Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Gordon Hinckley Hearkens Back to Old Time Mormonism While De-Emphasizing Human Exaltation
07/15/2006 - James WhiteWhen you go to www.lds.org today you will find a "First Presidency Message" from Gordon Hinckley, printed in the Ensign magazine, July, 2006. Since this is the current prophet writing, being published in the official church publications, and being recommended for use and discussion by home teachers, there is little ground upon which anyone can question that this is official teaching. Not Scripture, but official interpretation thereof, a clear exposition of the official position of the LDS Church. If the prophet can make this kind of statement for the First Presidency in the church's official publications and it still just be his "private opinion," there is really no logical way to determine what Mormonism actually believes or teaches any longer.
I found this message most interesting. In many ways, it is a re-affirmation of "old time Mormonism," those beliefs that some LDS seem to at least be embarrassed about today, and even to be waffling on, in some instances. Hinckley confirms, at least positively, the majority of what I presented in my book, Is the Mormon My Brother, though conspicuous by its absence is the historic emphasis upon man's own exaltation to the status of a god. Though this is not the specific subject of the message, that part would not have been missed sixty years ago. And at one point, it almost looks like an effort was made to avoid the topic. We read early on:
"It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God" (History of the Church, 6:305).Notice there is no period in the citation. That's because it is a partial sentence. Here's the whole thing:
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" (King Follett Funeral Discourse).The original emphasis in the cited text was upon the fact that God "was once a man like us," leading to the teaching that we may become gods like him. So while much of this statement seems to me to be aimed at Mormons who are speculating more and more about abandoning certain elements of LDS theology that are embarrassing (polytheism as a religious viewpoint is incoherent and self-contradictory in any form), it still reflects the modern situation where the emphasis has shifted, at least in Hinckley's official statements, away from the old-time LDS emphasis upon exaltation to godhood. What is clear is that Hinckley sees no room for Mormonism to adopt historic Christian beliefs regarding the unity of the Godhead on an ontological level. The plurality of gods stays, even if the corollary doctrine (exaltation) is not nearly as strongly asserted. Notice the following statement: ...
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