I’m going to continue a series on the LDS Gospel Topics Essays that I started a year ago (see here and here), with reference to varioius chapters in the book The LDS Gospel Topics Series: A Scholarly Engagement (Signature Books, 2020). Today, I’ll look at Chapter 2, “Becoming Like God: A Critique,” by Richard Sherlock, a Catholic (previously LDS) professor of philosophy emeritus at USU. Sherlock reviews the LDS essay “Becoming Like God.”
But First, Some Reflections
For the most part, the Essays continue to be largely ignored by official LDS sources. They don’t get referred to in Conference. There aren’t posts at the LDS.org site that highlight them or betray their existence. There are no articles in the Ensign that talk about them. They are more or less hidden in plain sight. Few mainstream members would ever stumble across them unless they already knew they existed and went looking for them, which is plainly how LDS leadership wants it to be. Personally, I’m a little surprised the Essays are even still posted at LDS.org. I strongly suspect the LDS leadership sees the Essays as a dead end, a failed initiative.
The original intention of publishing the Essays, based on my recollection of public statements at the time, seemed to be to put helpful official (as opposed to unofficial apologetic) LDS responses to controversial issues out there, to help particular members troubled by particular issues by giving them such an official discussion, and to help local leaders faced with questions on these issues from their members. I don’t know that any of these goals have been met in a satisfactory manner. It doesn’t seem like the Church has received much credit for the attempt to respond to tough issues. It doesn’t seem like the Essays have really helped many doubting or troubled members, and they seem to have spurred doubts and questions in those mainstream LDS who happen to encounter and read them. And I don’t know that many bishops have found them helpful. The only people who are really “into” the Essays are people like you and me, people who are interested enough in LDS doctrine and history to read books and articles, blog authors and readers.
I Want My Own Planet
Who doesn’t? I would populate my planet with elves, dwarves, humans, hobbits, and, because there must be opposition in all things, orcs and some rebellious Southrons. Running my own planet seems to be heavenly work on the right scale. “Helping run the Universe” seems a little too ambitious, and besides, the Universe seems to run on its own, subject to the physical laws that guide it, quite nicely. Running my own little village is just not enough to keep me busy. So running a planet seems just right. Some of you may want an entire planetary system, along with the responsibility of not letting comets and asteroids smash into your populated planets. On second thought, that has happened rather frequently on Planet Earth, so maybe nudging a big hunk of rock out of a collision trajectory is against the rules. Or some of you more modest folks might be content with just one continent among many. You can play planetary Risk with the other continental divinities (hint: take Australia).
Okay, I’m being a little tongue in cheek in that last paragraph. But there’s nothing particularly objectionable about the LDS view of heaven, reuniting with (some) family members and doing productive work at this or that divinely sanctioned task. The best defense of the LDS view is to consider the standard Christian view of the afterlife, which for those not burning in Hell amounts to playing harps, singing hymns, and endlessly staring at the Most Holy God with awe and reverence. In formal Christian theology, it’s called the beatific vision of God and is presented to believers as perfect happiness, a sort of Christian nirvana. I could do that for maybe a few hours. If you are at the pearly gates with two doors, one labelled “Mormon heaven” and one labelled “Christian heaven,” which would you choose? I’ll take Mormon Heaven for $200, Alex.
That Darn Couplet
The LDS “I am going to be a god and get my own planet” doctrine is rooted in Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse. Most LDS have heard the term but haven’t read the discourse. In fact, there is no discourse in the sense of a text written, proofed, and published by Joseph Smith. There is no canonized text of the discourse. There were four individuals in the audience hearing Joseph speak that day who took notes, but real-time note taking was a pretty dodgy practice back in the day. The texts of the discourse you have read (if you have actually read it) are expansions on one of those note records or an amalgamation of several or all of the note records. So there’s a real problem with using the discourse as a basis for such a high visibility doctrine. There is simply no assurance that Joseph Smith actually spoke the particular words or conveyed the recounted ideas that one reads in various texts of the King Follett Discourse. And there is no assurance that if there was an exact transcript of Joseph’s words, or if he had prepared a written text of the discourse that was the basis of his oral sermon that day, that Joseph would have wanted to publish or canonize that text.
The basis for modern Mormon attachment to the “I am going to be a god and get my own planet” doctrine is the Lorenzo Snow couplet. I know you’ve heard it before. “As man now is, God once was. As God now is, man may become.” Like the King Follett Discourse, the couplet was never canonized. It’s not long enough to be a revelation as LDS generally use the term. Lorenzo Snow was not an apostle when he had a flash of poetic insight and penned those words. When he was President of the Church, he did not, to my knowledge, attempt to canonize the couplet or get it inserted in LDS scripture. So, as with the discourse, there’s a real problem using this couplet as the basis for the “I am going to be a God and get my own planet” doctrine. It’s even more problematic as a basis for claiming that God was once a mortal human-like being on some distant planet.
It would be nice if the First Presidency would write a short letter to LDS leaders both general and local setting this whole issue aside. Here’s a quick draft: “After further review of the questionable doctrine that God was once a mere man and the dubious claim that most members of the Church believe they will someday get their own planet in the hereafter, we have determined that the documentary basis for these beliefs is at best questionable. The authors of the relevant documents did not produce definitive texts of their statements and made no attempt to canonize or otherwise bestow official recognition of their statements as doctrine when in a position to do so. Consequently, we counsel and direct all LDS leaders, both general and local, to cease any reference to these claimed doctrines and to avoid discussion of them whenever possible. We affirm salvation and exaltation as taught in the doctrines of the Church and avoid speculation on other matters relating to the hereafter.”
For more on the couplet, read the following posts, which also shed some light on the whole “becoming like God” topic:
- At BCC, “Brigham Young’s Couplet“
- At T&S, “My Problem With the Couplet“
Becoming Like God
Now that there’s an official essay “Becoming Like God” posted at LDS.org, I don’t know that the Church can easily back away from the doctrine or at least continued discussion about it. The essay doesn’t really meet the issue head on. It talks about a few Bible verses (hand waving), discusses the early Christian doctrine of deification (more hand waving). Then it quotes from D&C 132 (“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end”) and the King Follett Discourse (“God was once as one of us” and “You have got to learn how to be a god yourself”) to basically admit that yes, we taught that and still teach it. It’s hard to say you don’t teach that anymore when it’s spelled out with supporting quotations from the D&C and from Joseph Smith in an official essay titled “Becoming Like God” posted in the 21st century, not the 19th century.
Here is a paragraph from later in the essay that tries to walk back the earlier admission.
Since that sermon, known as the King Follett discourse, the doctrine that humans can progress to exaltation and godliness has been taught within the Church. Lorenzo Snow, the Church’s fifth President, coined a well-known couplet: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”43 Little has been revealed about the first half of this couplet, and consequently little is taught. When asked about this topic, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley told a reporter in 1997, “That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.” When asked about the belief in humans’ divine potential, President Hinckley responded, “Well, as God is, man may become. We believe in eternal progression. Very strongly.”
A better response would have been, “We strive to follow God and acquire the divine attributes like faith, hope, love, mercy, kindness, patience, and so forth. In that sense, we seek to become like God.”
Then there is this paragraph near the end of the LDS essay:
A cloud and harp are hardly a satisfying image for eternal joy, although most Christians would agree that inspired music can be a tiny foretaste of the joy of eternal salvation. Likewise, while few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities.
I’d agree with the first sentence, as noted above. However, I think the claim that “few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet” is disingenuous. That claim gets kicked around in class regularly. Every Latter-day Saint has heard of it. Maybe they ought to just own it. There are something like 100 billion stars in the Milky Way. Do the math: there are plenty of stars and planets to go around. Okay, there I go again, being lighthearted on such a serious topic as the hereafter. But consider the idea that God would at some distant time call you and a few of your family members aside and say, “I’m calling you on a one-thousand-year mission to the Vega system. Look after those planets. Nurture life as it appears. If you need more time, take a few thousand years extra. Good luck.” A thoroughly Mormon scenario. It beats playing harps and staring in bliss at God and His Angels for the next thousand years.
The Sherlock Essay
Here is where I would talk about Sherlock’s essay in the book. Well, it turns out I already discussed Sherlock’s essay in my earlier post in this series, “Are Mormon Christian?” Go read my earlier discussion, which I don’t think I can improve on. Also, go buy the book and read Sherlock’s essay for yourself. Remember the LDS scripture: “The glory of God is intelligence, in other words reading books, writing blog posts, reading them, and making comments.” Something like that.
What do you think? Pick one of the following.
- I’m looking forward to getting my own planet someday. Better than learning to play the harp.
- I think it’s wrong to speculate on what we’ll be doing in the hereafter. Stick to the basics.
- I’m looking forward to achieving full godhood someday, although I’ll always be a junior god compared to God the Father and the other members of the LDS Godhead.
- I think the best way to think about “becoming like God” is to stress the “like” part. We should emulate divine virtues, which is a better way to talk about the whole topic.
- I’m headed for the Terrestrial Kingdom — at best — so I’m not really worried about godhood and planetary design. I’ll settle for a few books, a galactic Internet connection, and occasional visits from god-like relatives living on a higher plane.
In the immortal words of Groucho Marx,: “I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.”
If the Celestial Kingdom is populated with the type of people I meet at Church, I’d rather spend the eternities with my surfing buddies and work friends.
Back in the 4th century as the church leadership were debating nd arguig about whether Christ was divien or not Alexadrian Bidhop Athanastus stated, “the son of God became man so that we might become God, and only a tryky divine Crist could offer his folowers that divinity.” Perhaps the bishop had it right and maybe Joseph Smith was thinking along those llines as well, I don’t know . But it would not be the first time the early LDS got things wrong and took them to rediculous ends. (this quote is form Jesus Wars by Philip Jenkins)
My biggest issue with all of this isn’t the doctrine itself, it’s the method the Lord supposedly used to communicate the doctrine. We are told that the Book of Mormon contains the “fullness of the Gospel”. Yet so many our beliefs, even really important ones, seem to come from other sources. Are we really supposed to believe that God, or Jesus, or the Lord, or whoever you like to identify as the creator of all of us and all things decided to communicate information about himself and our ultimate potential via a speech? That’s how he wanted to get the message out? So again, I don’t want to debate the doctrine that we can become Gods or get our own worlds. What I question is our willingness to turn the misc. ramblings in a speech to semi-canonized doctrine, especially when it doesn’t resemble anything in the BOM or Bible. It’s almost as if he (Joseph Smith) was making it up as he went along.
What the whole bit of Mormon speculation about “becoming like God” leaves out is the female gendered equivalent of what it might be like “becoming like Goddess”. What I have heard sounds like we women might be part of a harem belonging to our husbands and we will be eternally pregnant and popping out babies to populate our husband’s planet.
Ummmm…. No thanks. Playing harp and sitting on a cloud and staring in bliss at God sounds better than eternal pregnancy.
Just No thanks, to what Mormon heaven sounds like for women. I’ll take the telestial kingdom , or maybe it is unmarried CK position of being a servant and serving as a DNA technician working on the design of flowers. Yeah, flowers sounds good. You know, figuring out how to configure the DNA into the proper sequence to get shape and color (including the colors humans can’t see) and smell just right to attract various insects. Or maybe I could work on volcanic activity, or even the evolutionary path of the platypus. Maybe we serve missions off to various departments.
Yeah, that sounds better than waddling around with the big belly of pregnancy so that my husband, who I share with 6 billion other wives can gain glory by being God to children that I am not even allowed to talk to.
Does it have to be either or? I mean I’d be interested in the design side of planetary construction, especially materials… but I love music too, so I d like my trumpet (Mormon heavenly beings have been depicted with trumpets) and to spend time learning the harp for relaxation.
Earlier this year I was in SS and the conversation was about being a ruler one day so this doctrine is still very much in the Mormon zeitgeist.
While I sat in that class, watching people pontificate about ruling over many one day I thought to myself no thank you. I am not interested in being a ruler. Father, grandfather, husband, son, friend, and community member, sure! But not ruler.
That being said, I don’t follow enough of the Mormon rules anyway to qualify so there’s that.
And I’m male. I 100% agree with the female perspective Anna shares above.
A close friend claimed to have known Elder Mark E Petersen of the 12 very well, enough that they had dinner together somewhat frequently. Apparently my friend asked Elder Petersen about the “as man is God once was” couplet. I guess Petersen explained that God could never have been like mere men (ie like us) but that he was a sinless man like His son Jesus was. In other words Jesus wasn’t a *normal* man he was himself a sinless man who had God blood in him. Therefore there are two tiers of men: 1) men who can become God and who are direct blood descendants of God, which is a very small number, and 2) the rest of us who can become gods (small “g”) only through the grace of God (big “G”).
Therefore those of us who aren’t born of Mary and Elohim can become gods but we’ll never achieve the stature of a sinless, capital G God. You and I will worship Jesus, Elohim, Elohim’s dad, His Grandfather, etc. Likewise our posterity will never worship us (little “g” gods) but they will worship Jesus and Elohim who saved us and our posterity forever and ever amen.
I guess that kind of makes sense, and I have to say it has a very Mormon Doctrine feel to it so I think it’s plausible that some of the Q15 believe that. That said, this came to me second hand and it still requires a bunch of logic hoops to jump through, but there you have it. My opinion is that an eternity of governing planets and having amazing perfect body sex with multiple wives and billions of offspring will eventually get boring and tedious.
I’m with Anna – I’d take Christian Heaven over Mormon Heaven any day. In addition to being utterly unappealing to women, I’ve seen time and time again how some church members use this model of heaven to justify the exclusion of queer people and unmarried people from exaltation.
Rather than deification, I much prefer becoming like God in the sense of developing our best attributes as human beings: charity, wisdom, imagination, empathy, etc.
Dave B: I like your suggestion “”I think the best way to think about “becoming like God” is to stress the “like” part. We should emulate divine virtues…”” —not gendered roles or job duties or titles.
The more I learn, the more I come to understand that most (if not all) of what we “know” about the afterlife/eternities is speculation. Of course we want to make sense of things, to have a purpose, so we do our best to fill in the blanks. And it’s easy to take other people’s ruminations and codify them into soft doctrine. We have inherited a couple hundred years of that.
Anna: 1000% agreement with our lack of theology of being female + divine as being other than endless baby makers in a nameless group of other baby makers. Which is just filler for having no doctrine, really.
Chadwick: the SS experience you related is disheartening. But not surprising when you recall much of the language used in the temple,especially for males.
Regarding your thoughts on the essays — essentially that they did not achieve their purpose and that the church is not really doing anything with them, or even hiding them to some degree — I would agree. A question some have is “Why is the church not really doing anything with them or promoting them somehow?” In a recent conversation I had with a SP, he mentioned that his area authority said something like, “the Brethren are asking that we stop spending so much time defending the doctrine of the church and get back to primarily teaching it”. Perhaps it’s not the best use of leaders’ time?? Perhaps the doctrine, when properly taught, stands on its own, without the need for a “defense”??
Anna’s comment is spurring me to slip this in.
For me the gospel topics essays are interrelated. I heard “the couplet” a lot my whole life. But after having my feminist awakening,I realized how little I care about a doctrine taught by a man who thought God needed him to marry seventeen year-olds when he’s fifty-seven. I think a lot of women don’t compartmentalize. They consider everything about the source.
This seems like straying from the OP, but I think women always have the extra step of reckoning what a doctrine means for them that it doesn’t mean for men.
Great post and great comments. Thank you!
Fortunately, the LDS Canon of scripture is not closed. We believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. I stubbornly believe that the forces of reactionary doctrinal fundamentalism in my Church will sooner or later die off, hopefully sooner. If African-Americans can belatedly get the Priesthood, then I can hope for the day of approving same-sex marriages, and for more actively using Church funds to alleviate temporal misery.
In the meantime, I think many of our senior Church leaders, not yet at the top, are quietly waiting for their turn to join the 20th Century (NOT even talking about the 21st Century!).
In the meantime, I parade my anti-Trump bumper sticker, to get my horrified Ward family to realize , that there ARE Church members who are not stuck in the past.
Please keep the faith.
I’m pretty sure my wife and I will never get a planet. Wouldn’t know what to do with one. Like Voltaire’s Candide, I wish for a small house with a large garden to tend. Some good friends and family around me. That’s good enough for me.
I’m aiming for the Terrestrial kingdom and many interesting projects to work on. I’m a failure at all family relationships (as the Church measures failure and success anyway), so I wouldn’t be happy in the Celestial Kingdom in any capacity.
Toad – I’d come to the same conclusion you attribute to Elder Peterson from my own scripture study. If Jesus said he follows his Father’s example in all things, then God the Father clearly could never have been a man like us. I mean, the whole idea that we sinful mortals who need a Savior could ever become the father of a Savior just doesn’t make sense. God the Father needed a Savior? Then how did he progress past Jesus enough to become his Father? There has to be God-Level beings that are sinless, and God the Father and Jesus can progress on that level. Maybe Jesus has a son who goes on to become a Savior in Christ’s galaxy, I dunno. But Jesus couldn’t become a Savior by following God’s example if God was a fallen mortal.
Chadwick – same about not having any ambition to rule and reign. The temple sealing ceremony always puzzled me. I didn’t want the glory and power being promised. There’s nothing in those promises about loving each other, respect, enjoying each other’s company. I too would rather be busy, loved and happy rather than powerful and glorious.
Anna – I will save you a seat in the Terrestrial Kingdom if you want to join me.
I am glad I am going to have so many friends in the lower kingdom. We’ll have a great time. I just hope my TBM husband loves me enough to join me there. Actually, he doesn’t like anything about the promised CK either, so I think I am set for a cabin on the beach maybe in Washington state, with a vegetable garden and friends nearby.
The only thing I do like with Joseph Smith’s concept of heaven is the idea of eternal progression. I don’t want to ever stop learning. But I have no idea how that might work. I don’t think of progress as children, let alone my children having lots of children. I just don’t see any glory in that. Just more people to love. To me eternal progression has to be knowledge, the only power that I need is the power of knowledge. Whether it is understanding math, science, or people. Understanding people is so much better than ruling over people. Helping people grow and make good decisions about their own life is better than controlling people.
I think becoming like God involves being like Him in every way there is, except for the obvious fact that my Heavenly Parents will always be older than me and have more posterity. I do think my Heavenly Parents will have more seniority over me, but I liken it more to the seniority my dad has over me when calling one someone for a prayer at a family gathering, rather than some sort of lower case “god” status or priesthood delegation.
Not entirely sure how the whole family dynamic works, but I think Heaven, by its very definition, is a place where all individuals are happy and satisfied, so I don’t think there will be any complaints from anyone.
I may be in the minority with this view, but I do tend to think our own omniscience will be limited to our own creations. So in the unlikely event that perfection and raising billions of spirit children becomes boring, my wife and I could read books from the equivalent Shakespeare or Austen on another planet our Heavenly Parents (or Heavenly grandparents for that matter) created, look at an equivalent Van Gogh or Kahlo on another one, or simply visit/view some national parks on yet another one. We’d also have an entire timeline at our fingertips since I’m guessing we’re not limited to four dimensions. I think boredom will be obsolete.
I have heard one or two members theorize that to truly be on par with Heavenly Father and the Savior, we’ll eventually need to atone for the sins of our future posterity. I don’t know that that’s necessary, and in some ways it seems to minimize what the Savior (and past/future Saviors) had to do in the first place. I know many members think Heavenly Father was the Savior of His Father’s children, and while that may be true, I don’t think it’s necessarily true of any of His spiritual siblings. If that’s the case, then I imagine it was less than a one in a trillion chance we had two generations of Saviors in our spirit family line.
Well said, Anna!
Anna said “Understanding people is so much better than ruling over people. Helping people grow and make good decisions about their own life is better than controlling people.” and I find myself unexpectedly in tears over my lunch at work.
I want to take care of the animal spirits.
This gospel topics essay is an egregious example of institutional gaslighting. In some ways, I’m surprised they haven’t taken it down given how demonstrably dishonest it is: https://tokensandsigns.org/these-are-they-kirtlands-expansion-of-the-mormon-afterlife/#Apotheosis
1000 likes for Anna. She put words to my thoughts.
I think it is the extreme hubris and vanity of latter-day saints that creates this question. We have no idea what God is like. We have no idea where he came from. We have no idea of anything about God. For Joseph Smith to say that God was once a man is near meaningless. We only understand ourselves. And poorly at that. The LDS path to “exaltation” (upon close examination and scrutiny) won’t even allow the LDS people to obtain it. It is a self defeating system. It can’t lead to godhood or even close, unless we totally butcher who the stated person of God is.
The answer is that no one gets their own planet. Well, except me, because my life and my choices and my hopes justify me… Doesn’t that sound rediculous. Hubris and vanity indeed.
You have a better chance to win the lottery. And at least that has real odds and is absolutely demonstrable.
In reality, I am worse than a sinner and in no comparison to God. I only merit death. What I desire is not a factor.
Eternity is infinitely long, space is infinitely wide. Maybe this universe is just a blip in these infinities. My main questions are, who cooks the food? Who does the dishes? Do I get foot rubs?
In heaven there is a closet where the infinite number of three dimensional universes are kept. Ours is one of them with three infinite dimensions and time. In all of this hugeness you mean to ask, “All we get is a planet?”
I do not mean to trivialize this, though. It is just that God is bigger, time is bigger, space is bigger, than can ever be imagined. There are a few ways that the couplet works. 1. God is a Darwinist and loves the unpredictability of our planetary life. 2. There are things in our finite life that God cannot teach in eternity. We have to experience these in the finite flesh.
Then maybe it works. Universes are a dime a dozen. Forget the planet, I want my own universe.
Anna and others,
Heavenly Mother(s) eternal pregnancy is not doctrinal.
The KIng Follet Discourse (KFD) and other sources cite that intelligences/lights are eternal with no end and no beginning. Furthermore these intelligences were “organized” into spirit children. (Not birthed.) Essentially, God was/is a leader of pre-existing lights/intelligences. He/she didn’t go through a creative process to birth/create us, we are co-eternal lights/intelligences. Furthermore, in the KFD gender had nothing to do with it, intelligence and organization/planning coalesced us together.
All the pregnant heavenly mother stuff (including the art depicting a pregnant Heavenly Mother with countless children pouring out from her dress- like a cosmic “Mother Gingerbread” from the Nutcracker, as seen on the cover of newer book from Deseret Book “Our Heavenly Families, Our Earthly Families” by Caitlin Connely (whose work I typically admire) is pure supposition and Mormon folklore. While it was groundbreaking for DB to allow artwork depicting Heavenly Mother, the image gives people (as seen on this thread) massive anxiety and spiritual dissonance.
It has not been revealed what that process is— meaning it has NEVER been a doctrine or position of the Church that Heavenly Mother is pregnant or uses a spiritual uterus to transition intelligences into spirits and just sits around eternally pregnant to give some kind of spiritual birth to the trillions (?) and more (worlds without end being populated) spirit children.
What is the source of the belief for saints talking about that Heavenly Mother sitting around pregnant all of the time or that there is such a thing as “pregnant” in the creation of spirit children? I don’t see it in the KFD or the scriptures.
Separately, did anyone watch the tv series “The Good Place”? It’s about Heaven and hell, people, angels and demons and runs through a lot of philosophy. Spoiler alert! Essentially, the protagonists start out as pretty bad people who, through time and adventure, become good people. They fight good and evil, develop themselves, save their friends, etc. but after a few eternities of perfection, they get bored and grow out of their current energy state. (Citing an eastern philosopher that I don’t remember/understand) they release their energy back into the universe (essentially die and recycle the light). I don’t totally get it, but what I took away was that we greatly underestimate what “eternity” is, and how much wheel-spinning- perfectionism-work could fi in it. Star Trek Next Gen touches on this with the character “Q”, an all-knowing, all powerful being and set of beings who through the eternities- grow bored and become mischievous. Eternity is a long time and being perfect, even creating along the way, doesn’t change how long eternity is.
“Who doesn’t? I would populate my planet with elves, dwarves, humans, hobbits, and, because there must be opposition in all things, orcs and some rebellious Southrons.” Indeed. I should note that Eru’s initial intention was that his children would be Elves (the Firstborn) and Men (the Secondborn). Aulë the Smith made Dwarves because he could not wait for the Children of Ilúvatar to awake and he wanted to teach them their craft and then Eru adopted the Dwarves.
Onto more serious issues, there is one question I’ve been wanting to ask a Latter-day Saint: if there is an infinite regression of gods into eternity (correct me if I am wrong in my understanding of your doctrine), what are your thoughts on the contingency argument espoused by many classical theists, such as Aquinas and (I believe) Aristotle?
Chivalric, The idea you asked about (an infinite regression of gods into eternity) is not part of our common church doctrine — it may be believed by some Latter-day Saints who may proclaim it is doctrine, but remember that one Latter-day Saint’s doctrine is another Saint’s folklore. Certainly, the idea exists within the broad tapestry of Latter-day Saint thought, but it isn’t part of our common church doctrine.
@ ji…. It isn’t in current Mormon doctrine. Unless R. M. Nelson says it is. That could change as early as next week. Stay tuned for all the wonderful and amazing things the prophet will declare into this generation.
So, be careful what you say.
Abraham 3:18-26 gives some thought to your question — it will be difficult to reconcile what you read there with the idea expressed above — that explanation from Abraham was sufficient for the Prophet Joseph Smith, and it is sufficient for me.
Thanks for your response, Ji! (I’m not sure how to pronounce your username, but I guess I’m writing it rather than speaking)
Interesting. So, you’re not required to believe that God was once a man of some sort?
Ji, I don’t quite get the verse from Abraham and precisely what its answer is.
So, you’re not required to believe that God was once a man of some sort?
No. It is not an article of our faith and is not taught in our curriculum.
It was reported that the Prophet Joseph Smith once made a statement near the end of his life, but only fragments of his discourse were noted (and there is diversity in these) and we don’t know exactly what he said or the context in which he said it. The matter was never accepted as doctrine by the body of the church, or by the leaders of the church as a whole. Some individual Saints took it upon themselves to flesh it out, much as has been done for the idea of heavenly mothers, following the dangerous tradition so common to mankind of re-creating God in our own image without benefit of revelation. Some Latter-day Saints endorse it; some do not; most are silent. President Lorenzo Snow endorsed and proclaimed it; President Gordon B. Hinckley did not.
I am giving you one Latter-day Saint’s opinion — another Saint might give you a different opinion. Latter-day Saints do not have a codified systematic theology.
Abraham is a book in the Pearl of Great Price, canonized as scripture for Latter-day Saints. The citation I mentioned explains that the spirits of man are eternal, and have no beginning or end. Continuing on, we read, with God speaking to Abraham,
21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
There are various interpretations of these verses among Latter-day Saints.
I see. Do you know of any LDS resources that speak on the contingency argument?
I don’t. I prefer to accept God according to what he has revealed, rather than through theological, philosophical, or cosmological arguments. God reveals line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. There have been some attempts by Latter-day Saints to theologize and philosophize, but I don’t pay attention to them.