God once was…

One of the greatest canards in the last decade has been that Mormons somehow are starting to hide their doctrine of theogony, which previously had been a deep and foundational principle of Mormon identity. Cast up your arms in disbelief, ye paladins of cultural caricature.

Decades ago Joseph Fielding Smith, doctrinal grand master, wrote in his famous question and answer section of the Improvement Era:

Question: “Will you kindly explain these two expressions, ‘We know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting,’ and ‘As man is, God was; as God is man may become.’ “

Answer: “Everlasting to everlasting” means from the eternity past to the eternity future as far as man’s understanding is concerned, from the pre-existence through the temporal (mortal) life unto the eternity following the resurrection. The Savior said:

    . . . The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things so ever he doeth, these also doeth the Son like wise. (John 5:19.)

From this remark we gather that the Son was doing what the Father had done before him. However, so far as the Father is concerned, we will leave that until we receive further knowledge, when and if we become glorified in his kingdom. So we will deal with this subject in relation to the Son, Jesus Christ. (1)

Can this be so? Obviously, Joseph Fielding was trying to assuage the militant evangelicals in order to be part of the Christian in crowd.

Or maybe, he was simply realizing that the King Follett sermon is a bit more tricky than folklore has indicated. What did Joseph actually say?

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. (2)

Gourge Laub’s account added the sacred sacrifice as part of the divine patern:

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 (3)

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.(2)

In the rest of Joseph Fielding Smith’s answer to the question, he focused on Jesus Christ and our ability to receive “a fullness.” It is consequently no surprise that when asked about God the Father’s history (whether in public or private, to Saint or Gentile audience) Church authorities might be circumspect.

Psst…this wasn’t invented by Brother Millet or President Hinckley folks.

_____________________

  1. Republished in Answers to Gospel Questions, 2:127. Emphasis added.
  2. William Clayton Report, Words of Joseph Smith, pg. 357
  3. George Laub Account, WoJS, pg. 362

Comments

  1. Except that JFS is the granddaddy of Mormon neo-orthodoxy, Staples, so the concern that the neo-orthodox movement is uncertain about divine anthropology is unaffected by this position. Now you’re going to make me try to track down my sources on early Mormon theogony (though that piece of the couplet is the one that’s much harder to sort out).

  2. We’ve found out that “God created the earth” has a less simplistic answer that many once thought, and I think “God once was” is at least equally complex. Circumspect is a good thing.

  3. That term as has been applied to Mormon theology is incoherent I think. Nibley, JFS/BRM, Millet and Hinckley are definitely not in the same camp.

  4. I agree with Sam, here. If you were to ask me to speculate, without research, what the origin is of contemporary backpedaling on early LDS theogony, I’d have guessed something like: “oh, without a doubt, Joseph Fielding Smith.”

    That said, even the statement “God is an exalted man” has strong “as man is…” overtones. An exalted man, it seems, is not a backwardly-eternally, fully glorified being but a being who has undergone exaltation — i.e. progressed from an unexalted (or less exalted) state into a present exalted state. I’m not putting this forward as definitive evidence that as man is God indeed once was, since the imperfections of language, semantic slippages, and problematic record-keeping of oral discourse all complicate the question of what JS really meant here. But it could easily be argued that LDS divine anthropology originates with this quotation and was not a post-JSJ innovation.

  5. Excellent post, J. Stapley. Guess this isn’t a new movement after all. :)

  6. Stape – I wouldn’t actually call those guys all neo-orthodox. I’d say the term applies best to 1)JFS, 2)BRM, and 3)Neal A. Maxwell; guys who emphasized (as did Niebuhr and the Protestant neo-orthodox, from whom Kendall drew the term, though I think JFS was influenced more by contemporary fundamentalists who happened to share emphases with neo-orthodoxy), the majesty and power of God and the comparatively sinful and fallen state of man. As Sam notes, downplaying theogony is entirely consistent with this.

    Millet’s in his own school, I think, with Robinson. They’re influenced most by contemporary New Evangelicals, who are much more optimistic than their pre-WW2 brethren.

    Hinckley, I think, is much more a pragmatist than a consistent theologian.

    That said, I agree entirely that Joseph’s thought on a whole number of issues is much less systematic than his later interpreters have read him to be. This is where we note that Brigham Young is underestimated as a thinker.

  7. That is odd, Brad, JFS was the guy that gave us the TK Smoothie. My previous comment was a bit short as I had to run. There is no question that the “God was a dude like us,” belief has been around since Brigham, but there was a lot that was extricated from nineteenth century doctrine, and it was Joseph F. Smith (the father) with Talmage and the rest that did the heavy lifting.

  8. Matt, I agree with your analysis, accept that I don’t thint JFSII still emphasized theogony, but as you can see it was all forward-looking.

  9. Er, I do thint JFSII still emphasized theogony…

  10. The answer given by JFS is better than Millet’s and far better than Hinckley’s. He at least clearly explains what he believes and what is mystery. The modern problem is the PR-centered focus on the thing we don’t want people to think we believe, and the vague language which leaves the rest of it evaded.

    At least JFS says we do believe that the Father progressed in some sense, we just don’t know how. That answer is fine and not contradictory to Joseph Smith. The “new” answers come off way more defensive.

  11. Johnna Cornett says:

    Great quote J., and it did surprise me. thanks for posting it.

  12. FWIW, in spite of my apparently critical analysis, my opinion is that the JFS answer is the correct one (re: what we do know/believe and what we don’t).

  13. I’ve read the post and first 10 comments twice, and I’m still confused. Is confusion the point? We don’t know if God was a fallen mortal man like us who had to be redeemed by a Savior?

    I personally don’t think God had to be redeemed by a Savior. Perhaps he was a Savior in an alternate universe? But I don’t see how God could be a fallen mortal, and then later have his Only Begotten Son be a God before his birth and then save all of us in our universe. I’m confused on that idea.

    So am I confused right along with JFS and Talmage and everyone else? I can handle being confused as long as I have good company.

  14. angrymormonliberal says:

    J, I’d come to expect better.

    This is part of a larger issue… the impression that the Mormons are hiding something… any something.

    It’s an impression that started with Joseph Smith. And guess what? He was hiding polygamy from 1831 depending on which accounts you accept.

    Following the Manifesto… well we were hiding something again. Polygamy in Mexico and the Fundamentalist problem are our own creation.

    Now are you surprised that there is a sense of suspicion when there are contradictory statements about church history and theology?

    Of course, I agree that the ‘As man now is, God once was’ part of the couplet is the most problematic especially when the King Follet discourse is used as the benchmark. Brigham Young provides far more of a basis for this with the idea of Adam as God the father.

    But… we fall into the problem of just what exactly is mormon doctrine. If the Answers to Gospel Questions says anything that disagrees with modern ideas… well that’s an unofficial source..

  15. #14, i’d urge a little of the charitable tolerance that we liberals encourage so avidly. Secrecy meant a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

    ——-
    happymormonliberal

  16. Nice J. So much of what Millet and Robinson and Hinckley say that is considered “neo” has been around for a looong time. It gets tiresome seeing people spin up explanations of how the church is changing with no historical perspective to tell what is a change and what is not.

  17. non-mormon-observer says:

    It’s concepts like this one that make non-mormons go huh!?

    Then I read this froms FARMS

    http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/godhead/farms_man.htm

  18. non-mormon-observer says:

    I MIGHT STILL GO HUH!?

  19. Does Joseph Fielding Smith trump Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Spencer W. Kimball, and President Hinckley?

    (For the record, I’m only assuming the following quotes are accurate)

    Here’s Joseph in his own words:

    “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!………..It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God……..yea, that God himself, the father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible….” (from Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and History of the Church, 6:302-17)

    And Brigham Young:

    “He [God] is our Father–the Father of our spirits, and was once a man in mortal flesh as we are, and is now an exalted being. It appears ridiculous to the world, under their darkened and erroneous traditions, that God has once been a finite being;” (Brigham Young in the Journal of Discourses, v. 7, p. 333)

    And Orson Pratt:

    “The Gods who dwell in the Heaven…have been redeemed from the grave in a world which existed before the foundations of this earth were laid. They and the Heavenly body which they now inhabit were once in a fallen state….they were exalted also, from fallen men to Celestial Gods to inhabit their Heaven forever and ever.” (Apostle Orson Pratt in The Seer, page 23)

    And President Kimball:

    “You and I–what helpless creatures are we! Such limited power we have, and how little can we control the wind and the waves and the storms! We remember the numerous scriptures which, concentrated in a single line, were stated by a former prophet, Lorenzo Snow: ‘As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become.'” (President Spencer W. Kimball in “Our Great Potential” from the April 1977 Priesthood Session of General Conference)

    And from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

    “I believe that I am a child of God, endowed with a divine birthright. I believe that there is something of divinity within me and within each of you. I believe that we have a godly inheritance and that it is our responsibility, our obligation, and our opportunity to cultivate and nurture the very best of these qualities within us. (BYU 1992)”

    “On the other hand, the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follet sermon (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 342-62) and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become! (See The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984, p. 1) Our enemies have criticized us for believing in this. Our reply is that this lofty concept in no way diminishes God the Eternal Father. He is the Almighty. He is the Creator and Governor of the universe. He is the greatest of all and will always be so. But just as any earthly father wishes for his sons and daughters every success in life, so I believe our Father in Heaven wishes for his children that they might approach him in stature and stand beside him resplendent in godly strength and wisdom. (Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, Oct. 1994)”

    For the majority of the members of this church (in my experience) — this is a central doctrine (God once being a man) — and it remains so. And people come by this belief honestly — because they read it in church published books, and in church published manuals, and hear it regularly taught in church, and even in past general conferences.

    If the church is uncertain about this teaching now — I hope they will continue to let the word out — and not just to the press…but to the membership worldwide in some direct way.

    J. — It feels a little bit like you’re blaming/mocking the “victims” here (though I could be mis-reading you).

    Regardless — If the church wanted to clear this up — they could in about 2 minutes.

    And if the leaders really don’t know — they should probably make that really clear too, no?

    Let’s at least not mock those who have taken Joseph, Brigham, Pres. Kimball, and Pres. Hinckley at their word.

    My 2 cents.

  20. Regardless — If the church wanted to clear this up — they could in about 2 minutes.

    John, I think that’s just it–the church doesn’t care about clearing it up. In fact, leaving this (and many, many doctrinal points) ambiguous is highly adaptive for the church, increasing the number of people who can find a theology that works within the (very!) broad framework of Mormonism. Lots of people have said it in lots of contexts, but it’s really the only way to make sense of this: Mormonism is not a creedal faith. By and large, leaders really don’t care all that much about people’s theology, only about their loyalty and their practice. One could certainly argue that we should care more, that at least some basic theological understandings ought to be tied down. But that’s a wholly different argument than the one about whether there is a deliberate distancing from well-settled theological principles.

  21. I don’t see a problem with the statements. It’s a doctrine/idea/principle that we just don’t understand fully and we may not until the next life. I don’t see distancing, just an acknowledgement that we don’t know.

  22. John, your assumption about the words of Joseph are not correct (see original post). In a sort of way, I very well may be blaming those that should be more careful in how they characterize the Church (note how the President Hinckley quotes that you use doesn’t talk about the history of God the Father) I think Kristine is spot on.

  23. Kristine/J.,

    This is gonna sound lame (like I’m copping out)…but I typed a big long response…and then felt really sick to my stomach about sending it at this time (because of President Hinckley’s passing).

    Please forgive — I’m not pulling a “holier than thou” card, or trying to be coy or anything. I just feel a bit overwhelmed/sad/sick right now….and want to pull back.

    Ya’ll know (hopefully) how much I love and respect you both.
    I’ll come back soon….again….sorry for backing off.

  24. I think that the concept of God being once as man is now fits pretty well with the concept of eternal progression and what we will be doing ourselves at some later point. If we achieve exaltation, won’t we have our own cosmos (or piece thereof) to deal with? How salvation, scripture, and everything else will work out, IDK, and honestly it doesn’t matter. The things we need to focus on now is our own salvation. Nothing in this regard is going to be revealed at large — ever (at least not until the millennium).

    On another point I was teaching institute on the Pearl of Great Price and we spent some time on the King Follett discourse, which contains some pretty amazing doctrine. At the time, concerning John 5:19, I believed that God the Father had worked as a savior on another world. You can read into the following whatever you will. I was restrained by the Spirit from saying that HF filled a savior role identical to JC’s. (I would have offered it strictly as my opinion. I was very careful to separate doctrine from my opinion in the class.)

    I’ve since re-evaluated my position and think that John 5:19 merely means a mortal experience and/or what JC saw HF do in the premortal life. However, I think Kristine was very apt in her assessment of the situation, that the only things the church has come out on clearly are core doctrines as they relate to our salvation. This is not something that falls into that category, and while some church members will offer their opinions (as esteemed as they may be), I don’t think that there will be an official church position on this and many other points. The church is flexible on a great many things.

  25. Greatp post J. — thanks for bringing this to mind.

    John D. — With regard to your comment # 19, I must say that in the quotes from Hinckley that you give, and in his other statements in the media about the issue, Hinckley was straightforward with what Mormons teach and believe. He affirms the idea that all of us can become like God through the Atonement of Jesus Christ but does not take a strong view on the other part of the couplet, namely that “as man is God once was”, stating instead when asked in the media about this that we don’t know much about this idea. Joseph Smith uttered it and it was recorded in various people’s journals and it was speculated about by a few of Joseph Smith’s successors — but it remains unclear what is meant by it. Hinckley was honest about that and instead of speculating in real time affirmed the other part of the couplet, namely that “as God is, man may become”, which is grounded in scripture and was widely believed by the earliest Christians.

    This issue has been much more current this month than usual due to media treatments that mention the Lorenzo Snow couplet. When this came up at the beginning of January, I made the following comment at Times and Seasons to which I’d like to hear your response:

    . . . . on the point of retreat from the KFD, my view is that stressing that we believe we can become like God is not dissembling or softening/mainstreaming our doctrine. I believe it is a more accurate description of how strong of a doctrinal claim we can actually make based on what has been taught. We believe that we can become like God in a much more real and literal way than creedal Christians who posit that God is a different species than man. The important knowledge from the KFD is that God and man are the same species and that the whole point of existence is to progress in intelligence and righteousness, through the grace of Jesus Christ, until we become like God. But beyond that we don’t exactly know what that entails precisely — which is what President Hinckley was teaching when he said we don’t understand a lot about it, meaning the mechanics of the first half of the Lorenzo Snow couplet (”as man is God once was”).

    As Nate points out there is a long strain of legitimate dispute with this assertion within Mormonism. I don’t think that President Hinckley is in the camp of those who dispute the first half of the couplet; rather, he is taking a more realistic and perhaps more honest stand on what we actually know or understand about that point, rather than allowing natural enthusiastic speculation to result from awareness of an exciting restored doctrine (”as God is man may become”). But importantly, as President Hinckley demonstrated, the latter half of the couplet “as God is man may become” is still as openly taught today in the Church as it ever has been (I concur with a commenter above that hardly a week goes by in Church where someone does not raise this point of belief in any given lesson or talk — the point about returning to live with Heavenly Father and become like God). President Hinckley did not shy away from that principle in his interviews and our General Authorities don’t downplay the idea of “becoming like God” in their discourses. It follows from verses in the New Testament (e.g. 1 John 3:2) and the Book of Mormon (e.g. 3 Ne. 28:10).

    I think that Hinckley took the more realistic approach and curbed enthusiastic speculation about that part of the couplet, which seems to have arisen as a derivative of the first part of the couplet, in line with JFS’s statement about what is actually known about that. I suppose that it could be considered neo-orthodoxy but I don’t see how that’s a bad thing if it more realistically describes what is actually known or believed.

  26. I started to make a comment on this thread last night, but it was right when I heard about Pres. Hinckley’s death.

    johnf pretty much summed up what I would have said.

  27. My problem with the rise-of-neo-orthodoxy reading of the development of Mormon thought is that it assumes that there was some sort of pure or unadulterated Mormonism that started getting Protestantized around 1950 or so. The reality, of course, is that Mormons have been divided over what to make of the KFD since it was given. I see Joseph Field Smith as simply continuing a line of thinking that goes back through folks like Anthon Lund ultimately to Orson Pratt. The mistake is to think that the Brigham Young/B.H. Roberts interepretation of KFD is the authentic one and that the others are just PR or Protestant pandering. The reality is that Mormon theology on this point has been polyvocal from the beginning.

  28. Exactly, Nate. Mormon “Neo-orthodoxy” is not a very solid theory.

  29. Nate – I disagree with the premise of your first sentence; arguing that neo-orthodoxy existed does not, I think, presuppose a “pure” Mormonism prior. On the contrary, it recognizes that Mormon theology has never been systematic, and has always held within it contrary impulses and interpretations – neo-orthodoxy being one example.

    It’s a matter of evidence that JFSII was influenced by Protestant fundamentalism. He corresponded with the fundamentalist geologist George McCready Price on issues like the age of the earth, and his _The Signs of the Times_, for example, clearly reflects the new dispensationalism fundamentalist thinkers had developed. That he also reflected currents within Mormon thought doesn’t mean that neo-orthodoxy wasn’t something new.

  30. As johnf notes in #25, there was a long discussion of this question on T&S arising out of a post about Noah Feldman’s New York Times magazine article suggesting we practice a “soft” secrecy about some of our more heterodox beliefs. I accept that: (1) there has been a diversity of views among LDS leaders regarding Joseph’s comments about the history of God in the KFD and (2) this is a consequence of our non-creedal and unsystemized theology. However, as comfortable as bloggernaclites may be with those two points, neither one is really compatible with either our external presentation of our faith nor the average Latter-day Saint’s understanding of our religion as one where modern prophets clearly reveal what was once obscure and incomplete. Short of some revelation giving us further light and knowledge on the history of God (which I believe is NOT something that would come about in “2 minutes”) presenting the explanation suggested here will require a much larger adjustment in our message than just this issue. It will require presenting ourselves as a religion of saints struggling to learn and understand what God has revealed but still lacking many important understandings, rather than the religion with the prophet who talks to God and has all the answers.

  31. Thanks for this post, Jonathan. Two reasons I see for not saying much about about the whole “God was once . . . 1. As you and a number of folks say, in actuality we don’t know much(which isn’t to deny anything Joseph said). 2. The discussion of these particular ideas (even if we did know lots about it) can too easily be a distraction from the message of redemption offered by Christ, how desperately we need that redemption, and how it is brought in our lives.

    Paul speaks about being determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. Christ is the central thing. The other ought to be brought in only in connection with that, and only in a way that does not remove or take our vision away from the foundational doctrine of Christ and how we come to him.

  32. Wow. I’m sorry but this discussion has presented a ton of questions for me as I ponder the idea that a slow and deliberate doctrinal reengineering within the heirarchy of the church is taking place.

    For a church that professes modern day revelation why are we having such a hard time solidifying unique mormon doctrine? Isn’t a churches credibility based on its adherence to its established doctrine? Was God a man like us or not? (I believe he was)Did He act as a savior like his Son or not?(I believe and teach that he did) Why has an eternal endowment changed numerous times over the last century or so even though God delivered it to Joseph Smith? (can’t figure this one out) Is God wrong or are we such screw ups we just can’t get it correct no matter how hard we try? Is mormon doctrine really any different than any other religion out there?

    And when does one prophet have the right to trump another prophets doctrinal statements. Especially after we have been indoctrinated to believe that the fullness of the gospel has been restored; the Book of Mormon is the most correct book; when the prophet speaks it is true; and that “not one tittle” of the temple endowment can be changed (yet it has been numerous times)? When does the leadership begin to have a credibility problem with the members? If “there is a deliberate distancing from well-settled theological principles” as Kristine states, why is this? And when can we expect to see the new prophet begin to, change, discount, minimize or even ignore any of the teaching of our beloved Pres. Hinckley?
    In other words, how much does LDS (mormon) doctrine have to change before it is anything BUT the mormon doctrine Joseph Smith and the early leaders restored?

  33. awestruck says:

    AJL – I admit to many of the same questions you have posed. Having personally seen many of the temple changes, etc., that have occurred in the church, the best explanation I have been able to come up with in my own mind is that the “core” of the temple ceremony is probably still the same, but the way it is presented is certainly different in some ways. I am assuming in my own mind that parts of the temple ceremony were JS’s way of teaching principles to the people of his time in a meaningful way. It appears to me that the covenants and and obligations and promises are pretty much unchanged? Even though the trappings around them have changed (like the garments themselves).

    Perhaps the KFS is the same – after all probably my favorite doctrine of the gospel is eternal progression – however this is also difficult to understand in light of the fact that God is “eternal and unchanging” – so we generally take this to mean that His progression has to do with the progression of His numberless children.

    BTW I think this all works rather well (in my own admittedly fuzzy thiking) with evolution. I personally think that if we believe we can become like God and we believe in eternal progression – that certainly at least strongly implies that God WAS once “as man is”. I am a lot less enamored of the principle that God the Father was necessarily a “Savior” in the sense that Jesus is – why should we think that? Obviously we all have the opportunity to follow Jesus’ example in our own small ways, but we don’t all have to do exactly everything He did, although we do have our own small crosses to bear and we are expected to reach out in love and make sacrifice for others.

    Sorry, I know this is rambling – I guess my point is that I believe our understanding of the Gospel is evolving, just as we are. This doesn’t seem inconsistent to me with changes in our understanding of what earlier prophets have said.

  34. AJL, as a new commenter, you have included a surprising amount standard criticism levied by church antagonists. I will however, give you the benefit of the doubt and respond (and hope that you are not a troll).

    The Church is both “true and living.” As it is living, it is also dynamic. Church doctrine from the earliest days has been dynamic. If you wondered why apostles like William Mclellin or David Whitmer left, it was because they didn’t like the changes. William Law of the first presidency? Didn’t like the changes. You see this down through the Utah period, past the Manifesto and into the twentieth century.

    As far as the Temple goes, it too has consistently been dynamic. Before your lifetime the ritual endowment took 6 or 7 hours. The temple rituals are not eternal. The principles in them are eternal. The bible is fairly explicit about what ordinances were performed in the OT Temple, and ours don’t appear to be there.

    If you are truly sincere in your questions, then I imagine that you are probably taking an absolutist view of Mormon doctrine as popularized by folks like McConkie. I would recommend reading some history to contextualize the development of Mormon doctrine.

  35. #34:I will agree looking back in time, Church doctrine has been “dynamic”. But I don’t know that Mormonism has ever been taught as being dynamic. Bruce R McConkie was during my lifetime. His “absolutist” views were not “popularized” by him, they were mainstream Mormonism.

  36. Awestruck. No problem with the rambling but this is the “dispensation of the fullness of time” and if we don’t have it right this time when will it be correct and unchanging.
    And J.Stapley, I’m not a troll and no offence was taken. I’ve been a member for many years, have held many leadership roles in the church including bishopric, high council, presidencies, institute and seminary teacher…
    I guess I feel like we are abandoned as members who have grown up in the church to believe the fullness of the gospel has been restored and we have everything we need to progress. If things change as radically as they are then we begin to wonder what doctrine is next to under go a make over to satisfy the whims of the world.
    As a youth we were always taught to stand by our conviction to the truthfulness of the gospel because we were told it was true. Then the church leadership comes along and changes things. And it is all the harder to understand when they are changed in the shadows of membership surveys.
    So I guess I’m asking; if we set our hair on fire when a poor deacon misses a “the” or “an” in the sacrament prayer or a poor green elder isn’t exact in the wording of the baptismal prayer, why is that we so unquestionably accept drastic changes to the most sacred of all ordinances of the gospel, that of the temple endowment?

  37. Steve Evans says:

    AJL, I’ll let Stapley deal with you, as I’ve made a resolution to be nice. I’m sure you’re not a troll, but you sure sound like one. Actually you sound like a fundie, or perhaps an anti in disguise (they almost universally include language like, “I’ve been a member for many years, have held many leadership roles in the church including bishopric, high council, presidencies, institute and seminary teacher…”)

    Good luck to ye.

  38. um, AJL, if you’re going to quote me, please use a whole sentence so as not to make it appear that I was saying the exact opposite of what I did say. Thanks.

  39. AJL, Personally, I don’t see one single change in the “Gospel” since the Restoration; I see lots of change in the way that the Gospel has been interpreted and taught and emphasized. Joseph Smith himself taught some things differently at the end of his life than at the beginning of his ministry.

    In my opinion, the biggest heresy that arose among members (both common and leaders) was the idea of infallibility among the prophets and apostles. There have been VERY, VERY few apostles and prophets who taught or even hinted at that, but it is human nature (the natural man) to want it. I admire Brigham Young and Bruce R. McConkie (and others like them who spoke in absolute terms) tremendously, and I have no doubt that they were chosen my inspiration and revelation, but there are FAR more who did not – for a reason.

    When I look at what has changed over the years, I see two general categories that fit the vast majority of them: 1) non-revelatory speculation and 2) cultural / administrative details. There are some obvious exceptions (like polygamy), but I think those examples are easier to accept, since they are issues of practice and application.

    Again, when the Gospel is defined as it is in our scriptures I see little if any change. We still differ radically from the rest of Christianity on the major theological principles of the Restoration, even as the tree is pruned around us.

    Finally, the endowment has not changed in any substantive way in my lifetime. Some of the presentation has changed (the visuals and the specific cultural examples, for example), but what actually is endowed has not changed at all.

  40. #37 – Amen. I almost didn’t respond at all, and I won’t again (since the second comment obviously ignored the responses prior to it). The comments really are point-by-point straight from an anti textbook.

  41. Kristine I apologize for an imcomplete quote…

    Steve, you are pretty good at making broad assumptions about people. You’re not keeping to your resolution. I’m not anti, but simply seeking to understand why we are so rigid with some doctrine and play loosey goosey with others. Do you have a problem with someone who wishes to see the church move back to “the meat” of the gospel?

    Ray, how much pruning can take place until we no longer recognize the original tree? Just asking!!!

  42. My point, AJL, is that I see pretty much the same tree – just with different branches and leaves. Personally, I like most of the ones that have grown to replace some of the earlier ones – and I see a constant pruning of the speculative ones that crop out regularly. I especially like the fact that our modern apostles tend to speculate much less than our previous ones did, which means the pruning, I believe, had slowed a bit recently.

  43. Steve Evans says:

    I’m waiting for AJL to explain to us that “the meat” is polygamy.

  44. Steve Evans says:

    …polygameat?

  45. #44 – Do you guys keep a dictionary of terms – like Armageddon Porn, TK Smoothie and now polygameat?

  46. #41: I think AJL needs a little space. There has been some name calling: fundie,absolutist,church antagonists, anti, ‘carards’,’heresy’,etc. of those ,who, in your minds, crossed the line.

  47. Ray,

    and I have no doubt that they were chosen my inspiration and revelation

    Well, with that kind of insight, pray tell: Who will be the new counselor in the first presidency? (ridiculous smiley emoticon here)

  48. Yikes; that’s a nice typo.

    I’ll take a wild guess and go with Elder Oaks – or Elder Nelson, just in case Pres. Monson needs medical attention at some point.

  49. J. Stapley,

    One main challenge I have with this approach (having you and a bunch of our leaders start to peel away all that is not technically scriptural) is that it fundamentally challenges (and often undermines) our level of confidence in LDS church leaders. Even though church leaders may not verbally encourage it, most members look to our leaders as having direct revelation from God — and as having very solid, firm, sound understanding of the gospel, doctrine, scripture, plan of salvation, history, etc. They are prophets, seers and revelators, after all — with a direct and special line of communication to God. And this is God’s one and only true church.

    So when LDS church leaders (or prominent, believing bloggers in the ‘nacle) begin distancing themselves from things that past apostles actively and consistently taught over the pulpit , and in church manuals for over 150 years (God was once a man, Native Americans are Lamanites, Blacks will not get the priesthood, polygamy is required for salvation, the Book of Abraham is a translation of Egyptian papyri, etc.) — over time, members begin asking, “Well…if they were wrong about all that…what are they wrong about now?”

    That, to me, is the great pickle. The brethren (and you) want to discard all that is not certain, scriptural, and/or historical — but in doing so, they/you are also peeling away much that is central to people’s modern faith, and they/you are also (indirectly, and I’m sure unintentionally) undermining apostolic authority in the eyes of many members (not most members, mind you — only pin-heads like us).

    One other interesting thing….currently the church leaders seem to be doing much of this distancing through casual press releases — and by sending out proxy spokespeople like Otterson and Millet. Either that, or by discussing these things only to external media (like when Oaks/Holland spoke to Helen Whitney).

    I wonder if a day will come when the apostles and prophets will take up more of this work themselves…instead of by proxy…and speak directly to the members in General and Stake Conferences about this stuff, instead of primarily to external audiences, and/or through press releases.

    Part of me would love to see the day when in General Conference, we hear things like:

    1) We should no longer assume that all Native Americans and Pacific Islanders are Lamanites — because we simply don’t know.
    2) We should no longer teach that God was once a man, because we simply don’t know.
    3) We should no longer teach that Polygamy is church doctrine, because we simply don’t know.
    4) We should not speak of the Book of Abraham as a translation — in the way we usually use the word — because we simply don’t know.
    5) The teachings that blacks were less valiant in the pre-existence were wrong (this we should know)
    6) Homosexuality is often not a choice, and we should love, support and not judge our homosexual brothers and sisters, because we simply don’t know.
    7) Etc. etc.

    The only problem is…the more they do this (and the more posts you make like this)….the weaker their mantle ultimately becomes (I fear).

    Again — what a pickle. I applaud you for providing explanations — I just fear that you risk undermining the church you love, when you do so.

  50. John, this is not a new problem. The meaning of a new/flexible canon or of the power of prophethood in early Mormonism was often contested, debated, and confusing. Frankly the most important index for the earliest core group appeared to be loyalty, whatever the actual content of revelation or doctrine. The case of Pelatiah Brown is exemplary in this respect, as is the standing joke about Lucien Woodworth, the Pagan Prophet in Nauvoo. Mormonism has always had more freedom in doctrinal belief than your proposal suggests.

    I’m sympathetic to the concern about a bare-bones Mormonism (and less anxious than Stapley about Smithian divine anthropology), but I think you’re overstating the case based on a false dichotomy. If we can never move beyond the false dichotomy, we’ll never be able to grow as a church community or collection of doctrines.

  51. P.S. I will add that it seems clear to me that the vast majority of past church presidents and apostles (including Joseph Smith) believed the FULL couplet — not just the latter 1/2 of it. And if I were to poll the members of my ward — I would guess that 75% (easily) also firmly believe in both halfs of the couplet — and come by it honestly (having been taught it via manuals, church-published books and in past General Conference talks all their lives).

    If the first half of the couplet was believed to be false or inaccurate at any point of the church’s history in the 20th century — I believe that they could easily have cleared that up with the membership in about 2 minutes via a talk in general conference, and by informing the correlation committee.

    If leaders are no longer sure about this 1st part of the couplet — shouldn’t they let the members in on the secret in a more formal way? The nature of God is a pretty core issue to Mormonism, I’d have to say.

    Why do we have to learn about this via Time magazine, or via J. Stapley on BCC?

  52. SMB,

    What’s the false dichotomy? I just want to make sure that I understand.

  53. Yeah, pretty much what Sam said. I also think that much of your concern is feigned. Honestly, the Church has always been dynamic (you just happened to be raised in a more absolutist era). There is no pickle. How long did it take for a Church Authority to formally renounce Adam-God (though circular and other letters had been address aspects of it since the the nineteenth century)? Spencer Kimball. The Church doesn’t like to say general authorities were wrong. So what?

    And as per Sam’s comment, I am perfectly fine with members believing whatever they want about the divine anthropology. It does, however, bug me when people whine, make facile caricatures of Smith’s thought, or engage in crappy historical analysis.

  54. John, when you show me that Joseph believed the full cuplet as interpreted by later Mormons you will have done the miraculous.

  55. J. Stapley,

    “It does, however, bug me when people whine, make facile caricatures of Smith’s thought, or engage in crappy historical analysis.”

    It sounds to me like you are condemning the vast majority of LDS church leadership and membership since the conception of the church. I appreciate your drive for accuracy — I really do — but I’m not sure that you fully understand the full implications of your historical self-righteousness and arrogance.

    You (as the pinnacle of LDS historical accuracy) are quite alone in that regard. Then there’s the rest of us….apostles and all.

    Good thing we have you to tell us all how things really went down, and what folks really meant to say.

  56. J. Stapley,

    How do you parse these words of Joseph?

    “that he was once as one of us and was on a planet as Jesus was in the flesh”

    “what did the father doo why he went & took a body and went to redeem a world in the flesh”

    I don’t know how it could be more clear. I really don’t.

  57. Are you saying that the portion of the couplt that deals with God’s history is generally interpretted as indicating that God lived on aplanet like Christ did?

  58. I’m saying that those quotes from Joseph make it clear to me that Joseph believed and taught that God once lived on a planet (like earth), as a man….which is what most members and apostles have believed and taught for 150 years.

    In other words…God was once a man, living on a planet — as we are men, living on a planet.

    I don’t think that Joseph is saying that God (in his moral state) was identical to me, or you — but He was clearly a man, living on a planet (at some point) — which again is what members and leadership have believed and taught for 150 years.

    If this is no longer church doctrine — I think we all deserve to be told, no? To me, this is a central part of the LDS Plan of Salvation.

  59. Steve Evans says:

    J., #57 — isn’t that what it means?

  60. J.

    Sorry (by the way) for being rude and snippy. I think you are brilliant and have an amazingly large and good heart.

    I don’t know why I got so upset.

    You rule, man.

  61. You rule, man.

    Nah–he teaches correct principles; we rule ourselves. :)

  62. Steve (#59), I don’t know about you, but it is a big difference between saying “God lived on a planet like Jesus did” and saying “God lived on a planet like Steve did.”

    John, I reread my comments and especially #54 could be read as scoffing, for which I apologize. Perhaps some background on the issue:

    – Brigham’s idea about the history of God and the destiny of man are different than the modern Church’s.

    – The King Follett Sermon was viewed as suspect by the Joseph F. Smith Presidency at the turn of the twentiety century.

    – President George Albert Smith didn’t want B. H. Roberts to include the King Follett sermon in the Comprehensive History of the Church, because he thought it was suspect (Roberts won out though).

    – The source material for the KF sermon is more complex than the popular couplet indicates.

    – Joseph Fielding Smith, as the former Church Historian was aware of all of this and I think tempered his response in the quoted excerpt from the original post accordingly.

    – Gordon B. Hinckley accurately reflects this 150 year uncertainty.

    So, the Church tries to maintain as open a policy as possible (despite some efforts to the contrary, e.g., McConkie and his absolutism). Some people conflate their experience with the Church with the history of the Church in general. Your comment (#49) relies on what are in my estimation, caricature, and faulty analysis. I also believe that your mode of rhetoric is somewhat disingenuous. I appreciate you comment #60 and I am hopeful for many of your projects and don’t feel any personal animus towards you.

    The purpose of the original post wasn’t to promote the deemphasis of Joseph Smith’s doctrine. It was to highlight the contrast of what I see as false perceptions regarding the Church’s management of its doctrine. Personally, I frequently write and talk about the KF sermon, the Sermon in the Grove and the Mormon divine anthropology, recognizing of course that I don’t make doctrine for the Church.

  63. J.,

    Those are all very helpful and interesting points.

    Just for fun, I opened up the 1st edition of Mormon Doctrine (1958) when writing this comment, and found the following on page 295 under Godhood:

    “Joseph Smith said: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! … I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see…It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did”

    I imagine that all you say about Joseph Fielding Smith and George Albert Smith are true — but apparently the son in law didn’t get the memo — and neither did most of the rest of us. Does anyone know if this quote appeared in subsequent editions? (just curious)

    I don’t believe that it’s accurate to claim 150 years of uncertainty, either. I believe that it’s more accurate to say that there has been 150 years of almost complete unanimity, with a few, isolated questions or concerns along the way (unbeknownst to most of us today…yourself excluded) — and an increasing amount of backtracking and spinning/parsing beginning in the late 1990s. I’m open to being wrong here, but would love to see your sources.

    I also would argue that current LDS member perceptions of the God/Man teaching are very much comparable (if not largely identical) to Joseph and Brigham’s. I still don’t see how Joseph’s own quotes are meaningfully different than what most Mormons believe today: that God was once a man, and lived on an earth. Brigham and all subsequent prophets taught this too, well into the 1980s. I still am not seeing where there is a meaningful difference here. Whether God was a savior or not (to me) is totally a side issue and (to me) a disingenuous distraction.

    I do think you put yourself in a pretty interesting and bold position — because you seem to be calling into question the doctrinal beliefs (regarding the nature of God) for virtually all of the past LDS church prophets and apostles. Even though you may be able to find a few apostles or prophets who felt uncertainty about the 1st half of the couplet (JFS and GAS) — I believe that the historical record would easily bear out that the overwhelming majority of apostles and prophets from Joseph through to the 1980s were in support of the full couplet.

    Why should we trust your skepticism or uncertainty about this teaching, and discard the clear beliefs and teachings of pretty much all the past LDS prophets and apostles, regarding their beliefs about the nature of God? I don’t feel like you’ve quite made a convincing enough case in this regard.

    Also, if the King Follet discourse was so suspect — why was it allowed to be printed in church publications for so many years, and quoted so often in general conferences? Has anyone done a search on appearances of the couplet in General Conferences? In the Ensign? In other church publications? I’d love to see that if it exists. I could be wrong here, but I don’t suspect that I am.

    Also, personally, I would trust Brigham’s or Orson Pratt’s interpretations of Joseph’s teachings much more than I would any prophet 60 or 100 years after — because Brigham and Orson actually KNEW Joseph, and spent many, many hours with him alone. They were his friends. JFS was but a small child when Joseph was martyred.

    Most of all, I believe Joseph’s own words. Joseph definitely believed that God was once a man, and dwelt on a planet.

    Finally, if you are (in fact) correct about the uncertainty that now exists amongst the brethren, I really do wish that they would do something much more concrete and explicit to clear all of this up. I believe (as did Bruce R.) that doctrine matters — and if there has been or is now as much confusion and uncertainty as you indicate on the couplet — it certainly hasn’t even come close to reaching the mainstream church.

    This belief is alive and well — and (as I mentioned before) could be clarified in about 2 minutes by our prophets, seers and revelators.

    P.S. What are your sources for your Joseph Fielding Smith and George Albert Smith claims? Just curious.

    P.S.S. Does anyone have a copy of “Doctrines of Salvation” to see what Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in this regard? My bet is that it is identical to Bruce R’s — but again, I could be wrong.

  64. P.S. Didn’t Joseph Fielding Smith himself edit/compile “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith” — which included the King Follet sermon in its full glory?

    Very odd.

  65. John, I think you and Stapley are speaking past each other. There are two basic views of Smith’s divine anthropology:
    1. God was a Jesus figure, a perfect mortal who personally conquered immortality for his kinship group.
    2. God was a “mere” mortal, someone little different from you and Stapley, who “made it big.”

    Most of the commentators who are squeamish about the overbroad application of the divine anthropology couplet emphasize something like #1, which has about as much trouble with heresy as the standard Christian preachment on the Incarnation (even if it will still raise hackles at Oral Roberts University). #2, however, is quite a bit more radical, and it’s not entirely clear that it is what Joseph Smith meant, even if he did preach both aspects of the couplet in some form.

    I personally believe that Smith would have endorsed something like #1 although he would have found the distinction between #1 and #2 to be slightly obtuse.

    When I get some more time, I’ll work through the sources and see how persuasive I can make the case for a Smithian source for divine anthropology.

    As for false dichotomy, I mean the notion that a prophet is either always impeccably a prophet or is entirely unreliable as a prophet. The point, from the beginning, has been a relational model of prophecy–remember this is the prophet who gave a “patriarchal” priesthood to his father and older brother, whose frontier seminary was a fraternal organization bound by explicit ties of created kinship, and whose church he saw as a Zion society, itself a trope for the perfectly integrated family of humanity. This can be taken too far, into the strange worlds of capricious charisma, but in its moderated form really does express Mormon prophethood quite well and remarkably consistently over the years.

  66. SMB,

    You are very wise, Kristine tells me that you are the cat’s meow. I need to get to Sugarhouse sometime soon.

    Believe it or not, I actually do kinda understand the difference between 1 & 2 (that’s what I meant w/ my “disingenuous distraction” comment).

    I guess the point I’m failing to successfully make — is that I see the distinction between the two, in the context of President Hinckley and Robert Millet’s downplaying of the overall 1st half of the couplet — as a decoy/distraction. As parsing to avoid having to tell the WHOLE truth.

    Whether “God as man” was more Jesus-like, or more Stapley-like — ANY teaching of God once being a man on earth is, simultaneously:

    1) What most Mormons since time and memorial have believed,

    2) What Evangelicals call heretical, and

    3) What we appear to be denying in public (though some seem to have their consciences assuaged by feeling like they’re getting off on a technicality).

    The “loop hole” of using the “Stapley-like” interpretation to downplay the entire 1st half of the couplet is, in my opinion, lawyerly and deceptive.

    That’s just how I see it.

    But I also kinda resent that some folks seem to feel like they can find some convenient, obscure historical factoid(s) — which in their mind dismisses the feeling of confusion and disappointment that thousands of LDS folk feel when they hear things being downplayed or denied to the press — and the re-embraced (and never renounced) within the fold.

    The feeling of “where did my doctrine and theology go?” — is a real one, for many, many people that I correspond with on a weekly basis. And Stapley seems keen on mocking those who feel that way….so I had to speak up.

    Loyalty is a wonderful thing….but it seems like Christ would always call us to seek to understand, and to empathize with — and not to mock and ridicule, as Stapley seemed want to do as he conceived this post.

    So I guess Stapley and I are talking past each other — but I guess that I’m telling J. now (not that he really cares) that I am offended by his insensitivity to those who I believe have good cause to feel disappointed, saddened, or even betrayed.

    And I can say this still saying that I understand why church leaders do and say the things they do — and that I don’t condemn them for it. I don’t even think they’re being dishonest. I just think that it’s a very hard situation.

    Regardless, when church doctrine becomes primarily PR-driven — and when legalism and obscure historical fragments are used as billy clubs on those who feel saddened or even betrayed — I believe that we seriously stray from the Spirit of He who inspired the founding of this great church.

  67. Steve Evans says:

    John, I think you might be overstating your case a little. Church doctrine being primarily PR-driven? I know that for you this is an emotional issue, but don’t let your emotions override all else…

  68. Boys!!!

    You are both right, and both wrong. J. is wrong to assign the entire burden of finding out the arcane history of doctrinal minutiae to individuals, and to ignore the disillusionment and pain of those who discover them in an unfriendly context because they haven’t been properly “innoculated” (scare quotes because I know the term is problematic, but it’s a useful shorthand). He’s right to point out that Mormon doctrine is and always has been quite fluid, even on points that might seem important to nail down.

    John is wrong to expect that the church can possibly teach this in a subtle way in 50 languages to people who don’t really pay attention that much in Sunday School, and to insist that people who find their basic understanding challenged have been betrayed by the church. It’s true, as we have discussed ad freakin’ nauseum, that the church doesn’t do terribly well at presenting difficult and/or subtle issues in correlated lesson materials or really anywhere. But that in no way proves (or even suggests) deceitful intent–it is merely the inherent ineptitude of all large institutions. He is right to insist that people who feel hurt need understanding and help, and that we’d all be better off if difficult information could somehow be worked through in friendlier environments.

    The Great Oz has spoken. Everyone click your heels three times and go watch a movie or something. It’s Friday night!

  69. Kristine, well put.
    John, I hate cats. I would be surprised if I were somehow associated with them, even aurally.
    Sugar House has proved quite hospitable, though.
    And, in honor of Friday night, I will now return to work.

  70. “as we have discussed ad freakin’ nauseum”
    That’s a quote to go down in history, Kristine.

  71. Oh, and, Kristine is an old good friend. We think of her as whatever animal noise is most complimentary.

  72. Kristine

    I think there is are more options besides deceit and ineptitude. Why are the only two choices that the brethren are either liars or incapable of presenting God’s word in the proper way? Here are a couple of others-

    Perhaps the Church as a whole simply may not be ready/worthy to be taught certain principles.Considering that we are held accountable for how we respond to the light and knowledge we are given, and that many Saints struggle with obeying even some of the most basic doctrines that we already have, God shows great mercy and wisdom to withhold deeper principles and mysteries than the “weakest” of Saints could embrace fully.

    The prophets of both ancient and modern scripture were often “restrained” from sharing all that was revealed to them or chosen groups of people.

    Knowledge requires faith and effort, and the scriptures testify that those who earnestly seek and obey currently revealed truths will be given further light and knowledge. Just because certain things are not being revealed to the body of the Church doesn’t mean that God isn’t revealing those things to individuals who have met the requirements to know for themselves.

    Most of the time, at least in my experience, the issues that Church members get knickertwisted about have nothing to do with principles that affect our eternal salvation. God is trying to perform His glorious work in a specifically brief time frame with the help of fallen creatures. I trust that He doesn’t particularly care to waste any time soothing our minds and hearts over things that from His perspective just won’t matter to the bigger picture. We have a “fullness” of the truths required to overcome this mortal existence, but we do NOT have a fullness of the truth as He does. We don’t need them yet. And when we do-when our forward progress would be compromised by not knowing-He’ll make sure it is given to us.

    What really matters is that both Jesus and I and our Heavenly Father have experienced mortality. Both Jesus and I can obtain the same blessings, thrones, and eternal powers that our Father has. Was God the Father a “Christ”? There has been no official revelation from God to be given to the Church body on that topic, so why is it controversial at all that Church authorities take no official stand on it? The answer has nothing to do with our eternal salvation, and considering the contention that arises whenever a GA dares to share a personal opinion on anything-(damned if they do, and damned if they don’t)remaining silent would be the wisest and easiest choice.

  73. Kristine
    Why for one minute do you think is so difficult for a large organization to tell the truth to its masses? As John has stated the leadership could clear this up with the members quite simply in two minutes. Do we or do we not believe in the true nature of God as taught by Joseph Smith in the KF sermon. He was our founding leader. The prophet of the restoration. Many of us will stand up this Sunday and bear witness to that fact yet we have less than a clear conviction to the importance of that doctrine that he delivered because “modern” prophets are choosing to distance themselves from controversial doctrine (in their eyes). Frankly my dear I don’t give a dxxx what others think out side the walls of the church because if we concede on such a fundamental doctrine as this what else is PR?

    John I appreciate your comments on this discussion. It is interesting to note that in a 1988 Relief Society study guide it has two lessons devoted to the KF sermon. In 1988 the leadership believed it was so important then that they devoted not one but two lesson to the sermon. What has changed in 20 years? Would it not be so refreshing to see such lessons back in our manuals today?

  74. xoxoxo, AJL,

    It’s difficult for the church to tell “the truth” to its masses because that truth is subtle, complicated, and in dispute. As J. and smb have usefully pointed out, the KF sermon has always been controversial. The fact that church leaders choose to focus on the simplest, most ennobling element of it–that human beings can become like God–rather than on the elements about which the Brethren have historically disagreed makes perfect sense from a practical point of view. I actually agree with xoxoxoxo that the brethren are extraordinarily ept (heh) at conveying the simple elements of salvific knowledge. That they choose different emphases at different times need not be troubling, unless one is insistent on a static canon and systematic theology (both very un-Mormon).

  75. AJL, the KFD actually tells a much bigger story than the strict question of God’s status before our “creation.” It’s worth remembering that you can enjoy the KFD without requiring my option #2 above.

    And as far as it being easy to clarify this, I think even this thread suggests the contrary. how to make the distinction (to anyone not raised their entire life on JFS2/BRM Mormonism) between #1 and #2 in a meaningful way is not at all clear. When i’ve lived abroad, people have been much more interested in and engaged by Jesus visiting Joseph, the Book of Mormon, eternal families, than in the complex details of divine anthropology. No one’s rejecting the broad brush strokes–it’s the complex details that can be such eye candy to critics of Mormonism that people are trying to smooth over.

    Even though I see Smith’s stance as more radical than Stapley does, a) I don’t see a PR conspiracy, and b) our disagreement as people who both read the documents closely reinforces the fact that there’s not a simple overpowering explanation.

  76. I’m confused about one thing….is there any question about whether the church still teaches that:

    “God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exhalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…..?”

    If so, I read the quote two weeks ago in HP quorum because it happens to be on page 40 of the new JS manual.

    While I understand that there is a potential for legitimate questions about what the statement means….shouldn’t be any question about whether we are still officially bringing up the KFD en masse.

  77. # 66- Whether “God as man” was more Jesus-like, or more Stapley-like — ANY teaching of God once being a man on earth is, simultaneously:

    1) What most Mormons since time and memorial have believed,

    2) What Evangelicals call heretical, and

    3) What we appear to be denying in public (though some seem to have their consciences assuaged by feeling like they’re getting off on a technicality).

    I don’t believe that 2 and 3 are at all accurate. First, while Mormons believe that God was once a man on another earth like Jesus as 1) states, I think that what is being said is that Mormons don’t claim to know anything at all about when, where or how this birth was created, what the planet was like, how much God was like us or whether the Father was an already divine being, or resurrected, or also atoned like Jesus did. Mormons don’t claim to know a lot about it — which is entirely correct and what is really being said. No one is denying or has denied 1). Mormons don’t focus on it beyond the simple point that God became mortal on another planet because they don’t have much more to go on — just as Pres. Hinckley said.

    Moreover, “God” is vague, but evangelicals most certainly believe that God became human and lived as a mortal on a planetoid. Evangelicals just think it was Jesus who was that God. So 2) needs to be stated more carefully. You are correct that all evangelicals reject with horror the view that the Father could become become mortal. But on what basis?

    Finally, what Mormons “appear to be denying” aint that God was once a man; what has been denied is that Mormons teach much or know much about what it means that God (I guess the Father) was once a a mortal on another earth. So I believe that 3) is just missing what is being said — and what is being said is appropriate given Mormon ignorance on the subject.

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