Was Joseph Smith a henotheist?

Mormons are often accused of polytheism, and the accusation is generally meant to exclude them from the respectability of Abrahamic religion (the established monotheism of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). The notion that the LDS would be excluded from Abraham’s legacy would strike many LDS as bizarre, particularly given the fact that the scripture named for Abraham is a vital text in understanding Smith’s vision of the nature of God’s relationships to humanity and to other beings.

I have often been reminded by reasonably knowledgeable and well-intentioned Latter-day Saints that in point of fact Smith was a henotheist. While I am sympathetic to the underlying impulse (shielding Smith from the opprobrium of the monotheists), that answer is misleading. Henotheism indicates a belief in one’s own, generally national/ethnic, God who exists in a world in which other gods of other nations are also believed to exist but to have separate jurisdictions. The YHWH of the Hebrews, and in fact much of the theology of ancient Mesopotamia, is maintained to be henotheistic in this sense. Elijah’s great success in igniting wet wood is understood to be evidence of YHWH’s great power over competing gods (represented by Baal) rather than the fictitiousness of the competing Gods.

This henotheism was then seen to lead naturally to monotheism as one’s national God was finally realized to be the only true God. The Mormon henotheists argue (at least implicitly) that God’s divine relatives function as distinct “national” deities and thus cannot be considered anything like the “pagan” pantheon depicted by (generally evangelical Christian) critics of Mormonism.

Polytheism, on the other hand, generally is conflated with something like the Greek pantheon, in which some more powerful gods maintain a court in which a variety of other gods live and have their function. Often it is equated with pantheism (which itself has several different forms). Polytheism (or at least kindness or respect toward henotheistic competitors) is decried throughout the Hebrew Bible, and the Christian Bible preaches a single mighty God. Later Christian interpretation has made clear the mystical separation of humans from God (even as the Atonement mediates a reconciliation), even though the central honorific of the Christian Bible for God is Father.

I would submit that Smith actually taught a vision of God’s relationships separate from monotheism, henotheism, and polytheism. For lack of a better neologism, I would prefer familotheism. The more I read Smith’s own writings and preachings, the more convinced I am that he truly did see patriarchal kinship networks as encompassing not just all of humanity, but all of the vast upper expanses of what he and his followers called the “scale of creation.” Working from the Christian Biblical context, he appears to have emphasized above all others the relationships implied by God’s paternal honorific (seen as mighty metaphor for Creation and salvation by mainline Christians). Angels, for many Christians an approximation to polytheism, were for Smith a part of that same kinship network, siblings and cousins in the eternal family tree.

This position will cause problems for systematizers and theologians because it appears to be an explanatory system drawn from outside formal theology and will tend to defy the coherence so coveted by scholastics and their conceptual heirs, but I believe it is both more honest and perhaps more illuminating than characterizing Smith as a henotheist.

————————–

[1] Not enough time for formal footnoting or a more comprehensive treatment, but I will point to the full and formal argument when it is published.

[2] I am open for disagreement. Was Smith a henotheist? Monotheist? Polytheist?

[3] I am also interested in amplifications or insights. What does this conceptualization of God imply for Mormon theology and faith culture?

[4] In terms of interactions with outsiders over this issue, perhaps it could be summarized as “Joseph Smith believed in God as a Father in a much more literal sense than his Christian peers, and though the details are somewhat complex, God’s involvement in the family of which we are a part is central to  our worship of God, whom we affirm as our only Divine Father and the exclusive object of our worship.”

Comments

  1. I believe it is both more honest and perhaps more illuminating than characterizing Smith as a henotheist.

    I do too. Nice work Sam. I think you are very right to point out the difficulties that arise from trying to fit the new theological insights that Joseph gave us into pre-existing and standardized buckets. It seems to me that attempting to do that is sort of like putting new wine into old bottles.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    I agree that there is no single, existing theological term that does justice to Joseph’s thought on God. It’s kind of like the old blind men feeling various parts of an elephant thing. You can make an argument for

    monotheism
    bitheism
    tritheism
    trinitarianism
    henotheism
    polytheism

    None by itself is a sufficient characterization. There simply is no existing single technical term that covers it.

  3. I think that there is an added level of confusion due to the post-martyrdom theological expansions. I think we can try to recapture Joseph’s vision, but there is ultimately going to be some disagreement on what Joseph believed in his final days.

    Still, I think it is a worthy exercise. As I see it, the big questions revolve around the ultimate destiny of humans. I read the KFD and the Sermon in the Grove as stating a theology much different from the latter expansions. Still, the idea of the Celestial society, a society where the saints live as neighbors, friends and kin throughout eternity, was persevered for some time.

  4. Smith seems to have evolved or changed his mind as life moved on, to me anyway. The canonized 1838 account of the grove hardly fits with what appears to be Smith’s ideas and beliefs in Mosiah 15:1-5.

  5. Oh, and anyone who uses “henotheism” to describe Mormonism doesn’t know A) what henotheism means in an academic setting, or B) what Mormonism is, or C) both of these.

  6. David J,

    Most Mormons don’t believe that Joseph wrote the BofM, so they would not see Mosiah 15 as expressing Joseph’s view, but Abinadi’s.

  7. Christopher Smith says:

    >>…they would not see Mosiah 15 as expressing Joseph’s view, but Abinadi’s…

    which, as we all know, was tainted by the evil monotheistic reform of those charlatans Josiah and Jeremiah. (Thank you, Margaret Barker!)

  8. David J, I’m very interested in your comments, so an explanation of why henotheism doesn’t descrive Mormonism would be much more intellectually worthwhile for all of us curious readers. :)

  9. I’m clearly swayed by my reading of Smith’s Elijah ideas, which I think are reasonably clear before KFD (though admittedly largely post-1840), but you can summon threads from the nature of patriarchal blessings during Smith’s lifetime, Israelitism, and his approaches to ecclesial community that I think do ground God in an infrastructure of priesthood family.

    Although I had never thought of the word until today, I do think that familotheism begins to approach Smith’s novel permutations of perfectionism, metaphysics, Biblicism, and commonsense theological iconoclasm.

    I have heard people speculate about whether the parallel universes implied by the Abraham cosmology and KFD familotheism could ever connect, and as silly as I find most scifi, I think this speaks to the idea about a system that can comprehend the vastness of space within the infrastructure of human relationships.

  10. You may want to add to your list the concept of “social trinitarianism.” This was developed by modern Protestant scholars to reconcile monotheism with the obvious separation of Jesus and the Father portrayed in the New Testament. It basically suggests that Jesus and God are separate persons but constitute a single monotheistic God due to the total unity of their social relation to each other. This is pretty close to the LDS concept, but they came up with a great sounding name for it. In fact, I have often thought of having buttons made that say “Hi! I’m a Social Trinitarian – ask me about it!” as a missionary tool.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    JWL, I actually meant trinitarian with the nuance of social trinitarian (per Plantinga).

  12. Still, Smith’s proposal seemed far more radical than Social Trinitarianism, particularly in its insistence on familializing those socially united gods in a much broader web of interaction.

  13. Sam, the questions this raises for me are about the relationship between the familial network and God’s individual attributes. That is, you seem to be defining God solely in terms of his relationships. Of course, that’s what the post is about, but I wonder what if anything Joseph believed these relationships had to do with God’s power, knowledge, nature, etc.

  14. Actually, I think that there is a perfectly good category for what Joseph Smith believed. He believed what I would term kingship or monarchic monotheism. There is a Most High God who is king over others of the same kind who give the Most High obeisance in gratitude for his great gifts. Kingship monotheism is consistent with social trinitarianism to the extent that the king can have a successor by adoption or a co-ruler by permission. I suggest that the Old Testament manifests a fairly stable view of kingship monotheism where the Most High rules amidst a council of gods or advisors who rule as viziers of this one God. (This view may have been abandoned in second Isaiah, I’m still undecided on that issue).

    I agree that henotheism clearly is not adequate for LDS views because of its mere nationalistic reach of any particular god. There are several who argue for modalism in the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses — I don’t think such a category is nearly adequate to the text.

  15. Christopher Smith says:

    Blake,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t monarchic monotheism a peculiarly modern Mormon concept? After all, near the end of his life Joseph Smith seems to have believed in the “infinite regress” of gods, does he not? He supposedly affirmed Lorenzo Snow’s couplet, if I recall correctly. That would bring us back to henotheism: there are many universes, but the “local” God (i.e. the God of this universe) is the only one we worship.

    -Chris

  16. Christopher: I doubt that Joseph Smith could have affirmed Lorenzo Snow’s couplet — a problem with the spce-time continuum and all.

    Kingship monotheism (only one Most High God surrounded by a council of gods and hosts of heaven) was the view throughout the ancient Near East. It is clearly present in Ugaritic sources and provides a basis for the Old Testament view of the Most High God. So it is anything but a new Mormon or modern invention.

    I reject any notion of an infinite regress of gods and I suggest that Joseph didn’t have any such idea. The other gods Joseph spoke of were all sons of God (that is what Joseph says in the Sermon in the Grove). If there is a “God of all other gods” (D&C 121) and there is one among the intelligencces “that is more intelligent than they all,” then there is a Most High God (a God than which none is in fact greater). I must confess that I spend my entire third volume of Exploring Mormon Thought elucidating the biblical texts and the LDS view of these issues.

  17. Let me add this: the notion that henotheism characterizes “much of the theology of ancient Mesopotamia” is false. In virtually every instance of ancient Near Eastern mythology, all of the gods serve only at the sufference of a Most High God — El in Ugaritic texts. El has placed the gods over the nations — just as Yahweh is placed over Israel and the other gods are placed over the other nations by El Elyon in Deut. 32.

  18. Blake, I will read your third volume. I’m eager to give your argument a try, though my reading of Smith as creator of ideas (rather than rigorous theologian) has tended away from that reading. I think the context of the progressive chain of being which appears to be present in Smith’s thought leaves open the possibility of the infinite regress.

    As far as 17, my memory of the Biblical studies argument is that the most high god himself was nationally constrained, even though the Hebrews attempted to force the view that you are proposing in their act of capturing the pantheons of their neighbors. Your view would require accepting the Hebrews as reliable witnesses (but admittedly this is not my area).

  19. Matt, I’m not sure that Smith actually worked out the details of how his model intersected with prior models in a rigorous way. I think he anticipated, with the progressive chain of being and its perfectionist reflexes, that Godhood was a position among others, and those powers reflected the position–he did I believe see God as basically omnipotent, etc.

  20. Blake, I have looked and do not find evidence that volume 3 has been published. is that correct? I would be interested to read it regardless, as it has direct relevance to my image of sacerdotal genealogy, which I am expanding from a conference talk to a paper as well as a book chapter.

  21. Christopher Smith says:

    >>Christopher: I doubt that Joseph Smith could have affirmed Lorenzo Snow’s couplet — a problem with the space-time continuum and all.

    Blake,

    Contrary to popular opinion, no dimensional travel is necessary. Snow formulated his couplet (supposedly by revelation) on his mission in 1840, and told Joseph about it in 1843. Joseph’s reply: “Brother Snow, that is a true gospel doctrine, and it is a revelation from God to you.”

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/gateway.dll/Magazines/Ensign/1982.htm/ensign%20february%201982.htm/i%20have%20a%20question.htm?f=templates$fn=document-frame.htm$3.0$q=$x=$nc=3455#LPTOC2

    -Chris

  22. PK (#8),

    The reason that henotheism fails to describe Mormonism’s concept of godhead is long. I have never heard, in all my academic exposure, anyone use henotheism to describe anything remotely Christian, under which I think Mormonism resides.

    Henotheism, to start, is more than just a definition somebody looked up in Donald McKim’s theological dictionary or found at wikipedia and thought “Hey, that’s a fancy word that describes Mormonism, I think I’ll use it.” Henotheism is used to describe civilizations in which the pantheon of that civilization has many characters, actors, and players, but for some reason (cultural, economic, geographic, or what have you), the people in that civilization are generally constructively NOT pluralistic. This does not mean that they are monotheistic or monolotrous. Generally, henotheism is used to describe when one of many available gods is venerated (typically on a national and/or ethnic level) above all other gods in the pantheon. There is no theological reason for it, unless the lore and/or myth surrounding this one god has created the situation, such as widespread theocide within the given mythology of the said pantheon. Moreover, the “other” or “lesser” gods are (generally) not forgotten or unknown. They are very much still part of the culture and society at large. The general populous would still know the names, attributes, and myths surrounding the “lesser” deities in their own pantheon. The only caveat is that for some reason, one god, for a given time, is generally venerated more highly than the others – but the others are still very much part of the whole picture (or, at the very least, they are still available to the people for appeal, sacrifice, and worship). The word henotheism was developed in order to describe situations such as these.

    Mormonism isn’t henotheistic. Henotheism is generally born out of complex and involved pluralistic pantheons. The godhead of Mormonism is just an extension of orthodox Christian concepts of god, with new ideas about God’s nature and activity – No other gods are part of the Christian tradition, and so if Mormonism is an extension or appendix to Christian orthodox notions of godhead, I don’t see how Mormonism even remotely qualifies based on the academic usage of the term “henotheism.”

    And there’s even more to it than this, PK. Perhaps I’ll post it all up over at FPR for you.

  23. Christopher Smith – M. Barker is not to be thanked at all. Her ideas are extremist and suspect, and she can’t prove anything that she writes with any weight.

    Jacob J – you got me! The idea that Abinadi knows orthodox trinitarianism in pre-Christian times is… incredible! ;)

  24. Christopher Smith says:

    >>M. Barker is not to be thanked at all. Her ideas are extremist and suspect, and she can’t prove anything that she writes with any weight.

    I was speaking tongue-in-cheek. Sorry for having such an obscure sense of humor. :-P

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    Sam, Blake’s volume three isn’t out yet.

  26. Christopher Smith — Thanks for that link in #21. I love it.

    All — I think the comments by Blake and others show that Stapley was right on in his comment #3 when he said there is still significant debate over what Joseph Smith’s position really was in 1844. We have had several long debates over what Joseph meant in the KFD and Sermon in the Grove over at the Thang.

  27. I posted about this subject myself very recently at Blognitive Dissonance. But I hadn’t heard/read the view expressed by Sam MB in this post:

    Henotheism indicates a belief in one’s own, generally national/ethnic, God who exists in a world in which other gods of other nations are also believed to exist but to have separate jurisdictions. The YHWH of the Hebrews, and in fact much of the theology of ancient Mesopotamia, is maintained to be henotheistic in this sense.

    The idea that henotheism particularly applies to ancient Mesopotamian religious systems is useful for me and it leads me to conclude that Mormonism has unique views on God and gods that hasn’t really been named yet. I like the way Kevin Barney puts things in comment #2.

  28. danithew, you are correct – there really is no clear-cut, single-word definition for our concept of godhead. I just call it “Mormon godhead” when I discuss it.

  29. Christopher Smith says:

    >>Christopher Smith — Thanks for that link in #21. I love it.

    Don’t get me wrong– I’m no more a fan of the infinite regress of gods than Blake is. But I suspect Joseph Smith believed it. Frankly, unless we want to envision a universe full of populated worlds, fixed stars that revolve around fixed stars and the like, I don’t think the Latter-day Saints should accept Joseph Smith’s views as normative any more than they accept Gordon B. Hinckley’s views as normative. They have a whole range of theologies, cosmogonies, and cosmologies to choose from in their scriptures, and they should choose the one that is the most rationally tenable (IMHO, the absolutist monism of the Book of Mormon).

    -Chris

  30. Christopher: Just what is the absolutist monism of the Book of Mormon you refer to since I just don’t see anything there that would answer to that label?

  31. Christopher Smith says:

    Blake:

    It’s just a general impression. I certainly don’t think such a doctrine is well-developed in that book, but the seeds of it I feel are there. You may, however, look forward to my argument for monism from the record of John (in D&C 93), to be completed and hopefully published in the coming months.

    -Chris

  32. Christopher: Published where?

    Van Hale has been thru this question here: http://home.earthlink.net/~vanehale/resourcelibrary/id18.html

    Christopher: Are you somehow responding to Pauslen and Breunig? I find their evidence and argument quite persuasive and it gels with my own review of the evidence.

  33. Christopher Smith says:

    Hi Blake,

    By Paulsen and Breunig are you referring to “The Development of the Mormon Understanding of God: Early Mormon Modalism and Other Myths”? I haven’t read it, but on your recommendation I shall. My comments were not intended to comment on modalism vs. Trinitarianism in the Book of Mormon. Both the modalistic and Trinitarian gods can be (and have been, and I think should be) reconciled with monism. Monism is not explicit in the Book of Mormon, but I think that labels like “omniscient,” “omnipotent,” “light of the world” and the like lead quite naturally to monism. This is all my own opinion, and I will quite understand if you disagree. I didn’t intend to make a big to-do over this; my comment was made in passing.

    I don’t know if or where my D&C 93 article will be published yet. Some time ago I submitted a draft to Dialogue, but I tried to do too many things in one essay (I was also discussing possible anachronisms, John the Baptist vs. John the Apostle as author, and section 93 as a midrash on John’s gospel). The reviewer disliked it for several reasons (especially for lack of focus and too many conservative presses in the bibliography), but Levi Peterson promised to look at it again when I have reworked it. In the current draft I am focusing in on the word “fulness” and its probable Greek underpinning, pleroma (as well as the context it is used in in D&C 93). If Dialogue isn’t interested, then I’ll probably go the quick route and submit it here for e-pub in the BCC Papers.

    -Chris

  34. Well Christopher I ask because Monism typically means that all of reality reduces to one reality or to one form of reality like matter. I just don’t see that kind of reduction taking place in the Book of Mormon or any other LDS scripture.

  35. Christopher Smith says:

    >>I just don’t see that kind of reduction taking place in the Book of Mormon or any other LDS scripture.

    Like I said, if you will give me some time, I intend to make what I feel is a very compelling case with respect to D&C 93. Thanks for your thoughts,

    -Chris

  36. Richard Livingston says:

    Blake,

    Regarding 21 (and 29), I noticed that you didn’t respond, and wondered if you might be willing to elaborate more of your own view in relation to the link provided.

    Second, my apologies to those who can’t stand thread-jacks or tangents, but Blake, I have read both your books and quite a few of your articles, and while I’m fairly clear on your disdain for the notion of an infinite regress of Gods, I still can’t seem to figure out precisely where you stand with respect to the latter half of the couplet–as God now is man may be. I know this may end up sounding a little dense, but I tend to think that your wording is so carefully chosen in the second volume that there remains, at least for me, some ambiguity on your stance with respect to the question of theosis or deification.

    So, to be as clear and concise as I can, let me ask what I take to be the same thing in several different ways. Do you or do you not believe that human beings have the potential to become what God is–e.g., becoming a King, Priest, Father, and God (those are all intentionally capitalized) to eternal offspring? Do you or do you not believe that human beings have the potential to become creators of worlds? Do you or do you not take the latter half of the couplet (or the KFD) as saying human beings have the potential to eventually stand in exactly the same relation to eternal offspring as God the Father stands in relation to his? Do you believe there are (or will be) human beings who reside on some other planet in some other aeon or eternity praying to Jesus of Nazareth, or Adam, or Abraham, etc. (assuming that each receives the fullness of the glory of the Father), as their Heavenly Father? Do you believe that human beings have the potential to become worship-worthy–i.e., worthy of being worshiped?

    Lastly, another quick side-bar, after the massive delays with volume two, I know you probably hate to speculate, but do you have any idea what the rough time table for the release of your third volume will be?

    -Richard

  37. Richard Livingston says:

    Oh, and just to alleviate the potential criticism of my saying “assuming each receives the fullness of the glory of the Father”, please don’t assume that I think that Jesus lacks in any sense. Just trying to mention a few pivotal figures who most certainly wither have or will attain such a fullness.

    -Richard

  38. Richard:

    I have three chapters in volume 3 on deification. I critique the traditional views and argue that they cannot accomodate human deification — even in a weak sense. I next elucidate the LDS scriptures and what they assert about deification. I argue that we can be the same kind as God. However, I argue that it is a logical category mistake to equate our alienated existence as individuals with the indwelling coinherence of the divine life that we may enjoy when we become one as the Father and Son are one. Finally I look at some scriptual and logical challenges to what I take the LDS view(s) of deification to be and provide some responses.

    So I affirm a very strong notion of deification. We are the same kind of beings as the Father and the Son when we enter into the same unity. We enjoy a fulness of glory; however, we will always remain in a relationship of Father/child or teacher/student to the Most High God. I don’t believe that human beings ever become separately worhip-worthy — but then I don’t believe that any divine person ever becomes separately worship-worthy. Nor do I believe that there are humans on some other planet praying to Abraham or Adam. They too pray to the Most High in the name of the Son if I have properly understood Joseph Smith’s explicit statements and the expressions of LDS scripture. I also believe that Christ’s atonement is universal for all of our Father’s creations.

    I expect release of volume 3 by October of this year. It is already at the editor and type-setting should take just a few months. However, I’m not a Calvinist so anything is possible.

  39. Richard Livingston says:

    Blake,

    Thanks for the bit of clarification, and now if you’ll allow me to push you just a little bit on this, because I do think this has some important relevance to the questions at hand–just what sort of theists are LDS?

    Taking your conception of the Trinity into consideration, be it a social or monarchical form, if I understand correctly, not even God is (in Himself, as an individual, or considered separately) worship-worthy. In other words, beyond the boundaries of the Godhead, or should one member freely choose to alienate himself from that tri-unity, even God the Father is not worship worthy? In short, worship-worthiness requires participation in a Godhead (and all that that entails), and nothing less? You don’t need to elaborate, but I just want to make sure I’m clear that your denial of individual/separate worship-worthiness is intimately intertwined with your understanding of the Godhead. Correct?

    Now, given that you reject an infinite regress of Gods, and that an infinite “progress” (for lack of a better term) of Gods is something you also reject, I wonder if you would be willing to say something about your understanding of the doctrine of eternal marriage? Do you believe in spousal relations in the eternities? If so, why the rejection of procreation? Let me elaborate. It seems to me that a rejection of continued marital relations and all that that might entail (and I’m really just thinking in terms of the common pre-critical conception in LDS thought and practice) is implied in your rejection of deification in the strongest sense imaginable–the sense that goes even further than you are willing to go. Granted, that may be incoherent and scripturally unsupportable in your view, but I just want to make sure that I am correct in assuming that the implication of your formulation simultaneously denies spousal relations and procreation beyond mortality.

    Now, if I’m wrong, and you do want to maintain some notion of spousal relations in the eternities, please elaborate and clarify how that avoids an infinite progress of Gods.

    More pertinent to your notion of a peer-relation with God, I don’t get the impression that you are willing to allow the term peer to go as far as a literal or straight-forward reading of D&C 76:95–”equal in power, might, and dominion”. I think if your conception of a peer relation is pushed to its logical conclusion, it leads right there–to equality, and an infinite progress of Gods.

    I’m certainly open to alternative perspectives and interpretations, but it seems to me that one can still maintain an eternal relation of Father/Child or Teacher/Student and still share in a form of equality that is entailed by the sort of lives that are lived. In short, to be God’s child eternally, to always worship him, and to always be his student, doesn’t seem to me to logically preclude the possibility of engaging in the type of life he lives–in every way imaginable–i.e., becoming one with God as Christ is one with him, and becoming fully worship-worthy in precisely the sense that God is worship-worthy for us.

    Why deny the potential for all God’s faithful children to progress eternally and obtain the identical status in relation to one’s posterity in the eternities?

    -Richard

  40. Richard: I believe that the Most High God is worthy of worship and it is a relation with the Most High God, the Father, that is deifying. The Son and Holy Ghost have always enjoyed the relationship of unity with the Father (except during their respective mortal experiences). The Son gives all honor and glory to the Father out of gratitude and because the Father is pre-eminent, and the Father honors the Son in recognition of his faithfulness and fulfillment of all that the Father gave him to do. There is a sense of subordination that is not ontological but neither is it merely functional. The Father could be and would be (subjunctively) worthy of worship; but as a practical matter it never occurs that the Father is all alone. The council of gods acts as his councilors and emissaries; the Son and Holy Ghost act as one with Him. There never has been and never will be a Father who is acting all alone — that just isn’t how the Father does things because his power and glory arise from His love reciprocated by those who love Him. His power, knowledge and glory progress or increase when his kingdom expands because the number of persons reciprocating his love grows.

    I don’t believe that there is some god higher or more ultimate than the Most High God, the God and Father of Jesus Christ. However, I most certainly do accept as essential to deity eternal progress and growth. So there is eternal progression for all divine beings (in fact, that is what in part makes them divine because they are not damned in their growth).

    I believe in eternal spousal relations. Such enduring relations are the kind of bonds that divine beings form that make them divine because there is so much to learn from being in such relationships. Together with my children, my wife is my greatest teacher and what she has to teach me will and what I have to learn from her will never be exhausted. The kind of love that exists between husband and wife and children is literally god-like. The family relation is the greatest engine ever created for persons to learn to love and become more fully divine worlds without end.

    The strongest sense of deification imaginable is simply mystic identification of a person with God where the person disappears and only God remains. I don’t believe that is LDS deification. Rather, deification in the most robust sense that maintains individual identity is to be of the same kind as the divine persons when in relationship and to share their divine nature. To share in or participate in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) means that we co-exemplify all essential attributes of divinity. How does deification get any more robust than that?

    I most certainly affirm that those who are deified are equal in power, might and dominion. Those who believe that gods have some seperate realm must assert that we don’t have equal dominions! Finally, I agree that to be a son or daughter of God does not entail always being less than a peer. The Son becomes what the Father is; but the Father will have learned more from experience by then and will have more to teach — and thus will also have greater capacity also to learn. The peer relation arises when we become both teacher and student to each other. The Father can also learn and be student in terms of experiential knowledge. However, there will always be the difference that it was the Father who had the plan to assist us with our progression because he is greater (KFD), more intelligent than them all (Abr. 3), and the God of all other gods (D&C 121). That doesn’t entail that we are not peers — we are the same kind and enjoy mutual learning and teaching — but it does mean we owe a debt of gratitude that the Father doesn’t.

  41. Blake, you seem to stop short of the early Mormon interpretation (a familialized reflex of the progressive scale of creation) of this system on what sounds like a separate is unequal argument. That seems to be an importation on your part that would not have been recognized by the original proponents. I think Franklin’s view is a little closer (without the familial associations, which I agree are strongly present in Smith) to what I have seen of the early Mormon view.

    Benjamin Franklin is emblematic of this view, writing in his “Articles of Beliefs and Acts of Religion” in 1728 that a “Supreme most perfect Being” is the “Father of the Gods themselves.” He continues, “it may be that these created Gods, are immortal, or it may be that after many Ages, they are changed, and Others supply their Places. Howbeit, I conceive that each of these is exceedingly wise, and good, and very powerful; and that Each has made for himself, one glorious Sun, attended with a beautiful and admirable System of Planets. It is that particular wise and good God, who is the Author and Owner of our System, that I propose for the Object of my Praise and Adoration.”[1]

    [1]Franklin Papers 1: 102-3, discussed in Leventhal 246-7. The term “created Gods” comes directly from Plato. Franklin’s interest in the chain of being is also clear from his short story “An Arabian Tale.” See Pitt 1942, 144-6.

  42. Sam: I would say that my view is more a reflection of the Zionist ethic of equality in all things and the intense indwelling unity in a fulness of glory throughout LDS scripture. So it will be a pretty hard sell to me to suggest that such unity is some how an importation. I believe that seperateness is the opposite of what Joseph Smith had in mind — and it is certainly contrary to the Zion ethic that very clearly drove early LDS views of deification. However, what you have provided from Ben Franklin is very interesting — Deist that he was.

  43. Richard Livingston says:

    Blake,

    One of the things that I worry about in the rhetoric you employ is that it can tend to be misleading–not wrong, just a bit misleading. In other words, your words are so carefully chosen that one can come away from what you’ve written (both here and in your published work) thinking that you hold the same position that I take to be the most commonly held (not necessarily right) view in LDS discourse. I’ve tried to ask my questions in as clear a manner as possible, but I feel like you aren’t willing to respond in kind.

    Your response in 40 is a good example of what I mean. You affirm spousal relations in the eternities; you affirm that we are equal in power, might, and dominion; you affirm that the Son becomes what the Father is; you affirm that we can participate in divine nature; you affirm that we can co-exemplify all essential attributes of divinity etc. At the same time, you deny what that equality comes to for most individuals who accept the notion. I’m not saying that I think you’re wrong, and that the traditional view is right, just that this is what I mean by tending to be misleading.

    If you don’t think that individuals will ever be in the same relation to offspring that God the Father is with us, and you don’t think that human beings have the potential to ever become creators of worlds, and you don’t think that human beings will ever be fully worship-worthy in exactly the same way that God is worship-worthy, then why don’t you state it strongly and clearly? Perhaps you have said as much somewhere, but I’m just not personally aware of any such explicit statements from you. So, I’m not arguing that your position should be any different than it is (even though I’m still not fully clear on why you set the boundary where you do), just that you clarify your location and your locution. It would alleviate the problem that arises when people assume that Blake Ostler holds a similar view to the common or colloquial understanding, without realizing that he’s doing something different, and in a very crucial way.

    Finally, if you truly do accept a notion of post-mortal spousal relations, can you please indicate what your position is on procreation in the eternities? If I’ve understood you correctly, you would have to deny this. So, why spousal relations, but no children or creating of worlds in the eternities? If we are of the same ontological kind as God the Father, have the potential and the command to enter into a fully peer-relationship with Him, then it would both logically and ontologically follow that we can become precisely what God is.

    I agree that the strongest notion of deification is as you have described, but what I’m not sure about is why you stop where you do–and typically with some ambiguity. The strongest notion of deification is indeed one that allows individuals to maintain their individualuality, yet fully open to a complete oneness with God, sharing in that indwelling unity that you speak of so beautifully, and still (and this is where you appear to stop) have the potential to be exactly what God is–i.e., carry the mantle and status of a Priest, King, and Heavenly Father, presiding in exactly the same manner in which he presides over us–all the while never never negating, overcoming, or denying that original Father/Child relationship.

    It may not be scripturally supportable, but the idea that Jesus, just to take the most paramount of examples, is, will, or can engage in exactly the same sort of creative and procreative activity of the Father, standing in precisely the same relation to his offspring as God our Heavenly Father stands in relation to us seems eminently plausible, and fully in line with the canonical, prophetic, and cultural tradition of LDS theistic understanding.

    -Richard

  44. Blake, I can see your unity argument, and I agree that is strongly present in Smith’s heaven. That is not quite the same as the separate is unequal argument though, which was what triggered my response.

    I think your use of the unity argument to exclude Smith’s conflicting view of eternal increase is the importation. I’m sympathetic to your desire to systematize, but I think you have to first get down what Smith was actually teaching/thinking, even when it contained contradictory elements. Once you have done that, i’m fine with someone proposing a way to deal with the complexity of what Smith taught, but I think you have to be careful not to identify your exegesis with the original teaching. I think the familialist thread includes both the eternal generation and the strong sense of unity. I don’t think Smith actually worked through the ways they could prove theologically untenable in combination. He seems to have held them both.

    I will be fascinated to read your arguments as they are ultimately formalized. From a cultural history perspective, I’m not yet convinced by your rejection of the mid nineteenth-century Mormon exegesis of Smith. From a theological perspective, I’m interested to see what you maintain in detail.

    Thanks for enlivening the discussion.

  45. You guys have got me scared now! I admit I slept through some of the classes, and didn’t read all the material, but I am just not following all this. Is it part of the Final?! If so…I am in trouble.

  46. Richard: (To Blake) can you please indicate what your position is on procreation in the eternities?

    Blake has made it clear that he rejects the notion of viviparous spirit birth. See the extended quote in this post for one example.

    Also, I am almost done with a set of posts on Blake’s second volume and Blake participated in many of those discussion threads. See here. That might be a good place for you to catch up on some of his clarifications of his views too.

  47. Richard Livingston says:

    Geoff,

    Thanks for the link. That answers my question on where Blake stands, but it still doesn’t answer the heart of my questions in 44. Using Blake’s strongest arguments (found primarily in his published material), it’s just difficult for me to understand why he rejects deification in the sense in which I am pointing to–what, at least in my experience in the church, is the dominant view. Again, I don’t mean to suggest that because it’s been widely, and perhaps naively and pre-critically accepted, that it must be right, just that the notions of ontological sameness, peer-relationships, participation in the in-dwelling unity of the Godhead, eternal progression, etc. all seem to point to the possibility of, and I would even argue *in the direction of*–they certainly don’t preclude it–the potential for becoming exactly the type of being that God is–with no exceptions. The Father/Child relation need not be subsumed, negated, or obliterated to maintain this view.

    As for my position. I haven’t the slightest idea regarding the “how” of spirit creation, organization, or adoption, but I tend to remain somewhat conservative on this issue. That is, I wouldn’t want to try develop a robust defense for it here, but I am comfortable with the idea that however it happens, spirits are brought into a familial relation with Heavenly Parents (yes I’m open to the possibility of a Mother in Heaven) at some point. Prior to to that creation, organization, or adoption the spirit individual does not enjoy that particular familial relation. No creatio ex nihilo of the spirit, just a bringing of spirits into a relation hitherto not experienced. So, I don’t worry too much about the “viviparous” issue, but I am deeply concerned about some notion of familial organization and adoption.

    Now, again, all I’m saying here is that if this is the type of activity that in a very significant way defines the eternal life of God, I don’t see why Ostler’s arguments, when pushed to what I see as their logical conclusion, rule out this possibility for individuals now mortal who are true and faithful to their covenants with God. Not that the tradional or common view must be so, just that Blake seems to rule out the possibility, and I’m trying to get clear on exactly why. I have read his book, and will certainly re-read it, but I just didn’t see the sort of explict explanation that I’m asking for here. I think there are appropriate, important, and even necessary times for nuance and subtlety, but I’m hoping he might be willing to set those aside for just a few brief moments to provide a bit of clarify.

    -Richard

  48. Richard: Thanks for your comments and suggestions. First, I would reject your characterization of my view of deification. We are the same kind beings that God is in every respect; however, we are not the same individual that the Father or Son or HG is. The reason I assert that the Father is eternally divine is scriptural and based on my reading of the KFD. In fact, it forms somewhat of a syllogism: (P1) The Son did what the Father did before him; (P2) the Son was fully divine before becoming mortal; therefore (C1) the Father was fully divine before becoming mortal.

    Just what is it you are asserting here? What is it you claim that I don’t allow? What is the “sense of deifiction that [you are] pointing to”? Is it your belief that I don’t accept that humans will be somehow seperately worshipped like the Father? I would assert that the Father isn’t seperately worshipped either — he is worshipped as the one who is fully divine in the Godhead who is in relation with us and because of that relation of love with the other members of the Godhead. If the Father didn’t have such loving relations he would not be God at all. The Father isn’t worthy of worship as an isolated individual. Thus, we will never be seperately worthy of worship either.

  49. Christopher Smith says:

    >>the Father was fully divine before becoming mortal.

    Now that is an interesting suggestion.

  50. Richard Livingston says:

    Blake,

    First, you don’t need to reject a characterization that I didn’t propose. “Equal to” in terms of one’s status, calling, mantle, or relation to one’s posterity, is very different from “identical with.” If I somehow gave the impression of something like the latter, then my bad. I certainly never meant to suggest that I think your view of deification affirms that individuals somehow become absorbed into or become identical with God–thus losing one’s subjectivity, individuality, or personal identity. I never said that we either are or can be “the same individual that the Father or Son or HG is.” So, agsin, no need to reject a view that I didn’t propose.

    Furthermore, I never said that I think your view affirms that “humans will be somehow seperately worshiped like the Father.” Once again, you’re rejecting a view that I didn’t propose.

    My characterization of your view of deification is that you affirm such things as the Son does what He saw His Father do, and became what His Father is; that we can also become equal in power, might, and dominion as the Father; that there are spousal relations in the eternities; that we can participate in divine nature; that we can co-exemplify all essential attributes of divinity; that we can in fact become divine; that we can participate in the divine loving indwelling unity of the Godhead, and so and so forth. Furthermore, not only are we the same ontological type as the Father, but he seeks to enter into a fully peer-relationship with us his children.

    What I am saying is that while you hold these sorts of views, you reject some crucial assertions that seem to naturally follow from all that.

    To clarify how I understand your rejection, I will repeat my questions with some slight modifications. Before doing so, let it be clearly understood up front, that any time I am referring to an individual or a couple, I understand said persons to be fully participating in the unity of the Godhead, and never losing one’s individual identity–i.e., are one with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as they are one with each other (John 17).

    Now, if you believe that marriage is for time and all eternity, that spousal relations do continue beyond the grave, do you or do you not hold *any* notion of procreation for those couples beyond the grave? Regardless of how spirits are organized, brought into, or adopted into the family of God the Father in their pre-mortal existence, do you believe that individuals married eternally will be able to organize, bring into, or adopt individuals into an eternal family themselves? Do you believe that eternal marriage either entails or allows for any form of procreation beyond the grave?

    Do you believe human beings have to potential to receive or carry the mantle, status, role, or calling of a Priest, King, and Heavenly Father, presiding over a posterity in exactly the same manner in which he presides over his posterity? Do you believe that human beings have the potential to stand in relation to an eternal posterity in the same way that God the Father stands in relation to his? Do you, in short, believe that beings now human, when fully participating in the Godhead (and all the rest above), have the potential to become Heavenly Parents, Creators of worlds, Kings, Priests, and worship-worthy in the same way that God the Father is?

    My initial sense is that your short answer to all these questions is ‘No’. So, if in fact you do reject these possibilities, I’m asking why? If you don’t, I’m more than happy to stand corrected, but please, please, please, state your position without any ambiguity.

    What I keep saying is that I understand you to you reject the possibility that human beings have the potential to become Gods in the capital G sense. My question is why that’s the case given that it seems to logically and ontologically follow from your very strong notion of deification. My critique about your rhetoric was simply that you maintain your rejection with a very such a carefully nuanced position that one can come away from reading your work not knowing where you stand–and part of me feels that that’s a calculated move on your part, so I’m trying to get to the heart of the matter.

    If you still want to respond to my questions with more questions, then consider the issue dropped, but your openness and candor would be greatly appreciated.

    -Richard

  51. Richard: Let me begin with an observation. I’m very picky about using terms that have some content (that’s what taking philosophy of logic and language classes did to me). When we say “Bob did X,” and we have no idea what “X” means or entails, I assert that we haven’t really asserted anything at all about what Bob did.

    So let me get very clear about what your question seems to me to entail. You say: “Regardless of how spirits are organized, brought into, or adopted into the family of God the Father in their pre-mortal existence, do you believe that individuals married eternally will be able to organize, bring into, or adopt individuals into an eternal family themselves?” So you are saying regardless of what I mean by deified individuals begetting spirit children (= X), do I believe that that they do it (= X)? That isn’t a question — it just doesn’t have content. Do I believe in viviporous birth of spirits from a resurrected female? No. Do I believe that humans as gods must enage in intercourse to beget spirits? No. Do I believe that spirits are birthed from a prior state of intelligences and then become spirit-born-spirits? No — and neither did Joseph Smith.

    “Do you believe human beings have to potential to receive or carry the mantle, status, role, or calling of a Priest, King, and Heavenly Father, presiding over a posterity in exactly the same manner in which he presides over his posterity?” Priest and prophet presiding over family, yes — we already do it as mortals. Do we become a Heavenly Father? No, there is already a Heavenly Father and we don’t become that being. Do we take on a role of Heavenly Father? What role do you mean by “Heavenly Father” if you see that term as role? If you mean “Most High God,” the “one more intelligent than all other intelligences,” the “God of all other gods,” then the answer is clearly “no” since each of these roles admits of only one at most that fulfills such a superlative role. Moreover, these scriptural statements provide the reason for my assertions — of necessity there is only one Most High, most intelligent and God of all others.

    “Do you, in short, believe that beings now human, when fully participating in the Godhead (and all the rest above), have the potential to become Heavenly Parents, Creators of worlds, Kings, Priests, and worship-worthy in the same way that God the Father is?” Heavenly parents — yes — over the children of our own families. Creator-of-worlds? Yes, co-creators together with the Godhead (we don’t fly out to some part of the universe with our wife [wives] that God hasn’t quite gotten to yet and populate it by copulating for eternity — as much I like the idea). Will we be worship-worthy? No. WE will not be the source of light and life — that is the Father through the Son. Perhaps you could provide just one scriptural source or one statement from Joseph Smith or other Church leaders that says that we will be worshiped? I know that humans sit on the throne of God with Jesus, but those who reign with God join the deified around the throne of God in joyous song and praise in Revelations.

    Finally, I believe that we become Gods and that we are already gods who have chosen to have a mortal experience. I affirm that those who are exalted will have a glory which is a fulness and a continuation of seeds forever — whatever that means (and I’m not really sure what it means). I affirm that those who are exalted shall be gods because they have no end and are from everlasting to everlasting because they continue and all things are subject to them and that they are gods because they have power and the angels are subject to them.

  52. Christopher Smith says:

    >>Do I believe that spirits are birthed from a prior state of intelligences and then become spirit-born-spirits? No — and neither did Joseph Smith.

    This is interesting, as well. Do you have something out on the net that explains how you believe Joseph Smith reconciled his belief in God’s literal parenthood with his belief our spirits were eternal? Or do I have to buy your books? :-P

  53. Christopher Smith says:

    I just re-read the comment I just posted and it sounds a little snide. It was not intended that way, I assure you. It is an honest question– I really haven’t looked into this question very much.

  54. Christopher: You can look at the links posted by Geoff in # 46. Basically, Joseph equated spirits with intelligences. For him they were the same thing and the spirit/intelligence is uncreated and eternal. That entails that it didn’t have a beginning at some time. As far as I can tell, Joseph Smith didn’t teach the doctrine of spirit birth. There were some closely after his death who did — but there is no source from during his lifetime that supports the view of a mother in heaven or spirit birth and there is no reason that I find persuasive to suggest that he taught something inconsistent with his own views.

  55. Richard Livingston says:

    Blake,

    Thanks for the response. As for whether my questions regarding eternal parenthood are either content-less or meaning-less, I suppose if that means that leaving the question of the process whereby Spirit beings are brought into a familial relationship with their Heavenly Father entirely open-ended, then yes, it is both devoid of content and meaning. While you seem completely settled on the matter, I am not. As I indicated, I find it quite reasonable to assume that we have not always participated in God the Father’s family. If that is right, and I fully acknowledge it may not be, we were brought into, organized, or adopted into that family at some point. All I can say is that based on my reading of the sources, I feel relatively confident about that much. As to the question of *how* this organizing, adopting, or entering into a familial relation with God occurs, I haven’t the slightest idea, nor does it matter to me.

    You seem to be extremely confident that there is neither a Heavenly Mother nor any form of heavenly pro-creation analogous to mortal pro-creation. Again, the *how* isn’t an issue for me. *That* spirit children are brought into familial relation with one another is. Let’s just agree that your rejection of a Heavenly Mother and any sexual-based procreation is just as speculative as my leaving the matter open-ended (unless you have had some revelation from God to the contrary).

    Let me just offer this as an option. Clearly you believe that God once dwelt in a mortal state in the same way that Jesus Christ was once incarnate. It seems quite reasonable, and well within the boundaries of speculation, to think that God may have gotten married/sealed during that mortal probation–you can’t affirm the possibility for us, deny the possibility for God, and still remain consistent. If so, he still enjoys that spousal relationship–just as you and I have the potential to do–and we would therefore have a Heavenly Mother. One can reasonably affirm that much and still avoid the difficulties of trying to answer the *how* question. This is why I’m just not as settled as your are on the matter, and in fact, remain quite open to the possibility. As for scriptural support on the matter, quite frankly, I’m just not of the mindset that an idea needs to be scripturally supportable to be true. I’ll take truth from whatever source it may spring, be it speculative philosophy, philosophical theology, or science.

    Now, applying all that toward human beings, my questions were simply meant to leave the *how* question open-ended, while asking if you were open to the possibility for any eternal couples who are true and faithful to their covenants with God the Father. So, it doesn’t seem either contentless or meaningless to me.

    Regardless, you have answered my questions as requested, none of which was meant to be an indictment against you, or elicit a defense from you. The clarification was simply meant to shine a spotlight on exactly what you accept and what you reject. I must say that because of what I have viewed as being (until now) ambiguous, your response definitely makes your Trinitarian formulations much much more clear to me.

    Which brings me to point of all this. I think that if your your Trinitarian conceptions are correct, be it in a ‘social’ or ‘monarchical’ or ‘emerging’–i.e., eternally progressing–form, they show that whatever kind of theists LDS are, they are much much closer to traditional/creedal Christianity that most, both in and out of the church, either realize or are willing to admit. I know you’ve repeatedly said as much, but I was always a bit confused because I haven’t been sure precisely where you stand on the more popular LDS notion of deification (that you reject). Clearly an infinite number of worship-worthy Heavenly Parents (either regressing beyond God, or progressing from Him) is an absolutely unbridgeable chasm in relation to the traditional Christian view of a Triune God. If your view is right, however, an LDS (social/monarchical/emergent) trinitarian conception, and a creedal Christian conception, at least seem to be in the same ball park with one another.

    Although I can’t say that I totally accept your conceptions, it does make our understanding of God more palatable from a number of different standpoints, not the least of which is the one held by those who flatly disallow our being in the Christian “club” because of our polytheistic tendencies. Understanding God the Father as the singular Heavenly Father who is along worthy of being worshiped, and that no other individuals will stand in precisely the same relation to a posterity as God does to his (simply because the organizing, adopting, or creating of spirit children into a family is his prerogative, and his alone), dramatically changes the traditional LDS conception of Godhood, but it has the potential to simultaneously transform the non-LDS point of view as well.

    -Richard

  56. Blake –

    I agree that we have no firm firsthand source directly from Joseph Smith affirming either the doctrine of Heavenly Mother, or that Heavenly Mother and Father in some way “procreated” us from eternal intelligence to a more advanced state of being, or that we will engage in some sort of procreative activity in the hereafter. However, haven’t such doctrines become normative in the Church since, and been affirmed countless times by authoritative leadership sources (i.e. Presidents of the Church, the Presiding Quorums speaking through documents such as the Proclamation on the Family, etc)? Perhaps this is too big a question to expect you to answer in a blog comment, but how can you do Mormon theology and yet reject doctrines that have been clearly accepted by Joseph’s prophetic successors? The essence of Mormonism is that the chain of revelation continues. If we say that the ‘really’ authoritative revelation stopped with Joseph, and that we won’t accept anything that we can’t prove Joseph said firsthand, then is there any difference between us and Moslems and traditional creedal Christians who say that revelation has ended? Aren’t we then just saying it ended in 1844 as opposed to earlier?

  57. Richard: Your point is well-taken. I don’t deny the existence or reality of the Mother in Heaven; I merely questio whether it has a basis in revelation or Joseph Smith’s thought based on any sources. You are quite right that some things not scripturally supported are true. I’m rather inclined to think that things like quantum theory fit that bill. However, we have good experimental evidence to support QM. What evidence do we have to provide a reliable basis for belief in the Mother in Heaven?

    JWL: You are quite correct that belief in a Mother in Heaven has become normative for Mormons based upon First Presidency pronouncements. However, the same could have been said of the exclusion of blacks from the priesthood which never had a shred of revelation or scriptural authority to support it. I am very weary of mere cultural overbeliefs where an authority accepts a doctrine or view without revelation and then it becomes fixed because no one dares to say: what is that based on other than your own opinion? I’m not saying that revelation ceased in 1844 (there was the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead after all). However, PR statements are not revelation. I suggest that we recognize the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven as an entrenched cultural view and distinguish it from doctrines based on scripture and revelation. The belief in a Mother in Heaven simply has a different status that belief in, for instance, the 3 degrees of glory or the redemption of the dead revealed to Joseph F. Smith.

    BTW, I have a discussion as to why revelation may be shifted to the membership in general rather than concentrated in the office of prophet as the kingdom expands and grows – but that will have to wait.

  58. BTW, I have a discussion as to why revelation may be shifted to the membership in general rather than concentrated in the office of prophet as the kingdom expands and grows – but that will have to wait.

    Ooooh. That sounds good. Feel free to fire up a version of that discussion at the Thang any time!

  59. Blake, a difference in the heavenly mother doctrine is that direct first-hand reminisces of teachings from Joseph Smith himself do exist, from witnesses we have generally accepted as reliable (Eliza and Zina Smith). (I do not see BoM or BoA as explicit about the Priesthood ban in the way that Eliza and Zina were.) It also fits well with Smith’s overall familial vision of the eternal human family and was part of a set of doctrines that appear to have been considered too sacred (mystical) to reveal openly. There is much less indication of a Youngian (or equivalent) origination for this doctrine than the Priesthood ban.

  60. Sam: If Eliza is a stable witness then the Mother in Heaven is Eve and the Father in Heaven is Adam. Brigham Young attributed his Adam-God belief to Joseph as well — and he was wrong. I could come up with a very long list of disparate views attributed to Joseph Smith after his death (think Sidney Rigdon, James Strang, William Marks and so forth). These lately arributed views are not very reliable. There are copious notes of Joseph’s private statements and teachings during the last years of his life — the lucunae in the record respecting a mother in heaven and spirit birth are very large.

    Richard: I choose to clarify your points about how my views play among the more traditional creedalists. I think that you are correct that rejecting a Mother in Heaven doctrine and adopting the view that the Father is eternally divine is more in alignment with creedal teachkngs. If someone is touched by LDS scripture and committed to follow as a result — wonderful. However, I don’t believe it is either a point in favor of or against any view because creedalists believe it. Their views are beside the point of anything as far as I’m concerned.

    We ought to base our views on what is best supported by the evidence, has the most powerful vision of all that we know and can discover, and sings the sweetest songs in our hearts. If an argument is more sound, more persuasive because it opens up vistas to our view, or feels so sweet to us that we are drawn to it, then that is a good reason to accept such a view (as you can tell I’m a pragmatist). That a view satisfies popular opinions among the populace is a poor reason to accept any view — see e.g., my response to Ronan on Cheney.

  61. Blake:

    I’d be interested to hear what implications, if any, you feel there not being a mother in heaven has on women, theologically speaking.

  62. Millions of evangelicals do fine without a belief in a mother in heaven; millions of Catholics have a de facto mother in heaven but I don’t believe that is a good reason to become Catholic — and probably a good reason not to. I wouldn’t dare say in general how women in general are affected in general not being a woman in general [grin].

  63. Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) says:

    Blake,

    I’m a bit confused. In comment #40, you state:

    “I believe that the Most High God is worthy of worship and it is a relation with the Most High God, the Father, that is deifying … The Father could be and would be (subjunctively) worthy of worship; but as a practical matter it never occurs that the Father is all alone.”

    Then, in comment# 48, you state:

    “I would assert that the Father isn’t seperately worshipped either — he is worshipped as the one who is fully divine in the Godhead who is in relation with us and because of that relation of love with the other members of the Godhead. If the Father didn’t have such loving relations he would not be God at all. The Father isn’t worthy of worship as an isolated individual. Thus, we will never be seperately worthy of worship either.”

    The confusion that arises for me is this: Is the Father (the individual) worship-worthy because of his relation of love with the other members of the Godhead, or is the actual, practical relationship of love incidental to his worship-worthiness? Your comment #40 seems to assert the latter , but comment #48 the former.

    To put my question another way: Suppose, hypothetically speaking, that no individuals had yet chosen to share the Father’s indwelling love. Would he nonetheless be worship-worthy? Or is he worship-worthy by virtue of his relationship of love with other beings? If he would be worship-worthy even absent the relationship of love, then the question is: would it ever be possible for us to become similarly worship-worthy, even (hypothetically) absent the relationship of love? If not, why not? (Here is where the sense of ontological distinction in your arguments seems to arise, as it appears that the Father is essentially fully God, while all other beings are only accidentally fully God. I’m also not sure how this played out during the Father’s mortal experience, if he kenotically emptied himself of the fulness of Godhood.)

    If, on the other hand, the Father is worship-worthy because of the relationship of love, then how (and why) would we differ from him in worship-worthiness after entering into that same relationship?

  64. Christopher: Good questions and thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify. The Father is the one who is most intelligent and most progressed (at least that is what I take Most High to strongly suggest) and as such he is the one who reached out to assist the other intelligences to advance to be as He is according to the KFD. In addition, the Father has always been in a relationship of loving unity with the Son and Holy Ghost — they are the same eternal God from all eternity to all eternity according to scripture.

    Thus, God the Father has never been alone. He has always had the glory arising from being in such a relationship. In every moment where these three could freely agree with each in unity, they have done so. It is because of this shared love that they are fully divine. Because the fulness of divine nature emerges from this relationship, divinity strongly supervenes on this relationship in the sense that none of the divine persons would be fully divine outside the relationship. However, the Father is preminent for the reasons stated and even if, per factum contrarium, he were all alone we would still be called to relationship with him because of his pre-eminence and superior love and intelligence. We would be called to worship him because he calls us to a relationship of shared divinity. So as a matter of fact we never worship the Father alone; but if he were alone we would be called to relationship and worship to give rise to divinity in us. Thus, the first and second statements are not inconsistent as far as I can see (and it is possible I’ve got a blind spot).

    Does that clear it up at all?

  65. Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) says:

    I think that helps, Blake. let me restate to see if I understand. The Father is uniquely worship-worthy because he is the most progressed and intelligent being in existence — though he is not so essentially; he is so because of his choices. One of these choices is to be in a relationship of indwelling love with all beings who freely choose such a relationship with him; and it so happens that there have always been (at least?) two beings who have chosen such a relationship. (These other beings, because they are not the most progressed and intelligent, are not worship-worthy (solely?) by virtue of their progression, but they become worship-worthy (?) by virtue of their indwelling relationship with the Father. (I’m pretty sure we assert that the Son is worship-worthy, and it seems that, on your view, we could become worship-worthy in the same way the Son is.))

    Does this accurately reflect what you are saying?

  66. Christopher Smith says:

    >>Millions of evangelicals do fine without a belief in a mother in heaven; millions of Catholics have a de facto mother in heaven but I don’t believe that is a good reason to become Catholic — and probably a good reason not to. I wouldn’t dare say in general how women in general are affected in general not being a woman in general [grin].

    EVs and Catholics also believe in a non-gendered God.

  67. Re: the original post

    I think monolatrism of a sort would actually be an adequate description, for Joseph’s belief in particular. Supposing a “Hie to Kolob” type of infinite regress, then God the Father, as our father, is our tribal/ethnic god, while we have no truck with the rest. Maybe patriarchal monolatrism?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,783 other followers