James Talmage
   Another leading scholar (and General Authority) of Mormonism was James Talmage. Talmage’s books, Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ, have been read so widely that they are almost quasi-canonical. Indeed, both have been published by the LDS Church itself, sometimes in leather-bound editions! They are often included in the books given to Mormon missionaries as they prepare for their mission work. I quote from Articles of Faith regarding godhood:

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).[1]

   And in another of his works, The Vitality of Mormonism, Talmage commented:

If man be the spirit offspring of God, and if the possibilities of individual progression be endless, to both of which sublime truths the Scriptures bear definite testimony, then we have to admit that man may eventually attain to Divine estate. However far away it be in the eternities future, what eons may elapse before any one now mortal may reach the sanctity and glory of godhood, man nevertheless has inherited from his Divine Father the possibilities of such attainment-even as the crawling caterpillar or the corpse-like chrysalis holds the latent possibility, nay, barring destruction, the certainty, indeed, of the winged imago in all the glory of maturity.[2]

John Widtsoe
   Apostle John Widtsoe was another LDS leader who attempted to provide an intellectual and theological defense of the Mormon doctrine of God. In his work, A Rational Theology, he describes what he as a Mormon Apostle believes about God and exaltation. In a chapter titled “The Gods of This Earth,” Widtsoe pulls no punches:

Plurality of Gods. Since innumerable intelligent beings are moving onward in development, there must be some in almost every conceivable stage of development. If intelligent beings, far transcending the understanding of man, be called gods, there may be many gods. God, angel and similar terms denote merely intelligent beings of varying degree of development. The thought, however, that there is a plurality of gods and other divine beings of varying grades, is of fundamental truth, which may be applied in every-day life, for it gives the assurance that it is possible for all, by self-effort and by gradual steps, to attain the highest conceivable power.[3]

   In light of this, who, then, is God the Father?

God, the Father. God, the Father, the greatest personage concerned in our progression, is the supreme God. He is the Father of our spirits. He is the being of highest intelligence with whom we deal. To our senses and understanding he is as perfection. In his fulness he cannot be fathomed by the human mind. It is, indeed, useless for man to attempt to define in detail the great intelligent beings of the universe.[4]

   Note well what Apostle Widtsoe doesn’t say. He doesn’t say God the Father is the greatest personage period, but the greatest personage “concerned in our progression.” God the Father is not the highest intelligence period, but the highest intelligence “with whom deal.” And notice as well the use of the plural “intelligent beings of the universe.” This same kind of hesitation is seen as he continues:

God, the Father, the supreme God of whom we have knowledge, is the greatest intelligence in the infinite universe, because he is infinite in all matters pertaining to us and transcends wholly our understanding in his power and wisdom. We know no greater God than the omniscient, omnipotent Father.

   God is the supreme God “of whom we have knowledge,” and is infinite “in all matters pertaining to us.” Hence, “we know no greater God,” though, obviously, a greater God exists, since there had to be Gods preceding God the Father, who was once a man, and has progressed to Godhood. We may not know these other gods, but their existence is as sure in LDS teaching as the eternal law of progression itself.
[1] James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, 12th ed., rev. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978), p. 470, LDSCL.
[2] James E. Talmage, The Vitality of Mormonism, (Boston: The Gorham Press, 1919), p. 245, LDSCL.
[3] John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology As Taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1965), p. 66, LDSCL.
[4] Ibid., pp. 66-67, LDSCL.

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