But how can men become gods? This is answered in probably the most famous portion of the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132. This portion, put to paper on July 12th, 1843, speaks directly to the issue by introducing the covenant of eternal marriage. This concept is vitally important to Mormons, and while plural marriage (which was intimately connected with the eternal covenant of marriage) is not currently practiced in official Mormonism (many Mormons looking forward to the day when it is re-instituted, honestly believing it is God’s highest will for marriage), it is still central to understanding the means by which the LDS Church teaches men can be called gods. Here is the key passage, verses 19-20:
19 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
20 Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
Later the same passage says, “Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness” (v. 37), and in the same verse, we are told that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.
Many sermons have been delivered by the General Authorities of the LDS Church on this passage and what it means, but we will have to look at those comments later, as they fall into a different category of authority. For the moment, we note that these scriptural passages assert that men can become gods by abiding in the covenant, and that as a result, they will be gods, being from everlasting to everlasting, and that they will have all power and that the angels are subject unto them. When we combine these statements with the previous ones, we can see the general outline of LDS theology today regarding God, the Gods (from the Book of Abraham), the idea that God the Father has a physical body, and that man may become a “god” and have “all power.”
But if these were all the passages we had, we would be hard put to come up with a very clear concept of the Mormon doctrine of God. But, Mormonism is not limited to merely these passages. The concept of continuing revelation, which gave rise to these passages in the first place, throws much light on what is meant in these sections. But before we move to second level statements, we briefly note the words of the current living Prophet of the LDS Church.
THE LIVING PROPHET
At the General Relief Society Meeting, held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, President Gordon B. Hinckley, the current LDS Prophet, read the following pronouncement. Since it was read by the Prophet, and specifically names the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve as making a “solemn proclamation,” we can safely view it as representing the viewpoint and teaching of the current Prophet:
We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.
All human beings–male and female–are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, andeternal identity and purpose.
In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life. The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.
I note the use of the phrase heavenly parents in asserting that we are all created in the image of God. This results in our having a divine nature and destiny. Such terminology will become more important when we encounter even clearer official explanations of what this involves.