“The fulness of his kingdom” – Mormons becoming like God

On February 25th (2014) the Mormon Church posted a new article in its Gospel Topics section: “Becoming Like God.” Deseret News says this essay accomplishes “explaining the faith’s doctrine” on the topic, and the Salt Lake Tribune likewise says it “explains Mormon teaching” on humans becoming like God. The essay is 3,500 words long, includes 56 footnotes, and reflects a “contribution of scholars.” Yet for all of this, readers learn surprisingly little of what “becoming like God” actually means within Mormonism.

The essay provides descriptive phrases such as:

  • PlanetsLatter-day Saints… consider every person divine in origin, nature, and potential
  • Each possesses seeds of divinity
  • all people may “progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny”
  • the divine nature that humans inherit can be developed to become like their Heavenly Father’s
  • [God]…can help each willing, obedient child of God receive of His fulness and glory
  • men and women have the potential to be exalted to a state of godliness
  • to live as God lives, to love as He loves

And on it goes, talking about “humanity’s divine nature and potential,” but never plainly defining what that actually consists of.

The essay shifts into apologetics mode to defend the Mormon doctrine of deification. The reader learns that the Bible talks about men becoming gods – after all, it tells us that humans are created in God’s image; Paul says we are the offspring of God; and Psalm 82:6 says “Ye are gods,” children of God. Early Christian church fathers spoke of human divinity. Yet, in the midst of this 800-word apologetic section, we are told, “What exactly the early church fathers meant when they spoke of becoming God is open to interpretation…” Thus far in the essay, the reader does not know what the Mormon doctrine of “becoming like God” specifically means, nor does he know what the Christian concept of deification means, but he does know that both faiths use the word “deification.” A footnote further clarifies, “There are likely important differences as well as similarities between the thinking of the church fathers and Latter-day Saint teachings.”

When the essay arrives at Joseph Smith’s teachings and LDS scripture citations, the language becomes a bit more pointed, speaking of people receiving “a fulness of God’s glory and be[coming] ‘gods, even the sons of God,’” being “made equal to Him.”

“[T]hose who keep covenants, including the covenant of eternal marriage, will inherit ‘all heights and depths.’ Then,’ says the revelation, ‘shall they be gods, because they have no end.’ They will receive ‘a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.’” (Essay quoting D&C 132:19-20)

Though this language provides a little more insight into Mormon exaltation or deification, it is still not very clear. What does all this strange-sounding jargon mean? It would have helped had more of D&C 132:19-20 been included, because that further explains that these people who keep covenants “shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths…Then shall they be gods because they have all power, and the angels are subject to them.”

When the essay quotes “Joseph Smith’s most detailed known discussion of divine nature and exaltation” found in the King Follett Discourse, readers learn that

“God ‘was once as one of us’ and ‘all the spirits that God ever sent into the world’ were likewise ‘susceptible of enlargement.’ Joseph Smith preached that long before the world was formed, God found ‘himself in the midst’ of these beings and ‘saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself’ and be ‘exalted’ with Him.

“Joseph told the assembled Saints, ‘You have got to learn how to be a god yourself.’ In order to do that, the Saints needed to learn godliness, or to be more like God.” (Essay quoting from several different versions of the King Follett Discourse, all found at josephsmithpapers.org)

While Joseph Smith’s teaching could be a very helpful tool in understanding Mormon exaltation/becoming like God, the essay informs readers that, due to the wind blowing on the day the Prophet spoke and “the limitations of transcription techniques,” all that is available of this important doctrinal sermon is an “imperfect” account that “is not canonized” so “it should not be treated as a doctrinal standard.”

Following Joseph Smith, the essay tells readers, “the doctrine that humans can progress to exaltation and godliness” was taught by fifth LDS President Lorenzo Snow in his “well-known couplet: …As God now is, man may be”; affirmed by LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley; captured in song by early Latter-day Saint Eliza Snow; and included in a 1995 Ensign article by Mormon apostle Dallin Oaks when he wrote that Mormon theology “begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.”

SecretThus ends the portion of the essay that was provided to “explain” the Mormon doctrine of “becoming like God.” Honestly, an explanation of this doctrine using the exposition found in the Achieving a Celestial Marriage student manual would have been much more clear:

“God is an exalted man who once lived on an earth and underwent experiences of mortality… The progression of our Father in heaven to godhood, or exaltation, was strictly in accordance with eternal principles… By definition, exaltation includes the ability to procreate the family unit throughout eternity… All who obtain this exaltation will have the privilege of completing the full measure of their existence, and they will have a posterity that will be as innumerable as the stars of heaven…  The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fulness of his kingdom. In other words, we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fulness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring.” (1976, pages 129 and 132; emphasis retained from the original)

Here, in under 200 words, “exaltation” is clearly defined; “fulness” is clearly defined; “becoming like him” is clearly defined; and human “godhood” is clearly defined.

Instead of clarifying and explaining this Mormon doctrine that is said to be “central to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the recent Gospel Topics essay uses 3,500 words to say next to nothing about it. But then, the Church’s essay does seem to identify clear teaching such as that found in the student manual quoted above as “cartoonish” or a “caricature” of the doctrinal reality.

Rather than spell out the official tenets of Mormonism, the Church essay informs readers of how Mormon members “imagine exaltation,” seeing “the seeds of godhood” in nurturing and loving children, in giving service, and in the order of the universe. The closest the essay gets to revealing the actual meaning of “exaltation” (as historically taught by Mormon leaders) is this:

“[W]hile few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities.”

LDS author Richard Bushman told the Salt Lake Tribune that the “Becoming Like God” essay “defines a boundary of what we truly believe and also tries to make it as appealing as possible.”

It’s pretty obvious that the Church was trying to make Mormonism sound appealing (and mainstream), but do people really come away from this essay with clarity regarding the Mormon doctrine of exaltation?

Apparently not, for since the posting of this essay dozens of media outlets have been proclaiming, “LDS church affirms that its faithful won’t get their own planets in afterlife” and “Mormon Church reveals people do NOT get their own planets in the afterlife” when in fact the essay actually says no such thing — if it did, it would be at complete odds with Mormonism’s historic official doctrinal teachings on exaltation. (Check out the MRM website and two related Mormon Coffee posts here and here to read about authoritative and clear Mormon teachings on Mormons, planets and the afterlife.)

In the end, the Mormon Church’s lengthy Gospel Topics discourse leaves readers with little more than a few “hints” of this crowning doctrine of the “restored” gospel – that is, the eternal future that Mormonism promises is awaiting those who become Gods.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Afterlife, King Follett Discourse, LDS Church, Nature of God, Nature of Man and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

64 Responses to “The fulness of his kingdom” – Mormons becoming like God

  1. johnnyboy says:

    @grindael.

    Those verses are really beautiful (and refreshing). Thanks for sharing.

  2. Clyde6070 says:

    Falcon
    FYI In 1835 A new york paper published a series of article on life on the moon. It became known as the great moon men hoax. It now has a life of its own like an american legend similar to the kentucky fried rat story. It gets passed on from generation to generation. If you don’t believe me I know a guy who knows a lady who ate the rat.

  3. falcon says:

    ……………..and clyde, your point is?

    Since you rarely, if ever, actually explain your posts I’ll draw some conclusions. You’re telling us that Joseph Smith believed in the “great moon man hoax”. He and other Mormons believed in it to such a degree that they included it in their doctrine of men becoming gods, creating and ruling their own planetary system. I often wonder clyde where these nimrods came up with their ideas. You’ve provided an insight into where the Mormon leadership got this idea. That’s what you meant right? BTW, I think you ate the rat and the rat is a metaphor for Mormonism.

  4. falcon says:

    So it’s undeniable that Mormons believe they will become gods and rule their own planets. It really doesn’t matter how the essay writers or wannabee Mormon apologists try to nuance it, they’re stuck with the writings and pronouncements of their 19th century founders and leaders.
    There’s no “opinion” or “folklore” here. It’s what they believed, taught and codified as basic Mormon doctrine.
    Our Mormon posters try to muddy the waters in an attempt to take the discussion somewhere else but all they really do is provide more information as to why FARMS is so inadequate in the job of trying to defend the indefensible.
    The other thing that is revealed when we discuss a topic like “men to gods ruling their own planets” is what it does to the thinking process of true believers. Let’s face it, if someone has to try and defend nonsense like this, it’s bound to have an effect on their reasoning abilities and how they comprehend and process information. Everything has to be skewed in order to defend this untenable position.
    Walter Martin was right when he said that “A Mormon is able to think logically in every other aspect of their life, but not when it comes to their religion.”
    Let’s face it, it take a whole lot of surrendering one’s integrity and reasoning ability to believe in the man with the magic rock.

  5. Clyde6070 says:

    I just thought I would let you know how I saw what was happening in history back in Joseph smith time. It gives the answer when anyone brings up the subject of moon men and Joseph Smith. You should see that history is made from what you don’t know.

  6. Kate says:

    So what you are saying Clyde, is that Joseph just took from his surroundings and environment and created beliefs and doctrines from it. Gee, isn’t that what we have been saying all along? Thanks for showing us we are right and that Joseph didn’t get his beliefs or doctrines from God.

  7. MJP says:

    So, Smith was just a product of his time? Can we take anything he says seriously? How do we know what to take seriously?

  8. grindael says:

    FYI In 1835 A new york paper published a series of article on life on the moon. It became known as the great moon men hoax. It now has a life of its own like an american legend similar to the kentucky fried rat story. It gets passed on from generation to generation. If you don’t believe me I know a guy who knows a lady who ate the rat. I just thought I would let you know how I saw what was happening in history back in Joseph smith time. It gives the answer when anyone brings up the subject of moon men and Joseph Smith. You should see that history is made from what you don’t know.

    You know, this wasn’t the first time that Jo did something like this. He also read the papers in 1832 and saw that South Carolina was making overtures to secede from the Union. He then wrote up an elaborate “prophecy” that got that part right about 30 years later, but the rest of it was pure mumbo-jumbo. But it gave him some street cred with the weak minded. As for the Moon Men Hoax and how that translates into Mormon Doctrine, that is an interesting story.

    On Tuesday, 25 August 1835, the New York Sun began publishing, in serial form, a long account of lunar discoveries supposedly made by Sir John Herschel. The narrative, which continued over five more days, is considered to be one of the most famous media hoaxes of all time. The next day, the paper published that Herschel found that there were ” monstrous amethysts, of a diluted claret color, glowing in the intensest light of the sun! They varied in height from sixty to ninety feet…” They then found “an oval valley” which was filled with woods and all kinds of four-legged creatures that resembled bison. The next day the paper published that they had found winged humans, which they wrote,

    averaged four feet in height, were covered, except on the face, with short and glossy copper-colored hair, and had wings composed of a thin membrane, without hair, lying snugly upon their backs, from the top of their shoulders to the calves of their legs. The face, which was of a yellowish flesh color, was a slight improvement upon that of the large orang outang, being more open and intelligent in its expression, and having a much greater expansion of forehead. The mouth, however, was very prominent, though somewhat relieved by a thick beard upon the lower jaw, and by lips far more human than those of any species of simia genus. In general symmetry of body and limbs they were infinitely superior to the orang outang; so much so, that, but for their long wings, Lieut. Drummond said they would look as well on a parade ground as some of the old [filtered profanity or slur]ney militia! The hair on the head was a darker color than that of the body, closely curled, but apparently not wooly, and arranged in two curious semicircles over the temples of the forehead. Their feet could only bee seen as they were alternately lifted in walking; but, from what we could see of them in so transient a view, they appeared thin, and very protuberant at the heel.

    The next day, Saturday, the paper published that they had found large lakes of water, and three “equitriangular temple[s], built of polished sapphire, or of some resplendent blue stone, which, like it, displayed a myriad points of golden light twinkling and scintillating in the sunbeams.” In the last installment, on Monday the 31st, they claimed that they had found more winged humans, slightly different than the first, that were all sitting around eating fruit.

    This is a brief outline of what they claimed to have “discovered” and the paper printed. I’m sure that since it made such a sensation, that Jo Smith was soon asked about it, probably by one of his followers. “Hey Jo, is it true there is life on the Moon,” to which Jo replied,

    “Sure there is. But they are nothing like what those articles describe them to be. The men as average near six feet in height, and dress quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style. And they live to be a thousand years old.”

    Of course Jo had to weigh in. He was, after all, a PROPHET who had a seer stone that could see anything. That was, after all how he saw the Apostle Paul, which he described as having a large Roman nose and a whiny voice.

    So, if Jo got his information from the Moon Men Hoax, why are his Moon Men so different? He simply wasn’t repeating what we would call today an “urban legend”, like the one that people today pass around, little grey men that abduct people from trailer parks and cars. And why don’t the Mormons mention the numerous articles published by James Gordon Bennett in the Sun that exposed the Hoax? Smith would have known about those, he read The New York Sun and wrote to Bennett on many occasions. What probably happened, was that during the Hoax, Smith had a “revelation” about it. As Oliver Huntington wrote,

    “The inhabitants of the moon are more of a uniform size than the inhabitants of the earth, being about 6 feet in height. They dress very much like the quaker style and are quite general in style, or the one fashion of dress. They live to be very old; coming generally, near a thousand years. This is the description of them as given by Joseph the Seer, and he could “See” whatever he asked the Father in the name of Jesus to see. I heard him say that “he could ask what he would ask of the Father in the name of Jesus and it would be granted” and I have no more doubt of it than I have that the mob killed him.” (Journal of Oliver B. Huntington, Vol 2, p 166, Utah State Historical Society, typescript, p. 166.)

    Of course, Jo’s “revelations” took precedence over anything the “Gentiles” said, so they of course disregarded the Moon Hoax and the Bennett expose and continued to teach and believe in Jo’s Moon Men. I have written a blog article about his, which may be found here. What is interesting, is that they not only taught there were men on the Moon, but men living on the Sun. Hyrum Smith taught this doctrine in 1844. In closing, he said, “And many things are to be considered that will bring knowledge to our understanding but the foolish understand not these things. For this world was patterned after the former worlds or after former mansions.”

    This doctrine was incorporated into many Patriarchal Blessings. Here is an excerpt from the Patriarchal Blessing of Lorenzo Snow, from the blessing book of Joseph Smith, Sr. on the 15th December 1836:

    “thou shalt have power to translate thyself from one plannet [planet] to annother [another] — power to go to the moon if thou shalt desire it.” (Marquardt, H. Michael, “Excerpts from a few Patriarchal Blessings given by Joseph Smith, Sr.” http://www.xmission.com/~research/about/patb2.htm)

    On the 26th of March 1836, Joseph Smith Sr. gave this blessing to Stephen Post:

    “. . . for thou shalt not finished thy ministry upon this ball [this earth], thou shalt preach to people of other planets, and thou shalt preach to spirits in prison . . .” (ibid)

    What is interesting is that Hyrum Smith’s grandson, Joseph Fielding Smith, believed what his grandfather had taught. At a Stake Conference in 1961 he said,

    We will never get a man into space. This earth is man’s sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it.’

    Smith was then President of the Quorum of the Twelve. He added:

    ‘The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.’

    In May 1962, he privately instructs that this view be taught to ‘the boys and girls in the Seminary System.’ On 20 July 1969 U.S. Astronauts are first men to walk on moon. Six months later Joseph Fielding Smith becomes church president.”

    After Apollo 15′s journey to the moon, the astronaut team brought JFS a Utah State Flag that they had taken with them to the moon. They gave him the flag in 1971 as a token of his ‘failed prophecy.’ (See, The Mormon Hierarchy : Extensions of Power, D. Michael Quinn, Page 862, in appendix 5).

    When asked about his statement discounting that man would ever reach the moon, former church President Joseph Fielding Smith said, simply, “Well, I was wrong.”

    This is where the doctrines that come out of the mouths of Mormon “prophets” lead you folks.

  9. Clyde6070 says:

    Kate
    No I am not saying that at all. I am saying that there are events in history that are actually non-events. However they are remembered by people and passed along. The moonmen hoax is a good example. It was published not only in the New York paper but also other papers. If a retraction was published it was not published in other papers that picked up the story.
    Grindael has written a nice blog about it and given it a very nice twist to it. He has to give it the twist he does because of his bias. He does fill in more information than I did and it is well written.

  10. grindael says:

    Grindael has written a nice blog about it and given it a very nice twist to it. He has to give it the twist he does because of his bias. He does fill in more information than I did and it is well written.

    Of course, Clyde provides NO PROOF AT ALL that I have “twisted” anything. Anyone can spout BS Clyde. You have just shown that you are the one with the bias. Good job.

  11. Clyde6070 says:

    When you write things like
    This is a brief outline of what they claimed to have “discovered” and the paper printed. I’m sure that since it made such a sensation, that Jo Smith was soon asked about it, probably by one of his followers. “Hey Jo, is it true there is life on the Moon,” to which Jo replied,
    “Sure there is. But they are nothing like what those articles describe them to be. The men as average near six feet in height, and dress quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style. And they live to be a thousand years old.”
    And you don’t think you are bias?
    You write blogs that are negative towards the mormon church.
    But I am bias also. ( I did like your blog about minutes about the meeting that Elijah Abel attended but it needs more research.)

    Now this paragraph “Sure there is. But they are nothing like what those articles describe them to be. The men as average near six feet in height, and dress quite uniformly in something near the Quaker style. And they live to be a thousand years old.” sounds vaguely familiar.
    I think I read it in the book Nightfall at Nauvoo. The author had a nice take on the to the tale but I can’t remember what it was. I am going to have to find he book and read it again.

  12. grindael says:

    And you don’t think you are bias?

    No, I don’t. Because that is how things went down around Smith. What I did, was put it in historical perspective here. Jo himself made everything religious. This is the lens through which one has to view Smith, because he chose it to be that way. Bias is being UNFAIR in your criticisms. That is what some seem to forget.

    So, Clyde, if Historians write articles that are critical towards someone say, like David Koresh, is that being biased? If they write things that are critical towards Warren Jeffs, is that being biased? I’m sure their followers think so. Is it unfair to say that David Koresh was an arrogant megalomaniac who justified his adultery and child molesting with passages from the Bible that he interpreted in a way that actually contradict the Bible he claimed as his justification? To those who would not desert him, they would all be biased. But are they?

    Smith is way in the minority here, in how he interpreted the Bible – if he wants to be classed as a Christian. Those Christians who disagree with that, do so because they have to eject many of Smith’s core teachings that modern Mormons have downplayed, or whitewashed or claim are “folklore”, in direct contradiction to the “authorities” who made those claims. If someone claims that they can duplicate the supernatural events found in the Bible, and they don’t, but continue to say they did and the evidence shows that they lied about it, is someone biased for pointing that out? Is it UNFAIR that you don’t believe the evidence presented, and yet present no evidence yourself (except vague generalizations) to back up what you say?

    Are critics of the Bible UNFAIR, if they claim that there is no scientific evidence that Jesus walked on water? No. Belief in the supernatural events portrayed in the Bible is a matter of faith. It is not being biased to question other people’s faith. The problem is, that when someone else is critical of what a person believes in, many claim that it is unfair that they even do so. I continually ask for evidence that I’m being UNFAIR in my criticisms of Jo and the Mormon Hierarchy, yet, I don’t see any. I only see generalized statements that are full of opinions that I’m being UNFAIR. Now THAT is being biased.

    I am not being critical of Jo Smith, BECAUSE Mormons believe Smith’s truth claims. I am critical of Jo, because there are PROBLEMS with his truth claims. When someone here claims to believe in the Bible, and then uses arguments of Critics or Atheists who don’t believe it at all, ONLY to justify their interpretation – that is being unfair. Especially when their own leaders (who they claim to believe are inspired) disagree with those arguments. I don’t claim to believe what Jo taught. I did once. But the evidence I found that falsified those claims are what I present. Evidence that comes from Mormonism’s own Historical accounts and Doctrinal essays and speeches.

    You see what I write as “negative”, or unfair, because I am critical of Smith and his successors. The reason why is that EVERYTHING that Smith did, was influenced by his religious views which CONTRADICT themselves, and you think because I’m criticizing your RELIGION (as defined by it’s leaders), that I HAVE to be biased.

    Am I being unfair, when I provide the evidence to back up my criticisms? Is the use of sarcasm, or what can be termed as flippant remarks evidence of bias? No. Take this news article for instance. Bias was claimed because of the way the remarks were made, NOT because of the EVIDENCE, and therefore it was ruled that they were NOT BIASED. This is exactly what you are doing.

    The thing is, when Mormons and their founding “prophet” make absolute truth claims, and in essence call any critics tools of the devil, sarcasm in your criticism may be warranted. I’m not afraid of that, because the evidence speaks for itself.

    I notice that you say that I’m being unfair, but you have once again shown no evidence of HOW I am being unfair when it comes to Mormonism and Moonmen. You only comment on STYLE, not SUBSTANCE. Perhaps that is because you have admitted your own bias?

  13. Clyde6070 says:

    Grindael
    Now I see you as sensitive.
    I must admit that I see everybody as bias. We are products of our upbringing. You write that Jo himself made everything religious. I don’t see him that way. I’ve read that people who wanted to meet him after seeing him would quietly see if they had enough money to get back where they came from. He was fallible and human. The Bias of everything religious eye you see him as I don’t see.
    I am sorry that I cannot say more because I find myself very busy. I must say that I find some of your blogs very interesting. I wish you good cheer.

  14. grindael says:

    Clyde,

    Sensitive, bias, all subjective. But nothing that applies to what was written. Interesting. Interpreting what Jo did through a religious lens is not UNFAIR. It is actually the correct way to interpret him. His whole life and calling (per his own words) were focused on religion. Jo saw everything that way. What does this even mean: I’ve read that people who wanted to meet him after seeing him would quietly see if they had enough money to get back where they came from. ???

    That sentence makes no sense.

    Enough money to get back to where they came from? They wanted to get away from him? Please name one aspect of Jo’s life that wasn’t religiously oriented or focused on religion after his money digging days.

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