Teaching Mormon Pre-Seminary Children to Retain Their Beautiful Belief in the Supremacy of God

This year at Manti I talked to many roaming Mormon pre-seminary youth (around 10, 11, 12-years-old), and it became very clear to me that they don’t really pick up on distinctive Mormon theology on the nature and history of God and becoming Gods until seminary. There was a very clear general (but not exclusive) pattern to me:

Those who had yet to go through seminary believed God never sinned, that God had always been God, and that we cannot be Gods.

Those who had been through seminary believed that yes, maybe God did sin, that God was once not God, and that we can become Gods. One older Mormon communicated to me that children are naive in thinking that their Heavenly Parents have always been sinless, and that part of the maturation process is learning that they were in fact once maybe sinners like us. When these post-seminary Mormons would respond to the issue of whether God sinned by saying that the issue is complex and that we can’t really know with certainty, I would refer them back to the more pure and lovely testimony of LDS pre-seminary youth, who seem to be spiritually smarter than LDS adults.

I did a lot of prepping of LDS youth: I would share with them the verses from the Bible (and even the Book of Mormon) showing that God has always been God, and holy, and I would ask them what they ought to do if their future seminary teacher ever teaches them (as so many older LDS youth tell me) Lorenzo Snow couplet theology, etc., and their responses were great.

One LDS boy told me, “I will correct them!” And his sister then chimed in, “Yeah, there’s nothing in the scriptures that says we can’t correct our teachers!”

This is my message to such LDS youth: Read your Bibles, and don’t let the LDS Church take away from you the beautiful belief that God never sinned, that he is the first God, that he has always been fully God, and that we cannot become Gods.

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23 Responses to Teaching Mormon Pre-Seminary Children to Retain Their Beautiful Belief in the Supremacy of God

  1. falcon says:

    Oh man Aaron. Talk about wandering into a mine field. Did you have any parents or any other adults coming up to you with steam pouring out of their ears? I think what you did was really revealing, interesting and shows a pre-indoctrination picture of these kids. They got it. They saw the pure meaning of God’s Word.
    Now if a Mormon came up to my pre-teen child ( I don’t have one BTW) and started laying the restored gospel on them, I wouldn’t be at all happy. Do you think you violated some ethical standard here? It’s really hard for me to think in those terms but I’m pretty sensitive regarding parents’ prerogatives.
    On-the-other-hand, I started cult proofing my daughter (she’s a twenty something now) at a very young age and I would have used the occasion of a Mormon speaking to her to reinforce what I’d been teaching. Actually I had to do this since my daughter had a Mormon friend growing up.
    The time and effort put into teaching and training pre-teen children regarding God’s Word is the most valuable use of time, money and effort there is. It’s been proven scientifically as I was told in church just a couple of Sundays ago.
    So anyway, your little experiment was very enlightening. Maybe it would prove to be a good technique to engage parents in a discussion if they got upset.

  2. SR says:

    Matthew 18: 2-3

    How perfect does this verse fit!

  3. Mike R says:

    Aaron, what a mission field ! You have planted lots of seeds of truth in the hearts and minds
    of these precious young people.

  4. shematwater says:

    Just so everyone knows: The LDS church does not allow the teaching of minors without parental consent. Actually, we don’t really like teaching a wife without her husband’s consent either. We do not believe in disrupting the family; but in respecting that unit and the authority the parents have in it.
    So, I find it unlikely that what Falcon suggests as a possibility would ever happen.

    As to the blog, the problem here is that these are young people. We teach the gospel fitting each age, just as anyone would teach any other subject. There is nothing wrong in this.

    Just to make one thing clear: It is not church doctrine that there is even the remotest chance that our Heavenly Father may have once sinned. This may be accepted by many members, but it is not supported by the leadership and truly contradicts the doctrine of God’s nature. I am glad that these children believe that God never sinned, because he never did. I am sad that so many believe this heresy, but that is what it is.

    Christ lived a sinless life; Christ lived the exact same kind of life as his Father, and thus the Father lived a sinless life.

  5. johnsepistle says:

    Shem said, ” I am glad that these children believe that God never sinned, because he never did. I am sad that so many believe this heresy, but that is what it is.”

    Shem, it’s good to hear you say that. I’m very glad that you reject as heretical the idea that God the Father was once a sinner, and I commend you for having the courage to take a firm and settled stand on this question when so many Latter-day Saints prefer the less desirable approach of clouding any and all such sort of questions with the aura of mystery so as to avoid the hard thinking that they might require. So I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to think the question through and draw a serious conclusion. This raise one question, though: when it comes to such a dreadfully dangerous heresy as this one, why do the church authorities – whose tasks include maintaining sound teaching and guarding against heresy – not clear up the waters by publicly encouraging the membership to confidently reaffirm the past, present, and future sinlessness of the Father? What are your thoughts on that?

  6. shematwater says:


    I think there are two things that people should consider.

    First: What is the actual percentage of the LDS membership that thinks it is possible the Father once sinned.
    Second: Are they teaching it as part of the lessons in church meetings, or only discussing it privately among themselves and friends and family.

    This second one is very important. If they hold this opinion, but are not teaching it from the pulpit, so to speak, then they are not in violation of the regulations of the church. Any member is allowed to have their own opinions about anything, as long as they do not use their authority in the church the teach them without the permission of the leadership. I have personally never heard of anyone teaching this as doctrine, so it is likely not a big concern.

    As to the first, I would actually be surprised to find that any large percentage of the membership actually believes this. I think it is frequent with those members who are online; but then the culture that is the web generally attracts the radicals of any group more than the general membership. As such using the internet as a kind of testing ground to see what percentage accepts a given idea will not be an accurate representation of the entire membership.

  7. johnsepistle says:

    As for the proportion of the membership that holds out the possibility that the Father is a reformed sinner, I believe that MRM’s own Aaron has gathered the most substantive data on that subject – from street interviews, not merely Internet culture. To the best of my recollection, he has found that most Latter-day Saints are open to the position, which is highly problematic, to say the least. As for your second point, though, here we get into an issue. This is not some innocent theologoumenon like others (setting aside the question of whether a prophetic church as such should even have such). It is, in your own (correct) words, a matter of a “heresy”. A heresy is no harmless thing, but something spiritually hazardous, either directly or in terms of its ramifications. The scriptures show us that church leaders are charged with, among other things, preserving the spiritual welfare of the people by teaching correct doctrine while denouncing heresies. It matters not if those heresies are being directly promulgated in any significant capacity, nor whether they are somehow held in keeping with “regulations of the church” (however precisely we are to understand that phrase). Neither are several that Elder McConkie listed in his “Seven Deadly Heresies” talk, after all, but they still needed to be addressed specifically. So too here. It would seem that either: (1) this idea is not actually a heresy (though, if false, it clearly must be); (2) this idea has been explicitly denounced by church leadership in some mysteriously unknown venue; (3) this idea has not been denounced because the leaders are deficient in their callings; and/or (4) this idea has not been denounced because the leaders are apathetic and unloving. What, then, to make of all this?

  8. shematwater says:


    A heresy is only worthy of note when it is taught as truth. That is the point. Why bother with addressing it when it is truly insignificant in the grand scheme of things? Heresies are denounced when they begin to jeopardize the spiritual welfare of the people, which only happens when they are taught as truth; not when a small percentage of the people merely speculate that it may be possible.

    So, concerning your four possibilities, none of them accurate; It is a heresy; it has been denounced, but only implicitly as far as I know; the leaders are not deficient, but are more concerned with other issues; the leaders are loving, and willing to allow anyone to personally believe what they choose, as long as they don’t declare it as church doctrine.

    The real reason is that it just doesn’t matter that much. Not enough people even hold out the hope, as you put it, and none are trying to teach it as true doctrine. To address the issue would be to dictate conscience and that is something the church will never do.

  9. Mike R says:

    Johnsepistle, you brought up some valid points to consider relative to this issue. This belief
    that some LDS embrace —that H.F. was once a sinner —-is’nt a surprise , and no doubt many
    LDS would also embrace it if they would stop long enough to think through the Eternal
    Progression doctrine and Mormon males as taught by their leadership . Since there seems
    to be no direct explicit statement denouncing this belief by Mormon leadership it is
    quietly shelved likely to be revealed by church leaders when they feel church membership is
    more spiritually mature to receive it .
    That’s my view.

  10. johnsepistle says:

    I’m afraid you’re incorrect. It is not true that a heresy is only dangerous when people teach it as church doctrine. A heresy is dangerous precisely because it is heresy. Even as a ‘private belief’, it is worthy of denunciation, because it imperils the spiritual state of those who hold it. That is what distinguishes it from a theolegoumenon. There is no room in that for the continued fetishization of ‘officiality’. Indeed, ultimately it does not matter whether it is propagated directly from one person to another (i.e., ‘teaching’), or whether it is propagated through common patterns of inference from other widely held beliefs, whether ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’. A heresy by its very nature is a dangerous infection that has potentially dire spiritual ramifications. This is why compassionate leaders must patiently and passionately refute heresy, and why the New Testament demands that leaders in the church do so. It does not matter if only a “small percentage” of the people (allegedly) hold to the heresy or are open to it. We should remember that the one sheep is a “small percentage” compared to the ninety-nine. If even the one sheep is worthy of the Savior’s time, there can be no excuse through “small percentages”. A heresy by its very nature cannot be “insignificant in the grand scheme of things”. This heresy in particular is a direct attack on the Father’s nature and character – and nothing is more significant in the grand scheme of things than that. Teaching the past sinlessness of the Father is no more “dictating conscience” than teaching the present sinlessness of the Father, so appeals to free agency are fruitless here. Heresy by its nature “jeopardizes spiritual welfare” from the outset, not merely when spread and not merely when affirmed dogmatically.

  11. shematwater says:


    The church will put down any heresy that is being used to destroy the welfare of the saints. However, the church will not sanction a person for a personal belief that does not endanger others. This would be dictating conscience, as it would be requiring a rigidity in thought and belief that is contrary to the plan of happiness.

    I also disagree with you on the dangers of heresy. While they are dangerous to an individual they are not sufficiently dangerous to the body of the church. That is the difference. The general authorities occupy themselves with those matters that impact the body, not the individual. This is not to say that the individual is not important, but simply that 15 men would never have the required time to address everything that every individual would bring up. Their job is to direct the body. It is the responsibility of the local leaders (bishops and stake presidents, etc.) to deal with the individual. For this reason, as long as these leaders are not teaching the idea as doctrine, the general authorities will leave it to them to deal with these sorts of issues.


    Only those who do not understand the nature of God and the eternal worlds would come to such a conclusion. It is not surprising that some use these things to justify such a false teaching, but they do not support the idea, but rather contradict it.

  12. Mike R says:

    Shem, I think it’s fair to say that there are sincere Temple Mormons who despite your claim
    to the contrary do understand this issue , you might wish to brand them as clueless but they
    just might be closer in their understanding than you are , and no doubt they would offer a
    inner witness they feel confirms their understanding . Now ,I don’t blame you for personally
    distancing yourself from this disgusting belief. but your brothers who today believe that
    upon being found worthy after death will progress to becoming Heavenly Fathers themselves
    through peopling kingdoms and they no doubt feel this scenario is how the H.F. over this
    earth has progressed before them . I personally feel that this is the message that Mormonism’s
    Eternal progression doctrine can convey so it’s certainly not a stretch to see many LDS accept
    this position. By embracing the notions of a false prophet that Almighty God is only a
    common male who on another world “progressed” to become what He is now can this
    sort of doctrine find a home in the hearts and minds of LDS today ( perhaps some of
    the leadership) . I also feel that the reason that this belief is not admitted to or discussed
    openly is because it would hamper proselytizing efforts . I understand there is no direct
    statement by leadership agreeing with those of their flock who believe that H.F. succumbed to
    a sin(s) while progressing to Godhood ,nevertheless I tend to think that those LDS who
    you’ve said have no understanding on God’s nature etc. could be closer to understanding this
    issue than you. Just maybe.

  13. shematwater says:


    Maybe. I am always willing to accept that others know more than I do.
    However, they are not more correct than Joseph Smith, and it is through his words that we know the Father never sinned. You can read it is the King Follett Discourse (which I do not have on me at this time). In that discourse Joseph Smith clearly states that the actions that Jesus performed in mortality (a.k.a. the Atonement of mankind) was performed by his Father while his Father was in mortality. Since it is a basic doctrine that the atonement was only possible by Christ was completely without sin, it must also stand that his Father was completely without sin in order to perform the atonement of his generation.
    Add to this that Christ himself states that “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” So, if Christ only does what his Father does, and Christ was without sin, than the Father is without sin as well.

    I know there are those who hold these views, but they are contrary to the word of God as declared in the Bible and as taught by Joseph Smith. Anyone who claims that the Father ever sinned is in opposition with known revealed truth.

  14. Rick B says:

    I just love how you can mention the JoD and seem to trust what it says and trust that JS meant what he said, It funny how the KFD is what 11 pages long and it is trust worthy enough for you to use.

    Yet when us Christians quote the JoD and mention Adam God, Blood atonement, Blacks not Holding the priesthood, or being put to death for marry whites, Then we are told we dont understand, or we mis-quoted it, or it was not written down accurately, or it was lost and missing something, Etc. Dont you find that strange how that works?

  15. Mike R says:

    Shem, I think that you touched on a belief which many LDS embrace i.e.that H.F. was once a
    savior Himself . I’m familiar with what J.S. taught in his KFD and how that is used
    to teach that God the Father was a Savior on another world etc.
    But this rational is without solid footing especially how Jn 5:19 is used to support this belief.
    The context in Jn 5 :19 is simply stating that Jesus was being accused of doing work on the
    Sabbath by healing a man , in that context He replied that He was only doing what His Father
    did -vr 17 . Jesus took care to always let the Jews know He was not acting on His own in
    oppisition to or in place of God , that’s all the context is saying. To read into it what Joseph
    Smith did to teach that God the Father was a savior also is going way to far with the context.Now
    this belief that H.F. had sinned , or perhaps did sin in His progressing up to becoming Almighty
    God that some LDS embrace has taken root because of what Mormon leaders have said about
    this progression in H.F.’s case .The simplest way to see how this belief has been accepted by
    LDS is that each Mormon male today , though a fallen and guilty of sin(s) will progress up the
    very position of being a H.F. in their own right complete with a kingdom of children who will
    look to their Father in much the same way that LDS look to H.F.today. Progression from sinful
    human males to Almighty celestial male heavenly fathers .
    At any rate, I appreciated your opinion .That’s all I have for now.

  16. Ralph says:

    I know I’m a little late on the conversation but I dont have access to a computer at work any more and my shifts are erratic.

    Anyway, didnt we have something similar to this a while ago when an LDS couple were blocked from being scout troop leaders for a Trinitarian Christian group because of just this – the troop sponsers were afraid that they would teach the children LDS principles?

    And wasnt there comments in the past from some of you that you have had experiences with LDS parents teaching your (or your friends’) children LDS principles when visiting after school and you (you being an article not pointing to anyone in particular here) were appalled at the audacity of the LDS to do this because in your eyes it was trying to indoctrinate them into the LDS church?

    If the answer to both these questions is yes then there is a double standard here.

  17. shematwater says:


    I understand what you are saying about John 5: 19, but that does not mean I am wrong.
    Now, you reference verse 17, and rightly show that it is a response to the accusation of working on the Sabbath. However, you miss verse 18, which changed the context from working on Sabbath to being the Son of God.

    John 5: 17-20
    “But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.
    Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
    Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
    For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth…”

    So, what Jesus says in verse 19 is to prove that he is the Son of God, and thus has a much wider application than what you give it. He is saying that everything he does is because his Father (or God) did it before him, and that he can do nothing save what his Father has already done.

    As to becoming H.F. ourselves, this also does not completely square with the scriptures, or the words of the prophets. In the Book of Abraham we read that the gods as a counsel worked under the direction of the Head of the Gods. This is what Joseph Smith taught in the KFD. We will all have spirit children, and we will all work to bring them to salvation; but we will act as a counsel, with Jesus Christ as the Head of that Counsel.

  18. shematwater says:


    I didn’t know the Journal of Discourses contained the King Follett discourse. I read it in “The Teachings of Joseph Smith” as compiled and edited by Joseph F. Smith. As I stated before, when the leaders of the church (such as an apostle or member of the first presidency) produce a volume that draws on the words of earlier leaders I will accept it, as they are guided by the spirit in doing so. As Joseph F. Smith was in this group of leaders when he compiled and edited this volume I am perfectly willing to accept his judgment as to its accuracy and authenticity.

    The Journal of Discourses was not so compiled or edited, but was a private venture. The difference is clear, and it is one you would be wise to accept.


    You have a point.

  19. Rick B says:

    In reality, you only accept what you want to be true regardless of facts and evidence. You have proven that over and over.

  20. Mike R says:

    Shem, It’s probably time to wrap this up since your reasoning is getting strained .
    You’re trying to stretch the meaning of events in John 5 :1-7-20 to prove your point
    that Heavenly Father was a savior on another planet/world , sorry but that won’t
    work. The whole purpose of Jesus’ statements in these verses is to make the point
    that He is not here to act independent of the Father , that He was not usurping the
    Father, —vr 30 and 8:54 . The N.T. is makes this clear When you said,
    ” He [Jesus] is saying that everything he does is because his Father ( or God)
    did it before him …” means to you that since Jesus was a savior then His Father was
    a savior before him on another earth/planet etc. This is without any contextual
    verification nor is it logical . If Jesus did literally ” everything” His Father did before
    him then his Father must have fell asleep in a boat –Matt :23. He must cast a demon
    into a herd of swine–Matt 8:32 ; He must have put his spit on a man’s face –Mk 8:23;
    He must have talked to man who was sitting in a tree—Lk. 19:4. Also, consider
    that this aberrant interpretation of Jn 5 :17-20 is not what J.S. meant in the King
    Follett Discourse according to Mormon scholars Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J.
    Ostler in ” Revelations of the Restoration” . Lastly, I’ll briefly comment on your reply
    to Rick concerning the Jof D . It being a private venture is irrelevant to the discussion.
    Church leaders were involved with it serving as a reliable source of spiritual food for
    for their flock.

  21. shematwater says:


    My reasoning is not strained, nor is it illogical. The problem is that you are straining it to make it look ridiculous, not that it actually is so.

    “his Father must have fell asleep in a boat”
    Not necessarily, but his Father did sleep.

    “He must cast a demon into a herd of swine”
    Not necessarily, but his Father did cast out demons.

    “He must have put his spit on a man’s face”
    Not necessarily, but his Father did heal the blind.

    “He must have talked to man who was sitting in a tree”
    Not necessarily, but his Father did talk to men, and teach them the gospel.

    The problem is that you are concluding that performing the same tasks or actions must also require them to be done in the same setting and context. This does not logically follow, and nor is it what I said. Every action, or every work that Christ performed he saw his Father do so first. He saw his Father teach, cast out devils, heal the blind, and many other things. After seeing his Father do these things he went and did them himself, but in the setting and context that he was in, not the setting and context that his Father was in.

    Speaking of the King Follett Discourse, I gave John 5: 17-20 as a separate reference, not one taken in conjunction with the KFD. I never said that Joseph Smith gave this interpretation of John 5 in this discourse, only that both these references show that the the Father was a sinless being. I will say, however, that Joseph F. Smith did site John 5: 19-20 in the footnotes to the KFD when he compiled Joseph Smith’s words, and I will take his word over scholars, whatever their religion.

  22. Mike R says:

    Shem, my point I was making is that if Mormons use Jn 5 :19 in a way to prove that since
    Jesus only did what he saw his father do before , or as you stated : Every action , or every
    work that Christ performed he saw his Father do so first” , then this means that since Jesus
    was a sinless Savior , his Father was also a Savior before him ( on a different world ) . This
    verse teaches no such thing and to try and wretch such a view out of it is ridiculous . Quite
    frankly, given what I have read from Mormon authorities on man’s progression to Godhood
    I can see how Mormons would arrive at such a belief that heavenly Father ( and his wives)
    were once sinners . Pres. Snow’s famous “couplet ” seems to imply this very thing .
    Anyway , I’m thankful that I am not a Mormon , I could’nt accept the Mormon “law” of eternal
    progression . I hope those precious Mormon young people can one day walk away from these
    men , they really don’t need them to know how to receive eternal life .

  23. shematwater says:


    And the point I am making is that it can mean exactly that if you allow the words to mean what they are saying, and not try to restrict them according to what you already believe. Christ puts no limitation on the comparison of his works to the Father’s, but that is exactly what you are trying to do with his words.
    Personally, I don’t care if you agree with the interpretation or not, but the fact is that it is a valid interpretation of the words used.

    As to other things, I never denied that some things the leaders have said can lead people to see this idea. I simply stated that when all things they have said are known and taken into account such an idea becomes impossible.
    Speaking of the couplet from President Snow, it only seems to say this because people fail to consider the fact that Christ, who lived perfectly sinless, was also like we are now. The saying could just as rightly say that “As man is Christ once was, and as Christ is man may become.” Would this lead people into thinking Christ had once sinned. Maybe, and I have heard other Christians express that opinion. However, it does not mean that it is the intentional meaning of the words.

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