MiH: getting what you ask for

In the twentieth century, leaders of the Church didn’t like to discuss the history of the God the Father. Their nineteenth century counterparts, however, weren’t so hesitant. Joseph revealed part the temple in May 1842 and then all the ordinances of the House of the Lord in the fall of 1843. 1844 brought schism, contention and grave accusations that Joseph was no longer in God’s favor. At the General Conference in April, Joseph addressed the Saints and defied them: “Would to God I had 40 days & nights I would let you know that I am not a fallen prophet.”

This discourse, frequently bearing the name of King Follett, emboldened detractors and was a source for much of the infamous Nauvoo Expositor. Joseph did not back down. A month and a half later, on June 16, Joseph delivered his Sermon in the Grove, which he had spent days preparing. He was killed the following month. These two discourses represent our best accounts of Joseph’s vision of God, humanity and the Temple.

Joseph had already taught the Saints that in order to be a justifiable recipient of our faith, God must be perfect for all eternity. But here discussing the history of God, Joseph was rather explicit about how “God came to be God,” or rather, how God became the Father:

These are incomprehensible to some but are the first principle of the gospel-to know that we may converse with [God] as one man with another & that he was once as one of us and was on a planet as Jesus was in the flesh…What did Jesus say – as the father hath power in himself even so hath the son power to do what why what the father did, to lay down his body and took it up again. (1)

George Laub’s account was even more explicit:

Jesus Spake in this wise, I do as my Father before me did well what did the father doo why he went & took a body and went to redeem a world in the flesh & had power to lay down his life and to take it up again (2)

Joseph further emphasized Christ’s relation to the Father:

What did Jesus do[?] Why I do the things that I saw the father do when worlds came into existence. I saw the father work out a kingdom with fear & trembling & I can do the same & when I get my Kingdom worked out I will present to the father & it will exalt his glory and Jesus steps into his tracks to inherit what God did before.(1)

This obviously poses problems for modern conceptions that the Father was once a man, but Joseph was clear: “he was once as one of us and was on a planet as Jesus was in the flesh.” (1) In the Sermon in the Grove, Joseph distinguishes the future of humanity. Brigham, with his own innovations in theogony kept Joseph’s teachings on God the Father’s history. While Brigham and his compatriots did believe that humanity could attain the status of God the Father, it appears that they also believed it would require being a Savior at some point. (3)

Most popular conceptions of theogony can be traced back to Brigham’s no-longer-favored ideas, including ideas about women in the eternities. From what I gather from discussions like the recent T&S thread, there is a strong movement to reason that God is married and that there is a Mother in Heaven because of that. In light of Joseph’s teachings, the idea that Heavenly Mother is Heavenly Mother simply because she happened to marry God the Father while he was mortal yields the exact situation that the proponents try to explain away. In a Universe where we worship a being who was God from eternity to all eternity, who is greater than all, who was God before his mortal probation, who was sinless and had the capacity to atone for the world, why would we ever acknowledge the run of the mill human, fallen and sinful, that he happen to marry in mortality?

___________

  1. William Clayton Report, Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 357
  2. George Laub Account, WoJS, pg. 362
  3. Heber C. Kimball, “Wonderful Counsel to All,” in N. B. Lundwall, ed., Masterpieces of Latter-day Saint Leaders (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1953), 131. It appears that this is one of the many sources of disagreements between Orson Pratt and Brigham Young, see minutes of meeting of the Twelve and First Presidency, April 5, 1860, in Fred C. Collier, ed., The Office Journal of President Brigham Young, 1858-1863, Book D (Hannah: Collier’s Publishing Co., 2006), 437.

Comments

  1. The reason for presupposing a married God is fairly simple: we have to be married under the new and everlasting covenant in order to inherit the highest glory of the celestial kingdom. Since that is God’s domain, one supposes that God must have done likewise in order to be in such a glorified state. It’s just a matter of transposing our ceremonial requirements onto God.

    This says nothing about how a Mother in Heaven got to where She is, except that She too would have entered into (and kept) the new and everlasting covenant. That’s not nothing, but it’s not too helpful either.

  2. I agree.

  3. Name (required) says:

    In the twentieth century, leaders of the Church didn’t like to discuss the history of the God the Father. Their nineteenth century counterparts, however, weren’t so hesitant.

    Why don’t we want to talk about it much any more? Our leaders don’t really mention it and teachers at church just want to ‘move on’ if anyone starts talking about it.

    Based on the JS quote:

    the first principle of the gospel-to know that we may converse with [God] as one man with another & that he was once as one of us and was on a planet as Jesus was in the flesh

    you’d think that we’d lead with it in the missionary discussions.

    Are we ashamed of talking about it?
    Do we not believe it any more?
    Are we trying to be more mainstream?

  4. Name (required) says:

    The question at the end of the post was:

    why would we ever acknowledge the run of the mill human, fallen and sinful, that he happen to marry in mortality?

    Maybe we’d know the answer to that if our leaders had continued to develop the theology or if we actively discussed it as a church.

  5. Name, I tend to think it is not talked about much from the pulpit simply because there is a lot of differing opinion (some of which is no longer favored) on the ramifications of the two sermons. Until there is some revelatory clarification, I think that it is probably wise to take the position that they have.

  6. Name (required) says:

    There probably are a lot of differing opinions because the leadership has not given any recent clarification.

    Is it wise to sweep under the rug an issue that JS called one of the ‘first principles’ of the gospel? Does ‘first principle’ of the gospel mean something important for salvation? Or are ‘first principles’ just a curiosity sort of thing?

  7. I think one important principle of interpreting Smith’s preachings is to recognize that he was working through a variety of problems and did not offer a systematic theology. Where Smith was trying to make statements of the sort “salvation is impossible without the persistence of family relationships” and “we are of the same species as God, his literal children,” he did not work out in great detail how to reconcile this theology with more traditional models. But just because you can’t systematize the theology doesn’t mean we ought to back down from the core impulses he was communicating.

  8. But smb, how do you appropriately identify and deal with those core impulses without a system?

  9. J:

    We have had our disagreements on interpreting the KFD before. Your last sentence has me a bit confused. There are a few statements in the KFD that seem to contradict that. I would be interested in your thoughts.

    Statements like – ‘if men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.’ and ‘God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens’. And Joseph said that we need to learn to become Gods ourselves. It also seems that the point of the discourse was not to lessen man but to ‘exalt’ man.

    Oh, and I also think we underestimate some of the more general statments from recent prophets, even from places like the proclamation on the family, that can give us a lot of insight into the character of God. Even though the wording may be less dramatic. I am not sure we have gone backwards.

  10. Eric, I don’t tend to think we have gone backwards either. Not sure which sentence you are referring to that I could clarify, though. Between the KFD and the SitG Joseph does state that we can become gods, but especially in the SitG he explains what that means. I agree that it is very exalting.

  11. J.,

    Your last sentence in the post is very strange. Why would the fact of someone’s being a run-of-the-mill human make them less worship-worthy after they were exalted? This is what Eric is reacting to as well, and I have the same reaction. It seems you are demeaning humankind rather than interpreting this doctrine as exalting.

    Likewise, the idea that we would honor our MiH only because she “happened to marry God the Father” is nonsense. That is like saying the only reason you have to honor your earthly mother is that she happened to marry your father. I am scratching my head at where you are going here, can you clarify?

  12. We’ve also had our disagreements about all this before. It remains mysterious to me why we should take KFD as a best summation of Joseph Smith’s thought, over and above those aspects of his thought that are canonized. Nor is it always clear why Smith’s uncanonized thought should be taken as superior to other sources of uncanonized thought — including the thought of Brigham Young, Gordon B. Hinckley, etc.

    In a Universe where we worship a being who was God from eternity to all eternity, who is greater than all, who was God before his mortal probation, who was sinless and had the capacity to atone for the world, why would we ever acknowledge the run of the mill human, fallen and sinful, that he happen to marry in mortality?

    Well, this presupposes a great deal, doesn’t it? Among other things, it presupposes that no female could ever act as the savior of a world.

  13. Jacob, I follow Blake’s reasoning here, which might help you understand. So yes, it does make exalted regular humans less worship worthy. Your analogy to earthly parents simply isn’t applicable.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t a Mother in Heaven. I’m just highlighting the the ramifications of popular Mother in Heaven theogony.

  14. To reword my #12, it seems to me that the negative consequence people react against is a consequence of the assumption that God the Father is of a different kind and higher from any and all female figures. Popular Mother in Heaven theogony, I think, rejects this assumption. This post, however, replicates the assumption, doesn’t it?

  15. #4

    Are we ashamed of talking about it?
    Do we not believe it any more?
    Are we trying to be more mainstream?

    Yes.
    Dunno.
    Yes.

    The church has been heavily using a public relations firm to enhance its image. Non-traditional beliefs do not work well with the ‘We are Christians too’ campaign.

  16. J. Nelson-Seawright. It doesn’t presuppose that at all, as I state in #13.

    Does Joseph talk about such things elsewhere?

  17. J. (#14) do you think that Jesus is higher than all male and female figures?

  18. J., you do presuppose that, if there is a Mother in Heaven, she’s a run-of-the-mill fallen mortal who was exalted. If you instead presuppose that she is a peer to Father in Heaven, the trouble disappears.

  19. J. #17, is Jesus higher than the Father? I don’t know. Are there other figures we don’t know of? Perhaps; I don’t know. It seems a difficult question to answer.

  20. J. (#18) Well, I simply don’t know anything about the history of Mother in Heaven.

  21. J. #20; exactly. If we assume, as the popular conceptions do, that Mother in Heaven has a history of glory comparable with that of Father in Heaven, then the results are quite positive.

  22. J. (#21) it isn’t evident to me that popular conceptions assume that at all.

  23. J., the reason for that is that popular Mormon conceptions of Father in Heaven are rather less ontologically distinct from those of humanity than the concept you discuss here. So you’ve offered a higher Christology and a higher theology of the Father than the popular Mormon conception, but left the theology of Mother in Heaven unchanged. That’s stacking the deck a bit, I think.

  24. A really interesting question. I have to admit I’m uncomfortable with the Heavenly Mother issue. The speculative syllogism Steve mentions makes isn’t enough for my shaky faith. But I’m even more uncomfortable with the thinking about God the Father as a guy like me generally — and now we have him checkin’ out the ladies? Again, I can see that the temple and other doctrines add up to that as a possibilty, but I don’t have a place for it in my own spiritual experience.

  25. All I know about Heavenly Mother is that “truth eternal tells me [she's] there.”

    J. and J., It seems you both have different assumptions of what the “popular conceptions” are (or at least a different interpretation of them). Pehaps it would be helpful to explain what different “popular conceptions” of Mother in Heaven exist.

  26. J. (#23) fair enough, though folks like Blake might argue with the ontology issue. But you are right, I have left popular Mormon conceptions of MiH unchanged, because that is the sort of thinking I see around.

    Norbert, I see your point, but while the Temple could be read to say something like that, I don’t think it is necessarily the best or most natural reading.

  27. So first questions ever here at bcc, so if the answer is already out there (or if its just an elementry question), please point the direction…

    1) Given Jospeh’s comments about Jesus doing what his Father had done before him, is it conclusive that God the Father was a Savior in a previous world/realm? Or is this still up in the air (e.g. that God the Father was/wasn’t a Savior in a previous world)?

    2) If God the Father was indeed a Savior, does that change our perspective on Christ’s “infinite” atonement (e.g., how can we consider Christ’s atonement to be infinite if there has been another Savior)?

    Any thoughts/comments are much appreciated.

  28. JS (26) I agree, it shouldn’t. Sometimes we run away with the ‘God was once a bloke like me’ speculation without respecting the tension of ‘I am God, and I am eternal’ stuff from the scriptures. I think there is a way of resolving that tension, but it needs to be aknowledged. I think your question about the origin of a heavenly mother does that.

  29. anon, the questions you ask are so far from elementary that there’s no settled Mormon theology on them. Although there are certainly many competing points of view.

  30. J, I think part of the problem lies in trying to mediate between Blake’s views and Smith’s views. I have a great deal of respect for Blake, but I don’t think his analysis squares well with Smith’s teachings on this point, so trying to square them won’t be particularly productive.

    SE, do we really need a system to appreciate the deeper meanings of unsystematized theological proposals? I don’t, and I don’t think Smith did. (Orson Pratt, on the other hand, did.)

  31. smb, I don’t agree with Blake on everything. Here, I am simply taking a plain reading of the KFD and SitG and contrasting that against popular conceptions of MiH.

    As to why/how exalted humans may be different than exalted Jesus, Blake does a great job.

  32. smb, we don’t need a system to appreciate those deeper meanings; not at all. But we certainly do need a system if those deeper meanings are to be publicly taught or if they are to have any ramifications in praxis.

    Smith didn’t need a system — he was the system.

  33. California Condor says:

    If I’m not mistaken, in his book “Rough Stone Rolling,” Richard Bushman said that what got Joseph Smith murdered was his preaching of two pluralities: the plurality of wives and the plurality of gods. These two doctrines are mind-blowingly radical departures from traditional Christianity, so it’s understandable that they would lead to Joseph Smith’s death and that today the Church is leery of publishing anything at all about the validity of these ideas. Apparently Joseph Smith taught that we can become gods. Fair enough; it’s an inspiring idea. But the identity of Jesus Christ sort of throws a wrench into the whole apparatus– he obviously outranks us, so is he part of the same progression track that we are on? Or do Jesus and God the Father both outrank us? Or does the path to godhood include us becoming a savior like Jesus? These sorts of questions are jarringly blasphemous on the ears of traditional Christians and open up the door to polytheism, a concept that we try to shun even as we embrace it. At the end of the day, if you believe it’s true, you shouldn’t really care if someone brands you as a polytheist because by a strict definition of the word, maybe you are.

    I heard that a sister missionary in my mission had a theory about why there were so many different types of personality types in this world– because God had plural wives and people with given traits were descendants of a given wife… i. e. shy people were spirit children of God’s timid wife and gregarious people were spirit children of God’s outgoing wife, etc. I thought this was a pretty over-the-top theory coming from a female– polygyny more or less seems to put women in an inferior position to men (at least on the surface).

  34. Steve, you drive me to despair. We don’t have a clear and logical system, after all. Shall we call off all missionary work? :)

  35. LOL, Jay. I know there are limits to this. But while we have at least an established social framework for addressing common doctrinal questions, etc., there’s not even that much for MIH. It’s just a black hole. I don’t insist on systematic theology (if I did, I wouldn’t be a mormon) but at a minimum I need a community which is willing to talk and negotiate an understanding of concepts.

  36. JNS (#23), Amen. If we try to merge Stapley’s view of God with someone else’s view of MiH, problems arise. No big revelation in that.

    Stapley,

    It is clear from the historical record that the idea of MiH came before Brigham’s A-G innovations, so I don’t know that we can pin it on Brigham as you have done. Regardless, in the end, we hold on to the idea of MiH because we believe women have as much of a place in heaven as men. If we all accepted your view that we cannot become like God, we would likely morph the popular conceptions of MiH as well.

  37. Actually, I agree wholeheartedly, Steve. I really would love to have a community willing to negotiate an understanding of Mother in Heaven.

    Christopher #25, a good question. I think that J. Stapley and I probably share a common tacit understanding of what the popular conceptions are. Roughly speaking, they are that God the Father was once a person much like us who became exalted, and that Mother in Heaven was also once a person who became exalted. J. Stapley is offering a concept of God the Father as a being who was never much like us, and that idea doesn’t necessarily bother me. Our conversation arises, basically, because Stapley is offering a higher conception of God the Father than this popular conception without simultaneously allowing for the possibility of a higher conception of Mother in Heaven — thereby creating gender inequity that can be resolved either by adopting a lower theology of the Father or a higher theology of the Mother.

  38. Jacob, I agree that the idea came before A-G, and though we do not have contemporary extant documentation, I believe that Joseph taught the principle. Nevertheless, much of our popular theogony does descend from A/G. I agree with JNS’s assesment in #37.

  39. I just have to say…the KFD is one of my favorite gospel related subjects of discussion.

    California Condor,

    In my opinion none of this has anything to do with “Rank”. It’s all about Family. Here (I think) is the basic idea Brother Joseph was trying to get across: The family relationships which we enjoy (hopefully) here in mortality are patterned after the society of the eternities…So that we each have the opportunity of developing eternal families much like our Heavenly Parents.

    I would say in answer to your question about Jesus possibly being on the same “progression track” we are on…maybe yes and no. As part of the Godhead he was crowned with glory and created the worlds under the direction of his Father. He was unblemished and perfect from the beginning. As far as we are concerned he
    has always been God the Son. Yet for him to enjoy the same eternal familial relationship that his Father does he would need to be sealed eternally.

    One last thing. I think it is completely possible that our Father in heaven may or may not have been “Savior” in another “Universe”. Our own scriptures say that through the Atonement we become heirs of GOD and CHRIST…we may inherit all that they have and have become. It could be possible that our Father in Heaven wasn’t a Savior in the way that Jesus is in our situation…but that Jesus saw his Father inherit a Kingdom from His Father and now Jesus will do the same…so may all who accept and live faithfully to the plan. Just some ideas…

  40. J. Stapley, can you articulate where you picture women in your personal theology? You make much of your point that HF became a God with no connection to a marriage/wife/female influence. So when Joseph says that “we” can become gods, does this exclude women? What is the status of women in the eternities? Does “queen” and “priestess” mean “goddess-in-her-own-right,” or does it mean the wife of the king, the wife of the priest, the wife of the God?

  41. BIV, I think what J. is saying, at least in part, is that for someone to be called Mother In Heaven, it will take more that just being married to the right guy.

  42. I’m sure you don’t want my opinion on this, and I’m probably bozo’ed anyway, but to me I cannot help wondering if the problem some seem to be having here is either a lack of faith or a lack of understanding about Atonement as a principle. It is as if you are saying that an all powerful-eternal-God/Savior cannot atone for, and thus exalt, a run-of-the mill, fallen and sinful mortal woman enough to become His eternal companion. Nice.

    Just because human beings are in a “fallen” state, doesn’t mean they are born “sinful” or that they all spend their lives in depravity. Mary was worthy to be the mortal mother of the Son of God. Was she run-of-the-mill?

    The entire “core impulse” of LDS theology is that we are the literal sons and daughters of deity, and that His plan outlines how each one of us can become “co-heirs” with Christ-inheriting all that Christ has and becoming exalted enough to dwell WITH God the Father and Christ forever. If run-of-the-mill mortals simply cannot become pure and holy enough to do that, then all scripture is just lies, and sending Christ to atone for our sins was a brutal and unnecessary joke.

  43. #41 & J. Stapley,

    Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.

    1 Cor. 11:11

  44. Right on, Steve.

    BiV, I think it would be more accurate to say that I think that He was always God. Personally, I like Joseph’s elucidation in the SitG as it relates to your questions, and I would extend them to women as well. But I don’t think we will every be gods in our own right. I believe that we will always be joint-heirs.

  45. Paul W., that’s a great scripture, especially when quoted out of context. The rest of Paul’s discussion in Cor. 11 on women is pretty repulsive.

  46. Yeah, I like that scripture better out of context, too!

  47. Thanks for the clarification J.

  48. J., so you would apply “we have got to become gods ourselves” to both men individually and women individually?

  49. We may, however, have to accept that Paul is right to say that bald women are repulsive (with a few notable exceptions).

  50. This discussion- the original question and all the following discussion- This is what made me decide to embrace the Church and get baptized.

    I have no answers- or even anything to contribute, but this is good stuff.

  51. BIV, I’m not familiar with that specific quote, but I do believe that men and women are equal. I don’t think you can be a king with out a queen or vice versa.

  52. Deep waters, indeed.

    Steve, I’ve tried to understand the “black hole” of information about MiH, a seeming paradox with a not-disavowed concept of MiH.

    Treading heavily on folk doctrines, unsubstantiated assertions, and wildly speculative theology, I can only look at how women have been viewed (and continue to be viewed) in many cultures as property, objectified and dehumanized, and the whole relationship of men and women perverted by men, inspired I believe by Satan, trying to destroy the very concept of what Paul is describing in his comment # 40.

    Since we believe in anthropomorphic God, why not an anthropomorphic First Family? I agree with Paul W, and have long believed that our earthly families are supposed to be a type of the situation in the pre-existence. Satan’s attempts to subvert the plan of exaltation strikes at the very core of the Eternal Family. God has chosen only to reveal the very basics of this model, perhaps, to avoid further disrespect and ridicule of His plan by those to whom it should mean the most.

    Fertility Goddesses, infant sacrifice, and other practices that we have seen throughout history cheapen and distract us from our true understanding of this model.

    I’m way out on a shaky, unsupported limb here, but it’s where my thinking has gone from what I have seen.

  53. J–Just clarifying still–in your original post you said that you don’t think Heavenly Mother is Heavenly Mother simply because she happened to marry God the Father while he was mortal. But you don’t think you can be a king w/out a queen.

    And you also think that HF was always God.

    Then why wouldn’t you agree w/ J. Nelson-Seawright’s #14 and #18?

  54. BTW,

    Speaking of the apostle Paul, I also believe he was struggling with the concept of women, and if they were really equal. His writings are paradoxical at best regarding this subject. Temple theology leads me to see men and women as equals, including becoming “priestesses” like men become “priests”.

    Stapley, a reread of the SitG, along with the actual written statements of the scribes, does generate some doubt about the concept of men and women becoming Gods. However, I personally believe in true equality. If we do have the capacity to become even as God, then just being married to an exalted person is not sufficient. You either both are exalted, or neither is exalted, in my view. Nobody is dragging anybody in their wake in this model, and yes, the converse means that a bad choice can drag you down. Wildly speculative theology on my part again.

  55. Also, I’m missing my library, is there a link to the King Follett or the Sermon in the Grove? Or could you type out what you’re referring to in #10: Between the KFD and the SitG Joseph does state that we can become gods, but especially in the SitG he explains what that means and J, do you believe this is the very process by which women become gods also?

    Well, since the Holy Ghost has now gone to bed in Saudi Arabia I’ll check you back tomorrow. Thanks.

  56. California Condor says:

    Paul W. (40),

    You wrote:

    It could be possible that our Father in Heaven wasn’t a Savior in the way that Jesus is in our situation…but that Jesus saw his Father inherit a Kingdom from His Father

    So was there another savior in the universe in which God the Father lived before he was a god?

  57. BiV,

    Stapley holds to what I call a two-track model of eternity. On one track are the humans and on the other track are the Gods. So he sees human men and women having the potential to become “kings and queens” to God but never Gods.

    His point in this post is that if Gods are all males then marrying a human woman would not make her a God since that is an unbridgeable gap in his model. JNS points out that one simple solution to the question of MIH is to assume that the Gods include males and females to begin with (something Stapley didn’t assume initially in this thread). That way their would be our human track where men and women have equal potential to become kings and queens unto God and there would be their track where male and female Gods would be equal partners as JNS speculates.

    (I personally reject the entire two track idea as presented here. I think that the beginningless God is the council of gods (sometimes called Elohim) and that the individual members have not eternally been part of that council. We’ve spent a lot of time debating these things over at the Thang. See here for an example.)

  58. Of course, Geoff J. gets around this situation by adopting Multiple Mortal Probations (you still have to be a Savior to be the Father). I believe that Geoff, at his site, has the source docs for both sermons up on his sidebar.

  59. Geoff J., let me point out that I don’t affirmatively advocate the speculation that there are both male and female Gods on a separate ontological plane from humanity. Nor do I affirmatively advocate the alternative speculation that there is no ontological gap between Gods and mortals, and that mortal men and women both have the potential to become peers as Gods. These are questions above my pay grade. My point is simply that the dilemma J. Stapley discusses is created by applying his ontological assumptions to male Gods but not to any females. Either not applying Stapley’s assumptions to male Gods or applying them equally for unknown females resolves the inequality dilemma that drove the original post.

    This doesn’t mean I’m willing to come out in favor of either ontology.

  60. Steve Evans says:

    I love it when Geoff and J. point out each others’ mutual heresies. LOVE IT.

  61. Exactly how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – and why do I love thinking and reading about the possible answers so much?

    Great stuff. I agree with Tracy M. I don’t know the answers, but I love the flavor the questions provide.

  62. J.

    In #51 are you referring to BiV’s #48? Surely you are familiar with Joseph’s statement in the King Follett discourse that “you have got to learn how to be a God yourself” (Bullock); “And you have got to learn how to make yourselves God” (Woodruff); “You have got to learn how to be a god yourself in order to save yourself” (Clayton). (All from BOAP for convenience)

    I think BiV’s question was in reference to that statement.

  63. Jacob, I thought she was quoting something directly. My bad.

  64. ed johnson says:

    J. Stapley, are you trying to describe what the modern church actually teaches, or what you think it should teach? Because if it’s the former, I think you are wrong. The “Gospel Principles” manual, which is probably the best summary we have of modern church teachings, is quite clear that God was once a man, that Jesus is our older spirit brother, and that we can grow to become just like our “Heavenly Parents.” (See especially chapters 2 and 47.)

  65. Steve Evans says:

    ed, the Gospel Principles manual is the best summary of our modern church teachings? I can see why you say this, but I disagree. It is perhaps the best summary of an introductory course in Mormonism, but it is far from detailed and/or deep in any respect.

  66. StillConfused says:

    What do you mean by the statement:
    including ideas about women in the eternities
    Do you just mean that there are heavenly mothers or something more?

  67. ed johnson says:

    Steve, you are right that GP is not too detailed, in the sense that it raises a lot of unanswered questions, of the kind that get discussed endlessly on blogs like this one. But that’s typical of the official teachings in the modern church. The “introductory course” is pretty much the extent of the official doctrine we have. Add the “Proclamation on the Family” to the GP manual, and I’d argue you have covered about every doctrinal teaching that is central to modern Mormon belief.

    Am I wrong about this? Where else would you suggest we go to find a summary of church doctrinal teachings?

  68. Steve Evans says:

    ed, I don’t think such a summary really exists. For one thing, in order to be an accurate summary you’d need to address the temple ordinances, which no manual does very well. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism comes close. Mormon Doctrine, for all its failings and errors, also came close. Yes, the GP manual covers a myriad of topics, but it doesn’t do so in adequately IMO. But yes, that’s a big threadjack.

    I’d also argue that the Proclamation on the Family added little doctrinal novelty.

  69. JNS (#59) — Yes I should have made that more clear about your position. Thanks for clarifying that.

    Steve (#60) — Hehe. It is good times innit? I should note that I think the eventually one must go with some variation of J’s 2-track model or some variation of MMP to resolve this issue theologically (even though many people don’t like either).

  70. Steve Evans says:

    Geoff, precisely so. This issue cannot be resolved theologically, with the means currently at our disposal.

  71. Geoff J (#69),

    I have to mention the third option. Namely a process Atonement distributed in heaven.

    One of the big problems with many exaltation theories is that they are are Ponzi schemish in that they require ~100 billion subordinates for every exalted person or couple. That won’t work if intelligences are eternal (vast majority get the short end of the stick), and it won’t work in any finite universe if they are not, due to resource depletion problems.

  72. Thomas Parkin says:

    Nothing really to add. I personally don’t enjoy this particular discussion. My only bit is: Joseph’s whole program was one of making a comprehensible God comprehensible. In heaven we will enjoy the same kind of sociality we do here. When we see him, we will speak to Him face to face. Etc. It is in that spirit that I generally object to speculating that He is something … wild, outside time, living with feet in multiple dimensions, any of that rubbish. I don’t accept anything that is in any way incomprehensible, or even, finally, difficult to understand. As to a lot of what is discussed: To me, it is a mass of confusion. Well, maybe that’s the beauty of it. When we see Him we will be like Him. Why? Simply because we will see Him as He is. Etc. Going to heaven isn’t only figuratiuvely, but is literally like going to the town where your beloved grandfather lives. It exists in time and space. All as familiar as waking up in the morning at home, in your body as a human.

    ~

  73. Thomas,
    Yours actually seems like one of the more sensible posts, in my opinion.

    When I first started reading these types of blogs, I wondered what drove people to speculate as often seems fairly rampant in these parts. But, on the one hand, I admire those that have spent much time and effort to reach an understanding; on the other hand, I wonder if we aren’t overcomplicating in the process.

  74. Aaron Brown says:

    I care less about figuring out what I “really” think about these issues, and more about having something coherent to say to non-LDS who ask whether Mormons believe men really can become Gods, and what that means. This thread reminds me that no quick and dirty answer to the question is likely to be accurate or helpful. Sigh.

    Aaron B

  75. Aaron, fwiw, when they ask me I generally say, “Yes, we do. It’s not taught in the Book Mormon, but it’s one of the central themes of the Bible.” That either shuts them up as they choke with rage or it produces interest. I like either response, frankly, since I really don’t want to talk about it with someone who isn’t interested in a real discussion.

  76. Sam Kitterman says:

    If one considers Christ’s teaching that in my father’s house there are many rooms and intertwine the thought of multiverses as those rooms, a plurality of gods is surely logical….
    As for the issue of God the Father once having been a man and yet, God being eternal and His course never changing, can one distinguish between the concept of “God” and a personage as “God”?
    If Christ was but doing what He saw his Father do (John 5:19, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do…”), and the “eternal round” is the Son following the Father, perhaps the attempt to put that into a nice tidy little box that we can understand is simply beyond us in our mortal existence.

    As for the issue of we becoming like God and “Christians” finding that wholly outrageous, did not Christ teach that those who followed Him would be “joint heirs”. To be a “joint heir” with Christ clearly means to be like unto Christ and if Christ is entitled to receive all that was promised Him, then those who become “joint heirs” are entitled to the same promises.
    And that’s straight from the New Testament, no matter what translation one accepts.

    At least that’s the way as I see it….

  77. What if we turn the often asked “do we all have the same mother in heaven?” question and asked “do we all have the same father in heaven?”

    What if the Father is ‘one’ in the same way the Father and the Son are one? I.e. – the Father(s and Mothers) are the Gods, the Divine Council, as discussed in many places? Sure, we always talk as if we have only one and the same Heavenly Father, but might that not just be tradition?

    We believe we will become like the Father (I recognize that is in dispute here) yet we also teach that we will have the same sociality then as we have now. If we believw that, why do we tend towards imagine one day it just being our little two person couple? If we believe that our future is to live as a society of celestial beings on this same earth celestialized, why do we picture our previous existence to have been with a solitary God (maybe with one or more wives)? Why not believe that that “He” is really a “They” – an exalted community?

    And within the context of a participatory atonement, Christ would be talking about any and all of “the Father” when he spoke the words attributed to him by Joseph”. He did only that which he saw the previous Church of the Firstborn do – the previous manifestation of the Christ. He joined in their infinite and eternal sacrifice, showing forth for the rest of us the model of a saved being. And calling each of us to also take on the cross, take on the name of Christ, be Saviours on Mount Zion.

    Perhaps don’t need another probation to be Saviours. Should not each of us be able to say, when we stand before the judgement bar, that we have done only what our father (Christ?) did. Will it be any less true, that we are perfect, sinless, and have suffered, mourned, and comforted? That we , with Jesus, as Christ(s) have borne the sins of the world. Might it not really be a question of degrees, not kind? Are we not already doing the work of Christ, and of his Father(s and Mothers)?

    That was too long. My apologies for that.

  78. For some reason, discussions like this always remind me of Old Skool Battlestar Galactica.

  79. 1. I believe in Heavenly Mother.
    2. I am comfortable talking about it with both members and Non-members
    3. I am uncomfortable with LDS Feminists creating a “gospel hobby” out of Heavenly Mother and expanding the truth of the reality of HM into something not supported by scripture or teachings of LDS prophets
    3. Like Ray I am completely open with non-members about Exhaltation or becoming a God. I believe that outside of revealed Mormonism there is a case to be made from the KJV for the idea. Romans 8 amongst other texts come to mind

  80. Is there any more prejudicial phrase in Mormon speak than “gospel hobby”? How does the idea of a gospel hobby coordinate with the idea in Doctrine and Covenants of seeking the “mysteries of the kingdom” that lead to everlasting life (see D&C 63:23)?

  81. FYI: The King Follett sermon takes up two lessons in the 1988 Relief Society manual. Lessons 15 and 16 are nothing more or less than the full text taken from History of the Church (split into two parts).

  82. JNS, I nominate “Democrat” and “so called intellectual.”

  83. Good points, Kyle! So let me presume to rewrite bbell’s comment for maximum impact: “I am uncomfortable with so-called intellectual LDS Feminists creating a Democrat-style “gospel hobby” out of Heavenly Mother and expanding the truth of the reality of HM into something not supported by scripture or teachings of LDS prophets”

  84. Leonard (aka The Ignorant Sage) – It sound like you and Mark B (Aka Mark D. see #71) share similar theories.

    bbell: expanding the truth of the reality of HM into something not supported by scripture or teachings of LDS prophets

    Har! If we knew the truth about the reality of HM we wouldn’t ever have these types of discussions.

  85. The way I’ve viewed a lot of this is, eternal progression’s natural course is one of becoming God like. To not have progression, to stagnate without personal learning or growth (i.e. playing the harp non-stop) seems like an eternal hell to me, since it sounds to me like being caught in an infinite stutter that has no lasting value to myself or others. If ones personal progression is never-ending, then becoming Godlike seems obvious, though it could possibly take thousands, millions, or even billions of years, depending on the rate of progression.

    There is no reason I know of for eternal progression to exclude one gender over another.

    I believe that once you reach a god like level of growth, our awareness of things will be so different that it will be like a new existence. Which makes sense to me since the Doctrine and Covenants refers to “eternities”, with emphasis on the plural, which I understand as being a pre-godlike eternity versus a post godlike eternity, when someone has tapped into the immense sphere of truth of all time.

    For me, I’ve found that the things my wife reflects back to me about myself, is an incredible aid in me being able to progress better. I learn about myself in a way that I can hear, and thereby am able to improve. To me, doing progression together seems like a great aid, making couple-ships an incredible tool in eternal progression.

    But, my mortal awareness is limited and based on my own experience. So, I can’t help but interpret scripture and doctrine through my own experience. I am sure my views will change and evolve with more experience, growth, and awareness.

  86. #39–We do have modern documentation of the existence of a Heavenly Mother–the Proclamation on the Family says “All human beings…[are]… a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents

  87. First time poster so ignore me if I’m way off base.

    1. Based on “O My Father” and the Proclamation, there is little doubt in my mind that there is a Mother in Heaven. If it’s kosure to quote other sources, a Seventy preached this to us on my mission. My guess is that Heavenly Father doesn’t want a lot of info out there on Her our of reverence. Those of us who served in South America know what the world has done with Mary.

    2. This question is somewhat tangential, but hopefully related. What is the true meaning of “infinite and eternal atonement” if there are people on other planets and other saviors? Is it infinite and eternal, but only applicable to those of us on this sphere? Is it only infinite and eternal for our sins, not for others? Just wondering.

  88. Oi… you are breaking my brain with the idea that there might be Father(s).

    Elohim of course is a generic hebrew word for god or gods. Certainly in Abraham we learn of a council of Gods. Now who were the council of Gods? If Michael is Adam and appears to be a member of the Gods Council then it would make sense that all spirit children who stayed loyal would be members of that council.

    Now if that being the case could the idea of Gods in embryo simply mean that we too are eternal Gods if we hold true and faithful to what we are given in this life or the spirit world?

    I cannot honestly accept that their is a two tiered level of Godhood but I can accept that our Father was a Saviour on his own world and or universe.

    Because in my worldview or spiritual view… Christ atoned for the Children of our his father not for his ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ as it were. Because honestly if their is only one Saviour period how can he do what his father did… and to quote a line now I have gone crosseyed.

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