, and he has revealed to us and expounded on what that reason was.
The doctrine of theosis is what we shouted for joy for in our pre-earth life and is what our commandments steer us towards. Christ also atoned so that we may be perfected though Him.

But I understand if people choose not to emphasize this. For me, it is central to my discipleship and helps me to understand this world and the restored gospel in a clearer way.

Anonymous said...

It's the very pinnacle of narcissism to believe you can become a god.

Lamdaddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pierce said...

Perhaps if the idea was mine alone, yes. But I believe that God has revealed His purpose and our purpose to us through the restored gospel. God is a perfect being, through which all goodness and happiness come from. He wants us to be as He is. I didn't say that I would be a joint-heir with Christ, the scriptures do. The Lord also shed more light about the afterlife through Joseph Smith and may continue to do so. Without that, Christianity's knowledge of the afterlife is very limited, so saying what is impossible is somewhat presumptuous.

There are those who seek this honor unto themselves and attempt to do it their own way, and those are the ones who will be brought down low. Lucifer is an example of this, but there are those in the world who follow that plan instead of the Lord's.

To me, the real pinnacle of narcissism would be a God--who is our Father--who seeks to limit the progression and potential of his children.

Anonymous said...

Becoming LIKE God? Once again the modern LDS Church is backpedaling on their own theology. The early Church fathers were very clear in teaching that we can not only be "like" God but can literally BECOMING a god. Ruling over our own planet and populating it the same way the current God is.

"The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fullness of his kingdom. In other words we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an EARTH LIKE THIS ONE WE ARE ON and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fullness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will BECOME gods and have jurisdiction over WORLDS, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring. We will have an endless eternity for this."
Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.2, p.48

I believe the Church would prevent so much "shaken faith" if they simply embraced what was clearly understood and taught rather than spinning their own theology with we "know nothing specific"

Ryan said...

Anonymous-
I think "becoming like God" and "becoming gods" are pretty much the same thing. In fact, President Smith uses both phrases in the quote you cited. There's no intent at tricky word play here. The D&C is clear that those who are exalted will be gods (with a lower case g). And I don't think most Mormons would bat an eye if you told them Mormons believe they can become gods, have spirit children of their own, etc. That's what most of us believe. You may not like the belief, but let's not pretend that Mormons are beating around the bush about it.

Pierce said...

Well said Ryan. I also don't see how the phrase "becoming like God" is different than "becoming a god." Seems like semantics. I have found it necessary at times to say "like God" because people tend to (or choose to) think we are saying that we could "become God"--making ourselves equal to our Heavenly Father--which is a heresy.

We have the doctrine, but not a lot of details surrounding it-- similar to how Christians believe in heaven, but don't have any details surrounding it.

Ultimately, I think that the doctrine ultimately rests solely in the scriptures, and particularly in Doctrine and Covenants (76, for example). Anything outside of that is mostly speculation, even if I find it rational, substantiated, and tend to agree with it.

I have had discussions with some good friends about their take on this subject, and their belief in deification are slightly different than my own. One such friend had a view of exaltation that limited what exalted beings will be doing in the afterlife, and that was ok by me, because there just isn't enough information about it to cause a philosophical schism. And frankly, I don't think the details are important. All I do know is that God has told us why we are here and what He wants to to become, and with that I continue on my journey.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ryan, but I respectfully disagree. "Becoming Like" and "Becoming a" are not the same thing. You wouldn't eat a steak if it were sold as "Just LIKE beef" Or have a tooth pulled by a guy who's LIKE a dentist?

Please answer any of these. If I am just "pretending" Mormons are beating around the bush about it, why didn't Jeff title his post "Statement on Becoming a god"? Why isn't the LDS.org statement titled "Becoming A god"? Why is a distinction made? Why does Jeff's LDSFAQ page emphasize phrases such as "joint-heirs" "partakers" and "resemble Him" while ignoring teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. such as "a man and his wife will go on an EARTH LIKE THIS ONE" "receive the fullness of exaltation", "will BECOME gods and have jurisdiction over WORLDS" Why does Jeff discredit the King Follett discourse as "not canonical", "potential for scribal errors" "not accountable for all that is taught"

That is word-play. That is spin.

You and I know early LDS fathers taught man can become a god and rule over their own planet the same way the current God does. Why can't the modern Church embrace their own teaching?

Ryan said...

I think it's like Pierce said- sometimes we say "becoming like God" to avoid confusion, as some have construed "becoming a god" to mean that we somehow supersede or at least equal the Father, or even become an actual part of Him. But it's not just early church fathers that say we can become gods, it is canonized scripture- see D&C 132:19-20, also vs 37. No mincing of words there. It doesn't get much clearer than "Then shall they be gods." Why Jeff says it a certain way, or even why lds.org says it a certain way in a given post is irrelevant when the doctrine is plainly there in scripture. Why is a distinction made? In my opinion there isn't. At least, not when I say it. I use the two phrases interchangeably.

I don't know what Jeff believes on the matter, but in my experience if you ask most Mormons whether a man can become a god, the answer will be a resounding yes. Most would probably even say that likely entails having spirit children who will populate worlds, though it is true that last bit is not in canonized scripture (that I know of). As for why he calls the King Follett discourse "non-canonical," I would guess it's because it is non-canonical. As in- not part of canonized scripture. But again, it doesn't really matter what the King Follett discourse is, since canonized scripture includes the notion that we can become gods.

Ryan said...

One other thing- I think the beef/dentist example doesn't apply. It's not the same sort of comparison. It's more like saying that as I have grown up and become a dad, I am like my dad. That is not the same as "I am my dad," but it does mean I am A dad. Of course, that increases my dad's posterity as well as my own, so I have not become equal to him in terms of offspring, nor can I ever. But I have become both "like my dad" and "a dad."

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight, saying "becoming like god" and "becoming a god" is the SAME thing? And saying I can become "Like God" instead of "A god" PREVENTS confusion? And all of this is somehow NOT mincing words?

Are you serious?

You, Pierce and Jeff obviously have differing views on the topic. Which is (with all due respect) understandable considering how some LDS theology has been either changed, updated, disavowed, discredited, or deemed a prophet's personal opinion.




Ryan said...

Yep, that about sums it up. Any other questions?

Anonymous said...

So according to you comparison if you become "A Dad" just "LIKE your Dad", you can then do everything he can do as a Dad and you are just much a Dad as he is?

Ryan said...

Once again- yep. You nailed it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ryan. I appreciate and respect your straight-forward view and belief.

The official Church's statement and Jeff have back-away, claim to not "know very much about" and flat-out disagree with you but that's something you'll have to settle on your own.

Ryan said...

I don't really see a disagreement between what I say and what the church says. I don't really see big discrepancies in what I say and what Jeff, says, though that one is irrelevant since Jeff is not an authoritative source of doctrine. I guess I can see why you find a discrepancy though, so I'll try to clarify my meaning: The church clearly teaches that we can become gods. I base this on the D&C verses I cited earlier. From my viewpoint, the only things that "count" as doctrine are those things actually found in the canonized standard works- the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, and I would be willing to accept things that are endorsed by the full first presidency and quorum of the twelve (The Proclamation to the World, the Living Christ). Everything else, even if spoken by the Prophet, is counsel, opinion, speculation, etc, and prone to error. I suspect that a good 90% of the time the stuff that the Brethren say is correct, but critics bring up the other 10% a lot, so we hear about it a lot.
Among the things that are opinion, and that I happen to believe myself, is that becoming a god entails being able to do the stuff the Father does. However, this is not canonized and I am open to the possibility that I am wrong, and that President Smith was wrong. There's certainly biblical precedent for Prophets being wrong- Jonah, for example.
Where it comes to things that actually matter, though, I think we Mormons pretty much all agree- God is supreme, He is our Father, He will always be the object of our worship, and in his omnipotence He has given us the opportunity to become "like Him" as outlined in the various scriptures mentioned in various posts and such. The details of this have not been revealed, which is fine since we believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. If I'm wrong about what I think becoming a god/becoming like God means, so be it. I can still go to the Celestial Kingdom, so I'm not too worried about it.
I think that's all I have to say on the matter, but I'll check back later to see if you have anything else to say that sparks something in me.

ji said...

For me, as a Latter-day Saint, I am content with following Jesus Christ as my Savior and trying to follow the example He set for me. What is important, to me, is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and charity in the Lord Jesus Christ. I look at much of the discourse that occurs over matters such as this as unnecessary doctrinal disputations, journeys into esoterica and distractions from fundamentals.

Essentially every statement regarding this matter made over the pulpit in Salt Lake City or anywhere else is speculation. Every man is free to speculate, and many have done it a lot. Often, it is done in good faith, but it is still speculation.

It is untrue to say that all Mormons (or even that all "good" Mormons) believe in this matter in any particular way. I am certain that there are others, like me, who don't pay attention to all of this. Faith, hope, and charity, all centered in Jesus Christ, and gratitude for the restoration of the Gospel in these latter days, is sufficient for me.

As I wrote above, I was told by the newsroom staff that the article was intended as a scholarly article and not a doctrinal article. I wish it had been posted in a scholarly place, and I regret that it was posted in the newsroom where it looks like an official statement of policy, of normative doctrine of Latter-day Saints.

I like Paul's counsel in Romans ch. 14 -- so appropriate here.

Anonymous said...

Again, I respect your belief. Thank you for being upfront about it. I realize you don't really care, but there are huge discrepancies between what you and the Church believe. They now state they know nothing to very little about your role as a god. They deny any teaching about you becoming just as much of a "DAD" as your "Dad". They deny knowing anything about God once being a man. All the things that were once taught are now being denied, twisted. altered.

I guess that's the thing that troubles me. How an unsuspecting member (maybe yourself) can be taught one thing their entire life only to have the Church twist theology into something different. They come up with word manipulation and double-talk "becoming LIKE" and "Becoming A". Discredit and disavow former teaching as wrong. Even changing the D&C, passages omitted and added. While it's very convenient to allow ever-changing doctrine when backed into a corner, it comes with a disingenuous taste when discovered.

Pierce said...

Anonymous,

I would also like to point out that I don't see any discrepancies in how Jeff, myself, and Ryan view this topic. It seems to me that we agree on these main points. We're just not willing to call canonical that which is not, despite the fact that there are good ideas that are probably correct. Until the extra ideas surrounding this particular doctrine are recognized officially as doctrine itself, it remains apocryphal. And like the apocrypha, it has merit and warrants our considerations.

As you may or may not know, the Church has created problems for itself in the past by creating a culture around ideas that were not truly doctrinal, yet we treated it as such. Not perpetuating that way of of thinking and teaching has been the first step towards a simpler and more correct gospel, and what you are hearing in this forum is an attempt to promote actual, revealed doctrine and to not perpetuate apocryphal ideas surrounding those doctrines. If a person is going to involve themselves in LDS doctrine, they have to understand what the doctrine actually is as opposed to what someone's ideas are based on the doctrine (such as your quote). I admit, a great chunk of the LDS don't understand that concept, but I think with this generation we will get closer.

This isn't my attempt to distance myself from those ideas surrounding the doctrine. I personally have no problem interpreting deification as meaning we will literally do as God does--creating life and worlds and so forth. But I have to be intellectually honest in saying that the scriptures don't actually mention those specifics--only allude to it. And allusions aren't enough to teach in an official capacity.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Pierce, I appreciate your honesty about the missteps of the Church and the attempts to make things clearer. And I really do hope they can make things better.

I'm sure you can appreciate how someone might feel disillusioned by what we thought was once LDS doctrine being changed, disavowed or deemed incorrect. I don't think you can blame them when teachings from Joseph F. Smith or Pres.Snow are now considered "apocryphal"

BTW, An honest question. If you "personally have no problem interpreting deification as meaning you will literally do as God does--creating life and worlds and so forth,"...does this include you as god are to receive worship from said life?

Anonymous said...

What I've learned the last year or so is that there is no authoritative source of LDS doctrine anymore. Not the living prophet, because he never covers every single gospel topic, and not dead prophets, because their words are now deemed "merely opinion/apocryphal." Even the pieces published on lds.org/newsroom are not to be considered doctrinal, just think pieces. Wow! It's clear as mud why we need a living prophet nowadays! How else could I learn that I might someday perhaps maybe be like god, but not a god?!

Pierce said...

Thank you as well for your candor. I certainly can appreciate the disillusionment in light correct doctrinal ideas. People spoke based on the knowledge they had. We've taken a lesson from the past, and I think the Brethren are exercising greater responsibility in how their words will affect others for years.

"...does this include you as god are to receive worship from said life?"

An honest answer: I have not ever given it a thought. Sometimes I think that people outside of this belief--not saying you--imagine that we are living in a sort of constant anticipation of power and glory (perhaps even in a smug, self satisfying sort of way). It's not that way at all, and that's not what is discussed or taught. The idea of becoming a god has more to do with a fulfillment of our Heavenly Father's desire and plan for us, as well as reaching our fullest potential. It is a quiet knowledge that life after death is life indeed. It also gives meaning to this life, the good and terrible experiences we're given, and explanation for commandments,the purpose of the fall, and a greater appreciation for Jesus' atonement.
So I don't think about what godhood really entails--I just know that our Heavenly Father wants that for us.
But an honest answer--yes, I suppose that would go along with it, if it is a given that we would do as our Father does.

Pierce said...

Anon at 6:53,

There IS a source for authoritative LDS doctrine. The scriptures are one. But we still consider the President of the church and the apostles as authoritative sources. If we're talking authoritative doctrine, then there is a designated method in which it is given.

*My opinion: Things that we have ratified as revelation and scripture are doctrinally binding. These occurrences don't happen very often--the lifting of the priesthood ban being the last one. I do believe that most policies are inspired, such as the new missionary age, but that wasn't a revelation or doctrine. We still need a living prophet to steer the church, and also to be in place in case the Lord does have a mind to reveal more or newer doctrine*

But yes, probably a lot less things than we think are doctrine really are. To me that is a good rather than lamentable thing. The gospel itself is rather simple, and a lot of the things that we give a lot of time and attention to are more appendages than gospel.

Anonymous said...

Pierce, you seem like a person who loves Jesus and wants to honor God. I am in no way suggesting that you desire this, but Now that you've had the chance to think about it, does the potential to receive worship and praise as God sit well with you as correct doctrine? Are you okay with a theology that says you are to receive glory as unto God?

Pierce said...

I appreciate your comments. I do not believe that worship and praise are a problem for me as a doctrine, but let me explain why. I will preface this by saying that the following is how I interpret scriptures and words of modern prophets. Others will not see things exactly how I do.

I think if we're going to consider this as deeply as we are, we have to separate this life (and the instructions and information given to us pertaining to it) and the next life. The scriptures we have are not a guide for the next life--its is only for this present life. In this life, we are told that to us there is one God (1 Cor 8:5-6). To him we give praise and adoration as our creator, and it is sinful to worship another (Ex. 20:3). It is also sinful to exalt yourself to that station as Lucifer did. Notice the text from Isaiah 14:

"13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north"

There are a lot of "I" statements. The Saints have understood theosis to mean that we will follow the instruction and commandments that God has given us and submit ourselves to Christ, and have faith that He can perfect us through his atonement. We play a part in that salvation (how much, nobody knows). We have choices and can decide what kind of being we want to be, because God has ordained it to be that way. It is much different than Satan's plan.

And so, after this life, and after God has exalted those who chose to be exalted, they will be gods. Assuming (and again, this is where we go into conjecture since there is no actual doctrine on this) that this is very literal, and that they will be independent in the sense of literally doing what our Father does, then it stands to reason that those creators would also be worshiped. Why is this not a problem? Because those beings will still worship their Father and Redeemer, and bring glory to them through their success.

It really is not unlike having children in this world. I think my dad is wonderful and I owe my life and most of who I am today to him. I have a 2 year old. She loves me and adores me, because she is my child. Does that diminish the relationship between myself and my father? No, it actually has made it even stronger since he is a part of that and is also adored by my daughter.

Hopefully my views have clarified rather than muddied things for you. Others will view this all differently, and that is ok--there aren't enough details revealed to us to hang a hat on. This doctrine is important to me personally, and that is why I am writing so much on this board. But a lot of what has been discussed is not as doctrinal as it is philosophical. So I enjoy this discussion immensely, but please recognize that we are just wading out into the ocean here.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pierce, Thank you for your comments and sharing your personal belief.
I don't really feel we've gone too far away from the topic, being that it's vital to address the implications of what it means to become a god, namely worship and adoration being given to anyone or anything other than God the Father.
And you're right, the Bible has a lot say about that very topic. To me, determining whether those warnings from God, lessons from Lucifer or the 2nd and 3rd commandments apply to this life only is far too dangerous a gamble I personally would ever take. If you strive to be a god, you must accept the implications of receiving worship.

For your sake, Pierce, I hope you're right.

Pierce said...

As a point of clarification, I wouldn't say that I "strive to be a god." While I believe that exaltation is what God has designed for all of us, and is the "end-game," it is not something that I am anticipating. I am simply focused on allowing Christ to change who I am and aligning my will to my Father's will--becoming who He wants me to be. That will take me a lifetime to learn, and that is all that is in front of me. This doctrine just gives meaning to all of that, and I think that is all it was meant to do.

I've probably hi-jacked this board enough. This is, however, my favorite topic.

Pierce said...

Finally, don't take my word for it. The Bible certainly is not silent on this issue. At the very least, a case can be made insomuch that we're not just making up something that doesn't harmonize with biblical teachings. Jeff has dedicated a page on his LDS FAQ, linked at the top, that I recommend. He mentions biblical scriptures as well as the beliefs of many of the early church fathers.
Of course, interpretation can go either way, so this is another thing where the Bible makes plenty of mention and implications about a doctrine, but a direct appeal to the Bible can't take you too far.

*Shucks wouldn't it be great to have apostles like Paul to clarify these things ;-)

A particular favorite verse of mine from Romans 8:

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.