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