Post Author: Darrell
Historically there have been a variety of Mormon views regarding the nature of God the Father. The purpose of this post is not to address every single strain of LDS thought that exists in this area, nor do I contend that all Mormons hold the beliefs to which I will speak. Instead, I will address some of the traditional, longstanding LDS beliefs regarding the nature of the Father. These beliefs are spoken to in canonized LDS scripture, transcend Mormon thought, and affect LDS beliefs in other areas.
As discussed in the previous posts, Joseph Smith claimed that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in the spring of 1820, and, as a result, the members of the LDS Church believe God the Father and Jesus Christ to be separate and distinct beings embodied in flesh and bone. However, Mormon teachings did not stop developing at this point. On April 6, 1844, Smith delivered one of his last public speeches, known today as The King Follett Discourse. During this discourse, he shared one of Mormonism’s most controversial doctrines, namely, that God Himself is an exalted man: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret.”
The current version of the LDS Temple Endowment Ceremony furthers this doctrine by teaching that God the Father gained his knowledge through a process similar to the one through which Adam, Eve, and the rest of mankind progress. In a re-creation of a scene in the Garden of Eden, the ceremony shows Satan, speaking to Eve, saying, “I want you to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that your eyes may be opened, for that is the way Father gained his knowledge[emphasis mine].” Former Brigham Young University Professor of Philosophy, David Paulsen, spoke to this doctrine in his 1975 Doctoral Thesis titled Comparative Coherency of Mormon (Finitistic) and Classical (Absolutistic) Theism: “At some distant point in an infinite past, He earned the right to be ‘God’ through a process which men, as his children, are now repeating.”
The Mormon doctrine that God was once a man has led many LDS to the position that God is merely a title a being holds. Again, Paulsen addressed this fact in his Thesis, saying, “The being who is God has not always been God – i.e., he has not always qualified for the honorific title ‘God’ – a distinction he earned through a process of growth and development toward Godliness.” Naturally, the fact that God the Father has not always been God leads to some logical questions. Who was God before God the Father? From where did God the Father come? Smith provided an answer to these questions by teaching that God the Father had a father, much the same as all human beings: “Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son?”
Mormonism furthers this by teaching that God and man are the same species. Past Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie said, “Man and God are of the same race.” In How Wide the Divide, Mormon Scholar David Robinson states that Mormons “believe that God and humans are the same species of being and that all men and women were his spiritual offspring in a premortal existence.” In addition, The LDS Church teaches that man, through a process known as Eternal Progression, can progress to become a God. Smith said, “You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, − namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one, − from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation.”
This teaching is also referenced in The Doctrine and Covenants where it says, “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.”
In the next post, I will cite several areas where these LDS beliefs violate the teachings of the Bible. Hang around!