Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Mormonism 101: Second Level Statements (More)
06/18/2007 - James WhiteMore from Joseph Smith
While the preceding discourse is certainly the longest extant presentation of the LDS doctrine of God and man from the Mormon Prophet, it is certainly not all he said on the subject. Indeed, in the few years before his death in 1844, Smith spoke often of this concept. He encountered a good bit of opposition, even from within his own movement, especially on this point. This would seem to indicate that it was, indeed, a development that took place over time, and that had been absent from the earlier forms of the Mormon faith. Note his words from June 16, 1844, a scant eleven days prior to his death:
It is altogether correct in the translation. Now, you know that of late some malicious and corrupt men have sprung up and apostatized from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they declare that the Prophet believes in a plurality of Gods, and, lo and behold! we have discovered a very great secret, they cry--"The Prophet says there are many Gods, and this proves that he has fallen."
The passage of Scripture to which Smith makes reference is Revelation 1:6 in the King James Version of the Bible, which reads, "And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." From this passage Smith will derive the concept of the plurality of Gods, as he himself declares:
I will preach on the plurality of Gods. I have selected this text for that express purpose. I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years.Smith goes on to insist that he had taught all the stronger doctrines publicly, and always teach stronger doctrines in public than in private. Hence, he is preaching the doctrine of a plurality of Gods. This is not mere conjecture or opinion, it is doctrine.
I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. If this is in accordance with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are plural; and who can contradict it?
John was one of the men, and apostles declare they were made kings and priests unto God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It reads just so in the Revelation, Hence (sic) the doctrine of a plurality of Gods is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. It is all over the face of the Bible. It stands beyond the power of controversy. A wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.Smith then calls upon Paul's testimony to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 8:4-6), and says,
Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many. I want to set it forth in a plain and simple manner; but to us there is but one God--that is pertaining to us; and he is in all and through all. But if Joseph Smith says there are Gods many and Lords many, they cry, "Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"How, then, does Joseph Smith, here at the very end of his life, view those whose viewpoint he once held regarding the Godhead? He tells us in this sermon:
Mankind verily say that the Scriptures are with them. Search the Scriptures, for they testify of things that these apostates would gravely pronounce blasphemy. Paul, if Joseph Smith is a blasphemer, you are. I say there are Gods many and Lords many, but to us only one, and we are to be in subjection to that one, and no man can limit the bounds or the eternal existence of eternal time. Hath he beheld the eternal world, and is he authorized to say that there is only one God? He makes himself a fool if he thinks or says so, and there is an end of his career or progress in knowledge. He cannot obtain all knowledge, for he has sealed up the gate to it.
Some say I do not interpret the Scripture the same as they do. They say it means the heathens gods. Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many; and that makes a plurality of Gods, in spite of the whims of all men. Without a revelation, I am not going to give them the knowledge of the God of heaven. You know and I testify that Paul had no allusion to the heathen gods. I have it from God, and get over it if you can. I have a witness of the Holy Ghost, and a testimony that Paul had no allusion to the heathen gods in the text.
Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow--three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. "Father, I pray not for the world, but I pray for them which thou hast given me." "Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom thou has given me, that they may be one as we are." All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God--he would be a giant or a monster.When Joseph Smith attempted to express Trinitarian concepts in the Book of Mormon he demonstrated a misunderstanding of the doctrine, and fourteen years or more did nothing to disabuse him of his misconceptions. He does not understand the Trinity even in his last days.
Can There Be A Doubt?
The strength of the preceding statements may cause the reader to wonder why it is necessary to even continue the study, let alone multiply citations! How can anyone question the teaching that is plainly presented by the founding Prophet of the LDS Church? But we must indeed document that Smith's doctrine then became the official doctrine of the Church in his day; that it has been believed and taught in the days since then, and that it remains the teaching of the LDS Church at the beginning of the twenty first century. What is more, the teaching of later General Authorities expands upon, and explains, these seminal sermons from the Mormon Prophet.
More Official Pronouncements
Another form of official teaching of the LDS Church is found in the statements of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. There are very few of these statements to examine, but most of them are directly relevant to the subject at hand!We are truly left with little doubt on the key issues of Mormon orthodoxy regarding the doctrine of God by these statements that are meant to define, with measured accuracy and certainty, what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes.
The first statement comes from the First Presidency in 1909. Responding to the controversy concerning Darwinian evolutionary theory, the leaders of the LDS Church spoke of the nature of man, and in the process, the nature of God as well. The statement is titled The Origin of Man, and reads in part:
The Father of Jesus is our Father also. Jesus Himself taught this truth, when He instructed His disciples how to pray: Our Father which art in heaven, etc. Jesus, however, is the firstborn among all the sons of God--the first begotten in the spirit, and the only begotten in the flesh. He is our elder brother, and we, like Him, are in the image of God. All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity. . . . What more is needed to convince us that man, both in spirit and in body, is the image and likeness of God, and that God Himself is in the form of man?We need to note a few important teachings in this official pronouncement. First, the passage specifically makes mention of our heavenly Mother. Many find such a phrase most strange: heavenly Mother. And yet, this is exactly what the Church teaches. Such is hardly surprising, given the centrality of the concept of the family, coupled with the belief that God is an exalted man. Second, we are told that God Himself is in the form of man. Is this not exactly what Joseph Smith taught sixty-five years earlier in the King Follett Discourse? We can then show a consistency between the teachings of the LDS Prophet on this topic and his followers half a century later. Next, the First Presidency claims it bases itself upon divine revelation in saying that God is an exalted man, perfected, enthroned, and supreme. This again is perfectly in line with what has come before. Finally, it is directly asserted that man has the capacity, "as the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage" of "evolving into a God."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, basing its belief on divine revelation, ancient and modern, proclaims man to be the direct and lineal offspring of Deity. God Himself is an exalted man, perfected, enthroned, and supreme. By His almighty power He organized the earth, and all that it contains, from spirit and element, which exist co-eternally with Himself.
Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.
The final paragraph cited above appeared in another such official pronouncement, this one dated 1925, and titled "Mormon" View of Evolution. This statement, too, is signed by the members of the First Presidency. Hence, the assertion that men are capable of "evolving into a God" carries the weight of the signatures of six General Authorities, including two LDS Prophets.
The longest statement from the First Presidency that is relevant to our study comes from 1916, and is titled The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve. This document appears as an appendix in a very popular work by James Talmage, Articles of Faith. There is much in this statement that would be worthy of examination, especially as it relates to Christ, but we will focus again primarily upon those statements dealing with God and exaltation:
Those who have been born unto God through obedience to the Gospel may by valiant devotion to righteousness obtain exaltation and even reach the status of godhood. Of such we read: Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God (D&C 76:58; compare 132:20, and contrast paragraph 17 in same section; see also paragraph 37). Yet, though they be gods they are still subject to Jesus Christ as their Father in this exalted relationship; and so we read in the paragraph following the above quotation: and they are Christ's, and Christ is God's (76:59).Some light is shed on what it means to be exalted, and the nature of celestial parentage, by the following:
Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for He is one of them. He is The Son, as they are sons and daughters of Elohim. So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.We are told here that Jesus is one of the "spirits who have taken . . . bodies upon this earth." Further, only those who have gone through the period of mortal probation (life on earth) and have been resurrected and glorified "can become parents of spirit offspring." These celestial parents, then, have spiritual offspring, who themselves go through the process (this all being known as the Eternal Law of Progression) that their "glorified parents" have gone through so as to attain "exaltation." This is, again, completely in line with Smith's comments that were reproduced earlier.
 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 369.
 The KJV translation is, in fact, inferior at this point, as the better translation is "to His God and Father" (so NASB). This passage contains an example of what is known as Granville Sharp's Rule. For a discussion of this rule of Greek grammar, see The King James Only Controversy, (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1995), pp. 267-270.
 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 370.
 In passing we should note a basic error in Smiths exegesis: as modern translations such as the NASB bring out, Paul is making reference to heathen or pagan gods: "For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords. . . ." The Greek participle, lego,menoi, fully warrants the translation "so-called." These are deities that are called deities, but are, in fact, not. The entire context of the passage supports this understanding, for Paul argues that there is only one true God (v. 4), and then says that Christians know that there is only one God (v. 6), but not all men have this knowledge (v. 7). To place oneself with those who do not have this knowledge is to join the ranks of the heathen.
 At this point Smith again addresses Genesis 1:1 and his assertion that this passage teaches a plurality of gods. He says:
I will show from the Hebrew Bible that I am correct, and the first word shows a plurality of Gods; and I want the apostates and learned men to come here and prove to the contrary, if they can. An unlearned boy must give you a little Hebrew. Berosheit baurau Eloheim ait aushamayeen vehau auraits, rendered by King James translators, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." I want to analyze the word Berosheit. Rosh, the head; Sheit, a grammatical termination; the Baith was not originally put there when the inspired man wrote it, but it has been since added by an old Jew. Baurau signifies to bring forth; Eloheim is from the word Eloi, God, in the singular number; and by adding the word heim, it renders it Gods. It read first, "In the beginning the head of the Gods brought forth the Gods," or, as other have translated it, "The head of the Gods called the Gods together." I want to show a little learning as well as other fools.The kindest thing that can be said of Smith's interpretation is that he could have used a few more years of instruction in Hebrew. Elohim is plural indeed; but it is most often used with a singular verb, and hence properly translated as a singular. Bara in Genesis 1:1 is singular, and hence is properly translated, "God created," not, "the Gods created."
 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 372.
 Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1992), Appendix 4, LDSCL. The pronouncement is signed by the members of the First Presidency, Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund.
 The current LDS Hymnal contains a selection, #292, titled, O My Father. It is a popular tune, as it also appears in the LDS publication Gospel Principles (p. 326). The third line also makes mention of the heavenly Mother. It reads in part,
In the heavns are parents single?The next line goes on to say, "When I lay this mortal by, Father, Mother, may I meet you in your royal courts on high?"
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I've a mother there.
 The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Appendix 4, LDSCL.