He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God, who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God. –John 1:12-13
Brigham Young taught,
“The scriptures made use of by Elder George A. Smith this morning, show the way in which the former Saints became the sons of God. ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.’…
“I think, however, that the rendering of this Scripture is not so true as the following, namely: ‘But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to continue to be the sons of God.’ Instead of receiving the gospel to become the sons of God, my language would be—to receive the gospel that we may continue to be the sons of God. Are we not all sons of God when we are born into this world? Old Pharaoh, King of Egypt, was just as much a son of God as Moses and Aaron were His sons, with this difference—he rejected the word of the Lord, the true light, and they received it. For ‘this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.’ [John 3:19] Then we receive not the gospel that we may become the sons of God, but that we may remain the sons of God without rebuke. …My doctrine is—that there never was a son and daughter of Adam and Eve born on this earth whose names were not already written in the Lamb’s book of life, and there they will remain until their conduct is such that the angel who keeps the record is authorized to blot them out and record them elsewhere.” (Brigham Young, November 17, 1867, Journal of Discourses, 12:100-101)
Brigham Young’s interpretation of the passage from John 1 doesn’t make sense if we look at the broader context. Young says all human beings are already sons of God when born into this world; that receiving Christ gives people the power to continue as or remain sons of God. But John says those who receive Christ become children of God, born not by any human endeavor, but born of God (John 1:13).
In chapter 3 John talks more about being born of God, this new birth: You must be born again, born of the Spirit, that “Whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15).
In chapter 8 John records Jesus saying,
“If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God…You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. …Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:42-47)
Brigham Young contradicts Jesus. Jesus says sons do what their fathers desire; that those who belong to God hear His words. Brigham Young says those who are sons of God instead do what is evil, thereby casting themselves out of the family.
Our problem with sin is so much greater than Brigham Young ever imagined. Christian theologian R.C. Sproul explains:
“Our problem with sin is that it is rooted in the core of our being. It permeates our hearts. It is because sin is at our core and not merely at the exterior of our lives that the Bible says: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.’ (Romans 3:10-12)
“It is because of this condition that the verdict of Scripture is heard: we are ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Ephesians 2:1); we are ‘sold under sin’ (Romans 7:14); we are in ‘captivity to the law of sin’ (Romans 7:23); and are ‘by nature children of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3). Only by the quickening of the power of the Holy Spirit may we be brought out of this state of spiritual death. It is God who makes us alive as we become His craftsmanship (Ephesians 2:1-10).”