LDS Views of God’s Past

I recently wrote this little summary of my thoughts on the question of God’s past in an email to a friend (I’ve made minor editorial changes). Sometimes critics of Mormonism complain that we teach that God the Father “sinned” during his mortal experience. I wrote this with that in mind, but I spend a significant amount of time musing on the topic of God’s past generally. I’m certainly not any kind of expert on this topic, I’m just a regular guy trying to figure it out. Please share your thoughts and comments on the subject if you have any.

Introduction

The fancy theological word for this topic is theogony. It is the study of the origin of God or gods. There is a very good reason why mainstream Christian critics of Mormonism are so bothered by our speculations and ideas about the origin of God….and it is precisely because we dare to speculate that there is an origin to God at all. It is unfathomable to them that we would even consider it a possibility that God was not always what he is now. It shocks their senses and makes them upset.

The Mainstream Christian Framework

When it comes to the doctrine of God, mainstream Christians and Mormons operate from two very different frameworks or networks of ideas. There are two main points. (a) The mainstream Christian tradition has inherited ancient Greek ideas about God, ideas that insist that God is “simple” and “unchanging”. For them, the fact that God is eternally majestic, perfect, and unapproachable is foundational to their views of atonement and salvation. His sublime perfection is linked to his ability to save. For them, if God has ever committed a sin it would negate his ability to save. (b) Another key point is that in the mainstream Christian view God is metaphysically unique. For lack of a better description, he is the only member of his species. In the mind of mainstream Christians, the universe is divided between the Creator and his creations. God stands on one side of the divide, and all other things stand on the other side. It is impossible, in their minds, that an object on the “creation” side could become what the Creator is, and vice versa. So when they hear talk about God once being a man, or that God may have sinned, it really bothers them because they see it through the framework I just described. It places God on the “creature” side of the divide and totally destroys the prism through which they see the universe.

The Latter-day Saint Framework

As you know, we see things rather differently. We differ significantly on both points I described above. (a) We have a view of salvation and atonement that includes this concept of deification, or in Mormon lingo, “exaltation.” A person is able to be sinful on Earth, repent, be cleansed completely, and then spend as much time as needed, both on Earth and in Heaven, to better oneself by becoming more and more Christ-like until we reach the point that we are prepared to enter into a covenant of indwelling unity with the Father, at which point we are officially “gods”. So in our view it doesn’t matter one bit that a person sinned at some point in their existence prior to becoming a god. It doesn’t preclude the possibility of being divine, because atonement can be made and the sin can be totally eradicated. In this sense I think we have a much more robust doctrine of atonement than mainstream Christianity. Our view of atonement is powerful enough to make gods out of sinners, theirs isn’t. (b) The second point is that there is no creator/creation dichotomy for us. All matter is eternal, and is simply organized and reorganized eternally. The spirits of all men are eternal, and so on some level we share a foundational nature with God the Father. We have existed as unique individuals for as long as he has (there exists some disagreement in certain LDS circles on this point, but this seems to be the dominant view). It doesn’t frustrate our sense of existence to speculate that God the Father was once like us.

The State of the Discussion

Now, I haven’t yet described what it is that I believe concerning God the Father’s past. Frankly, I remain basically agnostic on that question. Joseph Smith lifted the veil only slightly, gave us some very tantalizing hints, but didn’t give us the rest of the story (he may or may not have known the story himself). It’s like seeing a preview for a movie and trying to figure out how the movie ends without ever actually watching the movie. Because of this, God’s past is still shrouded in mystery and how we interpret the “preview” is highly subjective. Most Mormons will agree that God the Father at some point had a mortal experience, but from that point we are able to diverge into competing speculative theories. There are four possible paths that God the Father could have taken to his present state:

(A) There was never a time when God the Father was not fully divine. He was fully divine (and perfect) before his mortal experience, during his mortal experience, and after his mortal experience. He remains so today.

(B) There was a time when God the Father was not fully divine, but he became fully divine at some point prior to his mortal experience, remained divine throughout his mortality and is still divine to this day.

(C) God the Father was not divine prior to his mortality, but became divine as a mortal, and remains divine to this day.

(D) God the Father was not divine prior to his mortality, or during his mortality, but at some point after his mortality he became divine.

The vast majority of us humans are on path (D). We have never been divine, are not now divine, and will not be divine until some point after our mortality. There is some controversy in certain LDS circles about whether Christ is on path (A) or (B). Using the definition of “divine” I’ve suggested above (that it is the entering into a covenant of indwelling unity with the Father, or perichoresis) it is possible that some individuals might become divine while mortal. But as far as God the Father is concerned we have no idea which track he followed.

One prominent LDS scholar and author, Blake Ostler, argues forcefully that God the Father followed path (A). He has some excellent scriptural arguments. He also interprets the King Follett discourse and the Sermon in the Grove very differently than we traditionally have. But he is fighting against more than a century of Mormon tradition and teaching. The vast majority of Mormons believe God the Father followed either path (B), (C) or (D). I want to emphasize, however, that none of these paths necessitate that God the Father ever sinned. We can imagine a scenario in which God the Father was not divine, but did not “sin”.

One common idea is that Christ and the Father are on the same path, because of Christ’s words in the Bible in which he noted that he can only do that which he has seen the Father do. I personally think that it is stretching Christ’s words a bit too far. I don’t think Christ had that in mind at all when he said those words. But, it is a very popular way of thinking and it is how I used to think. I just think that we can’t necessarily use Christ as an analogy when trying to determine what track God the Father followed. It could turn out that they follow the same track, but we just don’t know. Plus, we aren’t even sure which path Christ himself has followed!

Conclusion

So I remain basically agnostic on the question. I don’t know what path God the Father has followed. I find many advantages to track (a), but also many disadvantages. I’m ok with all of the options. The wonderful thing is that the Mormon lens (or framework) through which we approach these ideas allows for this kind of ambiguity and uncertainty. Ultimately it doesn’t affect God’s ability to save, and it doesn’t threaten our view of the universe or of man’s nature. None of the path require that God the Father ever sinned, but only one of them insists that he didn’t (path A).

For Mormons, it is both frustrating and fun to speculate on. For our critics, it is a terribly offensive idea and one that they often focus on in their screeching.

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50 comments on “LDS Views of God’s Past

  1. Great post. While I vehemently disagree with your theology, I really appreciate it for its clarity and for its forthright acknowledgement of the various Mormon views. Seriously. I will direct Mormons and evangelicals alike to this post.

    One minor correction: You said, “We have existed as unique individuals for as long as he has.” I got the impression you were saying this is THE Mormon view. But there are a variety of Mormons views on this too. The Bloggernacle has covered the different historical Mormon views on this as promoted by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, and B.H. Roberts. The view of B.H. Roberts (the tripartite model) is predominant today, admittedly, but there are some Mormons who take very different views on the issue.

    Take care,

    Aaron

    • James says:

      You are of course correct, Aaron. I had considered including a comment about that in my original email to my friend, but I removed it to keep things simpler. I’ll put it back.

      For what it’s worth, this isn’t meant to be a rigorous exploration of the issue and of all the corollaries. It is just a catalyst for thought and discussion.

    • BHodges says:

      “The view of B.H. Roberts (the tripartite model) is predominant today, admittedly…”

      I don’t know if I agree with that, Aaron. I think most LDS might uncritically see spirit birth as being their own origin without thinking much about Roberts’s third (and earliest) part of that model.

    • Aaron Shafovaloff says:

      You might be right about that, Blair. I need to do some more research to confirm or correct ideas of the dominant position or leaning.

    • Aaron Shafovaloff says:

      In the original post James seems to agree with me that most LDS view themselves as co-eternal with God in the past. That doesn’t seem compatible with Brigham’s view. But I haven’t pressed the issue like I have other issues with Mormons, so my sense of what is dominant is must more limited.

    • Aaron Shafovaloff says:

      *much more, that is. It’s late…

    • James says:

      Well, maybe I’m wrong about it. It isn’t much discussed in Sunday School you know.

    • BHodges says:

      It’s hardly ever discussed. And gauging the “Mormon view” off of the people we happen to run across on the internet, or off of the people we bump into at Temple Square or the Manti Pageant, isn’t the most comprehensive or accurate way to get at the “majority” view, either, imo. ‘)

    • Aaron Shafovaloff says:

      Right, that is why one should include both BYU professors, apologists, institute teachers, seminary teachers, bishops, missionaries, friends, and coworkers, along with the many strangers I regularly talk to on the street. And the pattern is very, very clear: most Mormons either believe God perhaps/possibly sinned, probably sinned, or definitely sinned, while about a 1/3rd minority take the position that God the Father definitely was not a sinner.

      PS The threaded comment view is getting wacky here… the comments are like 40 pixels wide now :-)

  2. I, like you, remain “agnostic” on this issue. I firmly believe we do not really know how or in what way the Father was once mortal. As such, to assume that Mormon’s believe God sinned is jumping to unprovable (not to mention, irrelevant) conclusion.

    Still, while I have not read Ostler’s work on the subject “track A” seems to me like a strained attempt to satisfy the Evangelical world view that God MUST have always been divine.

    I personally prefer “track D” and I think there is great comfort in knowing the God the Father has experienced a similar experience as I have, and there for he understands how hard all of this is. I can relate much better to such a god, and it helps me feel like too can actually make it to godhood.

    Just a personal preference though, as I said, I really do not think we can know exactly how or what is meant by God the Father having once been a man. And I would be okay with any one the four “tracks”

  3. aquinas says:

    I think this is an important issue and one that needs more consideration. In particular, I think it is important to consider the reasons why some Latter-day Saints say that they “like” the idea that God the Father could have been a sinner while experiencing a mortal experience as that experienced by God the Son.

    For example, Aaron has performed video interviews of Mormons on the street on this issue. While many rejected the possibility that God the Father could have been a sinner in some past, some Mormons actually said they liked the possibility. However, I think it is critical to examine their reasoning for this position, even though such reasoning was often impromptu. Running through their comments was the notion that it gives people hope to believe that God is a sinner because people are sinners and if God can prevail over time, then it gives them hope that they too may be able to prevail. However, I don’t know that this rationale has been properly evaluated.

    For starters, this rationale seems to undermine the role of the Savior as only one who is without sin (D&C 45:4). Following such reasoning, it would seem that people are saying that the Savior cannot provide them with the same kind of hope for the very fact that he did not sin, and therefore he was not really one of us, and we cannot identify with him. The Latter-day Saint scriptures argue that although Christ himself was without sin, that he did in fact suffer our pains “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:12). However, those who entertain hope in a God with a possible sinful past, seem to make the Savior’s mission rather unnecessary and even moot, and seem not to find appealing the doctrine that the Savior did actually suffer our pains and afflictions. While some may feel I am mischaracterizing their position, I do think it is important for people to appreciate the implications of their view.

    Joseph Smith learned from his visions that the Father and the Son had tangible bodies of flesh and bone. The resurrection of Jesus as contained in the New Testament accounts for his physical body. Joseph later explained that God the Father’s tangible body can be accounted for because he too experienced mortality, laid down his life and took it up again, the same as the Son did. However, there is nothing in Joseph’s extant sermons to suggest that God the Father sinned in a previous mortal realm.

    The idea that some of these views are really smuggled Evangelical theology and not Mormon theology is simply unwarranted. It is just as likely, and perhaps even more so, that Mormon tendencies to compare and contrast themselves with Christendom has actually driven some of these speculative view-points. Indeed, it does seem somewhat of a conundrum to prefer and find hope in views of God that are highly speculative and tenuous in nature over explicitly revealed teachings in the Mormon tradition that are supported by the great body of Latter-day Saint scriptures. Too often religious polemics or apologetics have driven theological speculation, rather than careful and considered reflection.

    • Isaac says:

      In AA, being assisted by those who have overcome the same struggle is priceless…one of the reasons the program works so well. (The core reason is that AA is a version of repentance). Hope and trust is the biproduct.
      Careful..the fact is that we ARE sinners and without Christ we are doomed..to somehow project that we are softened toward the need of Christ our Savior is a little too much. If there is softening, its not because of this doctrine..greater issues are afoot.
      The statement indicates that God once had a mortal experience…that God has a body, in other words.

      Duet 4:28 And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.
      Saying that God CAN see, hear, eat and smell…how could one eat and smell without a living body?

      If God has a body, it is perfected and immortal. Answers the question why God sent his Son, for He being glorified and perfect, we could not endure his presence.
      There are many who did not taste death..Moses (according to LDS), Elijah, Enoch and his city (they were taken up to heaven and we have no record of their death). There are many who die without having sinned..children, for example. Through the power of Christ, they will be resurrected and perfected..the need of a Savior would not be diminished if one did not sin. Lets not confuse not having sinned, with one who would never have sinned..for any child taken, if were allowed to remain, would surely have sinned.

      How could one give power to do something if they themselves have never done it? Christ received all his glory from the Father..all his power..Christ has all that the Father has..How could Christ receive power over death if God the Father never needed to overcome it? Whats so important about having a body and being resurrected anyways? To smell, to touch, to taste, to feel the wind, to feel warmth..to have nerves and skin and flesh that the flower can brush against…to have taste buds, to have light received through eyeballs, for sound to resonate the eardrum. Can all these things be sensed without a body? No..not in their fullness. The chemicals of comfort that rush through our body when we embrace a loved one is different then discerning things spiritually only. A spirit will be aware that they are passing through a wall, but they cannot feel the texture of it. What joys we receive by having a body! And why else would satan and minions want to possess the bodies of Man? To feel. Only by having a body, glorified, can we truly have a fullness of joy…for joy encompasses both spirit AND body.

  4. Eric says:

    Still, while I have not read Ostler’s work on the subject “track A” seems to me like a strained attempt to satisfy the Evangelical world view that God MUST have always been divine.

    Or, to take a more charitable view, “track A” (which is the only one that makes sense to me in light of the totality of scripture) may be a means of dealing with (among other things) D&C 20:17, which teaches that the God in heaven is “from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God.”

    Question: Where does this idea that God the Father was a sinner in times past come from? None of the “tracks” listed demand such a conclusion, it isn’t in scripture, and, as far as I’ve been able to find out, no authoritative church leader has taught such a thing.

    Am I wrong on that last point? If I am, please direct me to the teaching so I can read it in context.

  5. James says:

    Hi Aquinas. I guess I don’t see it the same way you do. I see a bit of comfort in the possibility that God the Father was once a sinner like me, and it is partially because it makes me feel like He understands me better because he has had similar experiences to my own. But in my mind that doesn’t have to undermine Christ’s role at all. All it takes is for us to posit the existence of a “savior” figure for God the Father’s mortal experience. But then, like all the other tracks, once you’ve chosen one you have deal with all these sorts of implications and speculations and things start to get out of hand and we venture way off into things we know nothing about.

    Eric,
    I agree that track A probably has the best scriptural support. But, I also think that track A fits into the rest of the LDS framework the worst. Given our beliefs about man’s nature, destiny, and relationship to God, track A in my mind is the worst logical fit. Furthermore, I see Neal’s point that track A caters a bit to a mainstream Christian view of God. It basically removes God from the god-man spectrum (where we are all the same fundamental species) and creates a whole new category for him, one that we can never hope to be a part of. It seems, at least to me, to imply that God has a fundamental nature different from our own.

  6. aquinas says:

    James, I appreciate your response. I understand the emotive logic in believing God the Father understands human foibles better than God the Son because God the Son was perfect, without sin, and therefore can’t really understand (and this only works if we assume this was the case). However, I just find such logic to run counter to the Mormon soteriological framework. Take Abinadi for example, who taught that “God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. (Mosiah 15:1). The religious logic of Mormonism is that Christ is our advocate with the Father, rather than Christ somehow lacks the ability to empathize with humanity because he lived without sin. It seems strange to say that Christ’s sinless life actually constitutes an obstacle towards understanding the human condition. This runs counter to the logic of a Redeemer who gives us hope because he does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

    I believe your description of mainstream Christian theology as positing that God is a different species from man, but that somehow Mormon theology doesn’t do the same thing needs to be reconsidered if one accepts this view of Christ.

    I agree that one could posit a “savior figure” for the Father in order to try to “solve” the theological problem of a sinning God, but is this really a viable solution? First, such a solution demands an infinite regression model. Second, it further distances Christ from our experience. Third, it draws the focus away from the revealed Christ of the Restoration and towards an unrevealed version of God the Father who was a sinner in a past mortal probation. It would seem that perfect and non-sinning Jesus, who didn’t need a “savior figure,” then becomes a different “species” from both man and God the Father, a tertium quid. With all these negative side-effects, this doesn’t seem like a good solution.

    I’m also somewhat confused by your response to Eric. That is, that logic and scriptures are necessarily inconsistent and that having the “best scriptural framework” counts for precious little in these matters. This method indeed would seem to lead to all sorts of flavors of doctrinal speculation. If scripture is no longer the sound basis for theology, including restoration scriptures, then what was the purpose of the Restoration? Again, such a methodology seems to undermine quite a bit in my mind.

    Lastly, you don’t seem to appreciate the implications that arise from the model of God the Father needing a “savior figure” and Jesus Christ not having his own “savior figure.” Apart from a complete lack of scriptural support for such views, this too leads to Christ having “a fundamental nature different from our own” that “one that we can never hope to be a part of.” That is, no mortal on earth can ever hope to replicate Christ’s mortal experience of living without sin and therefore he becomes in a category all his own, a different “species.” If replication is the criteria for good theology, then Mormonism fails on the same grounds.

  7. Eric,

    Careful and thoughtful reading of my previous post should make clear that I do not maintain that there is any support for the view that God is a sinner. I made quite clear that this is an issue which is really beyond our current understanding. As I said (just before the part you quoted), “to assume that Mormon’s believe God sinned is jumping to unprovable (not to mention, irrelevant) conclusion.”

    I do not claim that any of the “tracks” require one to view God as once a sinner, nor do I maintain that it is the best supported view by scripture. I think James, in the comment just above, summons my point nicely:

    “It basically removes God from the god-man spectrum (where we are all the same fundamental species) and creates a whole new category for him, one that we can never hope to be a part of. It seems, at least to me, to imply that God has a fundamental nature different from our own.”

    It seems to me that Joseph Smith’s teaching is that God the Father IS the same species as man, and that we can follow the same path he did. The idea that God followed a “track A” while we are on a “track D” seems to diminish that whole concept.

    Still, as I have already said, this is far beyond what has been revealed on the matter, so you are free to believe or prefer “track A” if you would like. I have no problems with that.

    As far as D&C 20:17 is concerned, we have plenty of similar declarations in our scripture regarding Jehovah/Christ, who is clearly viewed in LDS theology as having been created and appointed to his status of Godhood by the Father. Furthermore, we speak of each of us being co-eternal with God (in the very King Follett discourse in which is central to understanding this connection between the LDS relationship to God and man), and we are all promised the opportunity at ETERNAL Life – how can we, who have been in a non-eternal state, become eternal, or inherit an eternal nature?

    Words like “eternal,” “everlasting,” and “unchanging” have certain ambiguities in LDS, Christian, and Jewish thought which have been thoroughly discussed in scholarly circles. To insist that such passages demand the Father was always divine I think imposes modern concepts and idea’s onto very ancient phraseology which never carried that connotation in antiquity.

  8. James says:

    Hello Aquinas. You are absolutely correct in your description of some of the nasty implications of positing a savior figure who atoned for God the Father’s sins. It is not a completely satisfying road to go down. I had hoped to make that clear when I stated that when we start positing that kind of thing then “you have deal with all these sorts of implications and speculations and things start to get out of hand and we venture way off into things we know nothing about.”

    Regarding my comments to Eric, I’ll try to make myself more clear. I think that the idea that “God has always been divine” has strong scriptural support. I also think the idea that “God and man are of the same species, and man can become like God” has strong scriptural support. I think that these two ideas, both with good scriptural support, are somehow not exactly compatible.

    As we have alluded to already, it is because the idea that God has always been totally divine seems to place God in his own category, making him his own unique species. How can we be the same fundamental species as God if not a single one of us has always been divine like him?

    And while they both have strong scriptural support, only one of them has been believed by the vast majority of LDS believers and leaders.

    I hope that makes it more clear.

    • BHodges says:

      This is in response to Aaron’s comment above, the comment section is all wacky now.

      I wonder how many Mormons don’t actually care either way whether God was a “sinner” or not, and still recognize God as their Father in Heaven and the only God to worship and love. (Also, I stand by my earlier comment about your sample, Aaron. Mormonism is bigger than all the folks you meet online or in Utah.) I also wonder how the conversation shifted from B.H. Roberts’s tripartate model to whether God has sinned at some point in eternities past.

  9. James says:

    Aaron,

    We were discussing how popular (or unpopular) the idea is among Mormons that man is co-eternal with God the Father. But your latest comment seemed to veer off into discussing how popular the idea is that God the Father may have sinned.

    Am I wrong?

  10. James, in WordPress you can put a limit on the depth of threaded conversation at like 3 or 4. That would help with the above problem.

    Blair, most Mormons I talk to don’t seem to care if God once was a sinner. The correct mode of baptism is seen as more important. That is, from a traditional Christian view, a big moral problem itself which warrants a response of faith, repentance, and baptism (in the name of the God who never sinned).

    Sorry, didn’t mean to change the subject, but I had assumed Blair was at least by allusion complaining about the sample data I am using to make my chief generalizations. My generalizations (especially elsewhere) have chiefly been about the God-as-perhaps-once-sinner issue, and only secondarily and much more tentatively about the tripartite model.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  11. James says:

    I agree with Blair. Most Mormons simply don’t care whether God was once a sinner in his past or not. Within the Mormon framework, as I explained in the post, it just doesn’t matter. It is only slightly more interesting than debating whether God the Father prefers action or drama flicks.

  12. James says:

    Thanks Aaron. I’ll have to figure out how to fix that.

  13. BHodges says:

    “My generalizations (especially elsewhere) have chiefly been about the God-as-perhaps-once-sinner issue, and only secondarily and much more tentatively about the tripartite model.”

    [BH] Which I think makes it all the less steady when we’re generalizing about what “most Mormons” must think about intelligences and identity based on such limited conversations online or on the street. I’m curious why, in this case, the number of Mormons who embrace a given model is given such importance (especially over the theological/philosophical implications of each respective perspective).

    • Aaron Shafovaloff says:

      Like I said, Blair, you could be right about this (about Roberts’ view not being dominant), and I need to look into it more. I’m not basing my assumption about this tripartite issue on a pattern of street-conversations. I haven’t really taken much of a pulse on this issue, and the Bloggernacle also seemed to also assume the tripartite model was today’s dominant view.

      The issue of the prominence of various positions and theological leanings in Mormonism because it helps me better understand the Mormon people, avoid stereotypes, understand the spiritual condition (because theology is part of the pulse of someone’s spiritual condition), and engage the people in a more targeted, nuanced, relevant way. Mormons would also do well to have a better understanding of the landscape of Mormon positions and leanings.

      Take care,

      Aaron

  14. aquinas says:

    James, I appreciate the continued interaction. I do think that it is important that we critically evaluate speculative positions rather than simply accept that they are one possibility among many. If we find that the implications of such views to be unacceptable, then such views should be deemed as less valuable and receive lower priority, if not rejected all together. I think one of the challenges of the Mormon speculative tradition is that theological possibilities tend to be uncritically embraced without evaluating such scenarios.

    On that note, I must disagree with your statement that: “Within the Mormon framework, as I explained in the post, it just doesn’t matter.” I think this kind of attitude or aversion to examining theological implications an odd position to take in a religion where ideas matter. In addition, if it doesn’t matter then there should be nothing from stopping people from simply rejecting these speculative views.

    From your comments I gather that you feel that theosis is not compatible with God’s being eternally divine. One of the challenges in Mormon thought is explaining exactly what we mean by divine.

    • James says:

      Aquinas,

      I agree with you that it is important to explore the viability of our speculative positions. If they just don’t make sense, they ought to at least be ranked lower. That being said, what I’m suggesting (and maybe I’m wrong) is that we are venturing into an area that we know so little about that it makes pretty much all of our speculative positions very difficult to evaluate. All of them require further speculation to make any sense out of them, and, as you’ve mentioned, they demand that we first come to very specific conclusions about related doctrines (such as the nature of theosis).

      You took issue with my statement: “Within the Mormon framework, as I explained in the post, it just doesnt matter.” Allow me to clarify. In my post I contrasted the Mormon framework against the mainstream framework, specifically in terms of God’s salvific power and in terms of God’s relationship to man. So, I’ll expand my comment. “Within the Mormon framework, whether or not God sinned just doesn’t matter in terms of our ability to place faith in him and in terms of his ability to save us.”

      If you disagree with that, I’d be happy to hear why.

      Thanks.

  15. Seth R. says:

    Well James, I wouldn’t trivialize it quite that much. But no, it doesn’t really concern me if God was or was not in his past.

  16. James says:

    Fair enough Seth. I employed a bit of hyperbole to make a point.

  17. James says:

    I’ve been fiddling with the comment display options, trying to find a way to number the comments to facilitate discussion. Sorry for the mid-discussion format changes you’re experiencing.

  18. aquinas says:

    James, thanks again for your response. To me, the notion that God is holy is not a speculative position. It is the position as set forth in the scriptures. I agree with you that all speculative positions are speculative, but I think most people on this thread agree that positing that God the Father is a sinner in a past mortal probation can only be described as speculation. It has no support in our scriptural tradition. It doesn’t appear in any of Joseph’s extant sermons. The only support you have offered is a kind of reasoning that theosis demands that God have been a sinner in the past. I’m not convinced at this point that this is the case, and obviously you haven’t had time to attempt to explain your position. Yet, we have sufficient tools evaluate those views.

    If, for example, we find that we really have no information or knowledge about a given theory, and we can’t trace the source, and it seems to contradict much in the tradition, it seems to me it is probably an indication that the theory is wrong.

    What I’m trying to explore is why given the tenuous nature of this idea that one would rather keep open the door to the possibility, rather than just reject it. It seems to me that what is going on is that one is postulating a kind of progressive trajectory from man towards exaltation, and then positing that God the Father must have followed in the same footsteps as man will. Yet, nothing demands this logic. I can understand the reasoning behind this view but I don’t think it holds up well under scrutiny. First of all, it can’t explain why Christ apparently deviates from this model in that he was without sin, he becomes an anomaly. This is perhaps the biggest problem. It doesn’t seem to make sense to hold that the Father is spiritually weaker or inferior than the Son. Second, Joseph Smith’s revelations assume God is without sin. Enoch says to the Lord: “How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?” (Moses 7:29). None of the scribes who were present during the King Follett Discourse record the notion that God the Father sinned in a past mortal probation. Rather, the discourse was on the image and form of God, that he laid down his life and took it up again. Even accepting play in the usage of words for hyperbole and figurative readings, the idea doesn’t seem to hold up well.

    Suppose for a moment, that I understood the scriptures to teach that God was holy and from all eternity to all eternity, and I believed that to be was true and I rejected the notion that God had some secret hidden sinful past because God never sent a prophet to reveal that to me. Suppose then I die and I meet God and he says to me, by the way, I was actually a sinner and I never really told anyone.” Is it reasonable that we would say: “You should have kept open the idea that I was a sinner, why did you reject that?” It doesn’t seem likely to me. Therefore, what is the harm in rejecting this view? If it does not harm me, then why should I fear to reject it?

  19. Seth R. says:

    I think more important than figuring out what “most Mormons” believe, or what “Internet Mormons” believe, or apologists believe, etc., we would be better-served to find out what the scripturally correct positions is as best we can determine and then advocate for that position.

    Grab the strongest theological position – with the best scriptural and doctrinal backing – and then PUSH it.

    This stuff about “does everyone at Sunday School agree with me” is really beside the point.

    • BHodges says:

      I generally agree, but also find it useful to know various views in order to talk about views with people, to understand them, etc. In Aaron’s case it seems he is interested in finding some leverage with which to shake Mormons from their faith and try to evangelize them to his perspective of non-LDS Christianity. :)

  20. James says:

    Hello Aquinas. This is a good discussion we are having.

    I agree that the idea that God “sinned” as a mortal doesn’t have much historical (in terms of tradition) or scriptural basis. But, the idea that God was not always God is an old idea, one that is pretty clearly taught in the King Follett Discourse, and which has probably been believed by a majority of LDS. If it is not canonical, it is certainly semi-canonical.

    Throw the Lorenzo Snow couplet into the equation, and the ideas about theosis from D&C, and you have the groundwork for understanding that God is the same fundamental species as man, and it becomes conceivable that he is at least capable of sin. That doesn’t necessitate that he did sin, but he must be capable of it (otherwise, I think, we wouldn’t be the same fundamental species). I’m not sure what a person is like who is not divine, but who always resists temptation, but I’m sure it is possible (it rests in large part on what is meant by “divine”).

    What do we do with Jesus? You noted that he complicates things because he didn’t sin. Perhaps by now it is clear why that isn’t necessarily the case. Christ definitely could have sinned, but he did not. If Christ is anything like the God the Father described by Joseph Smith, he too was not always divine.

    So, I’m with you on at least one thing. Opening the door to the possibility that God sinned demands a lot of speculation and theology making that is fraught with danger. A much simpler solution is to shut the door on that possibility, but I haven’t yet. Perhaps there is some rigorous analysis of that train of speculation that I’m unaware of. I’m still willing to explore it.

    On a different note, our loyalty to the scriptural record has been brought up a number of times here. I think that in Mormonism there is room for a variety of attitudes towards what scripture is and how faithful to it we need to be. Clearly, as we should be learning this year in Sunday School, not every word of it fell from God’s lips. While it looms very, very large as a source for doctrinal information, we aren’t Evangelicals who live and die by it.

    Just some thoughts.

  21. aquinas says:

    James, I too appreciate the discussion. As I’ve stated elsewhere, one of the issues in these discussions is how to interpret Joseph Smith. Now, when Joseph says that God came to be God, I understand him to be saying that God the Father has a history. There is no need to interpret Joseph to be saying anything more than God the Father once experienced mortality and laid down his life and had power to take it up again. Notice that the context of the King Follett Discourse is that this is a funeral sermon given to console those who are experiencing the pains of losing a loved one to death. The consolation is that God the Father knows what we are going through because he also went through the experience of death, as did Jesus Christ, and that the resurrection is a reality. I’m not sure the value of consolation of telling the audience that God wasn’t always divine. There is no need to interpret the language beyond the bounds employed by Joseph Smith himself.

    What Joseph is teaching is that the Father did not possess a resurrected body from all eternity but that, like Christ, had a mortal experience. Again, this should not be surprising for Joseph Smith to teach this as his First Vision narrative implicitly asserts this fact. That Jesus Christ has a resurrected body of flesh and bone is explained by the New Testament narrative and is readily understood. On the other hand, without the King Follett Discourse we have no knowledge of how God the Father came to have a body of flesh and bone, but with the sermon we do learn how God came to be God. The King Follett Discourse is drenched with references to the body and the resurrection, to the form of God and the fact that man can converse with God as one man with another, that we should see Him in the form of a man. The import of the Discourse has nothing to do with God going from non-divine to divine. The Discourse must be understood not only within the social context of a funeral but against the religious environment of the day, where prevailing notions about the nature of God was, and still is, that God is pure spirit without form and without the capacity for man to speak with God face to face, making Joseph’s First Vision a theological impossibility. It should be stressed that the Book of Mormon tells the story of how God came to be God as well, but does not postulate a time when Christ was not divine.

    • James says:

      Aquinas,

      Thank you for sharing your insights into Joseph’s sermon. I own two of Blake Ostler’s three volumes, and I’ve studied the portions in which he discusses these topics. I’m probably not prepared right now to hold an informed debate about the best interpretation of Joseph’s sermon. I’ll leave that to others for now. At the least, I’m sure you realize that yours is a minority view among Latter-day Saints, no matter if it correct or not.

      I’ll repeat my greatest reservation in embracing Ostler’s view (track A). Unless I’m very mistaken, it essentially describes a God the Father, and a God the Son, who are very different in their fundamental nature from the rest of us. It is a basic principle of Mormonism, as I understand it, that God and man are one and the same species who are at different ends of a spectrum of glory. If man (us), by definition, is not “divine” from all eternity, then God is not a man if he is divine from all eternity. I can’t accept that yet.

  22. Blake says:

    I’ve been out of blog discussions for a long time (and probably won’t again for awhile) — but I’d like to participate in this discussion because you all have articulated the issues so well on a very essential and interesting subject.

    James, I don’t believe that my take on KFD entails that the Father and the Son (or Holy Ghost for that matter) are different from us at all. The difference is that they made a different choice from eternity than we made. Just as the fact that I make different choices than my father doesn’t entail that I am a different kind than my father, so making a different choice than God doesn’t make me a different species or kind from God — Father, Son or Holy Ghost as individuals. That choice was simply to enter into a loving relationship of complete unity and transparency. In each moment that they could make the decision to have this kind of relationship with each other, they did. We didn’t. That is the difference. It isn’t a difference in kind, ontology or eternal capacity for progression. It’s like if an acorn had a choice about becoming an oak. It could stay an acorn or become an oak and when it chooses to be an oak then it can grow toward its inherent natural capacity. The choice to share the kind of relationship that the divine persons have is literally the choice whether to be fully divine or merely of divine nature or kind. An oak is fully what its nature permits; an acorn is merely the same kind as an oak without having realized that potential.

    However, there is a vast difference that results from the choice to share the divine unity in interpenetrating love — it is like the difference between hydrogen and oxygen as basic elements and water as a compound. They are the same thing in terms of constituents; but the relationship they have to one another is vastly different resulting in vastly different properties and capacities.

    As to Aaron’s concern about God sinning — it doesn’t seem to such a great issue. There is nothing at all in either (A) or (B) that suggests that God sinned if he was once mortal — not any more than Christ having sinned because he was once mortal. It just doesn’t follow that God had to sin if he was once mortal — as both James and Aquinas have more than adequately pointed out. However, given the real possibility of repentance and forgiveness, I’m not sure it is a big deal. My own view is that God is free to sin if he chooses and any being that weren’t free in this sense is not worthy of our trust and worship (e.g., Aaron’s view of god). However, God is morally praiseworthy because he freely refrained from sinning though free to do so. What praise is god due if he refrains from sinning because he can’t? I don’t praise flowers for not sinning — though I enjoy their beauty. A god who cannot sin by nature is due the same moral praise as a flower for nor sinning by nature.

    While I don’t think that the scriptures allow for a different view of God’s divinity from all eternity, I agree that reasonable minds can differ on the reading of the KFD and Sermon in the Grove (not to be confused with KFC which is good but fattening). I agree with Seth that we ought to take the most scripturally and theologically viable view on these matter — and I deem that to that God — the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as one Godhead — has been divine from all eternity. For that matter, so have we. They simply have made the choice to love each other with fully interpenetrating love in each moment of eternity when they could make that choice and we haven’t. But of course, that difference in choice had enormous consequences.

  23. Blake says:

    BTW the notion that I am catering to evangelical sentiments in my reading of the scriptures and KFD is somewhat amusing to me. It is more than a bit like suggesting that I am catering to atheists because I believe that God cannot create natural laws any way he wants.

  24. aquinas says:

    James, I appreciate the response. I have examined the source texts as we have them, as well any scholarship available on the King Follett Discourse. I feel it is important to move towards a more holistic analysis that takes into account the sum of Joseph’s thinking. I appreciate your honest response and willingness to discuss the issue.

    I’d like to raise a few methodological issues at this point. First, it is possible that there are minority and majority positions among various schools of thought in Mormonism. Without proper survey research, however, it isn’t clear we can know what these are with any degree of accuracy. Second, theology by consensus is not necessarily a good guide. I’m not sure the premise that truth is indicated by how many people hold a certain view is necessarily compatible with the Mormon position. Third, the degree that people hold certain views changes over time. Many people may not hold any position (having never considered the issue), may simply be unaware that there are other views points, or they have never critically examined the viewpoint that they do hold and faced the implications from such views. I’m discussing this issue with you because it’s clear you’ve thought about the issue. Mormon thought has seen shifts throughout its history. Majority positions in the past are minority positions today. Fourth, the reason I raise the issue of the role of scripture in theology is because there are theories in Mormonism which have very little scriptural support, but have seemed to persist. However, rigorous and serious examination of Latter-day Saint texts has increased within the last couple of decades, particularly since the administration of Ezra Taft Benson in the 1980s. Since that time we’ve also seen many original texts become available. I’m not trying to propose a theory of scripture here, just pointing out the fact that ideas which lack scriptural support should not be uncritically embraced. Mormons are fond of telling those outside the faith to read their own texts, to read the Book of Mormon and I find it inconsistent if Latter-day Saints claim an important role for the Book of Mormon and other restoration texts when speaking with those outside the faith, but yet ignore such texts when formulating theology.

    Fifth, I think we need to be careful of positions developed within an apologetic context. If critics of Mormonism claim that Mormonism teaches that God sinned, some Mormons may think “I’ve never heard that before but if a critic says we teach it and it bothers them, then it must be true and I should be willing to accept it.” Or perhaps they may think it doesn’t really matter. I think this is an inappropriate response. First, ideas matter and we should inquire whether Mormonism really does demand this view and critically and introspectively examine our faith tradition. Mormonism has a long history of defining itself against Protestants and more recently Evangelicals. If Protestants believe Jesus atoned on the Cross, we must believe he atoned in the Garden. If Protestants believed the Bible is inerrant, we have to believe the bible is full of errors and unreliable. If Protestants believe in grace, we have to believe grace is cheap and easy and a false doctrine. This kind of mentality of defining our doctrines in reaction to what we perceive others believe has been, I believe, unfortunate and has actually caused us to reject teachings found in our own sacred texts to our own detriment. Some Mormons apparently relish in finding doctrines that Evangelicals find troubling, the more it bothers Evangelicals, the better and more true it must be. Yet, that goal is to distinguish one’s religious identity, rather than to explore one’s religious tradition proper. Embracing a theory merely because it upsets other Christians doesn’t seem like a reliable guide to me.

    Lastly, in regards to your reservation in viewing God as divine from all eternity. Here too is where I suspect some Mormons may have overreacted to classical Christian theology. Yes, Joseph Smith obliterated the distinction between the uncreate and the create. In Joseph’s worldview, God is no longer alone in the category of the uncreate. Man too is eternal. Eternality has been one the criteria for divinity in classical Christianity. Now, that this is gone, what is divine in Mormon discourse? This has been a challenge to articulate. One of the schools of thought that I see on this point is that some thinkers have entirely collapsed any and all distinctions between God and man, believing this was the project of the Restoration. Therefore, God is merely ahead of man chronologically. However, I remain unpersuaded that this was Joseph’s project. Being the same “species” does not require a complete collapse of distinctions between God and man. Jesus Christ was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob before being born, and I was not. I can’t replicate that journey. Our goal is not to duplicate or replicate the identical journey of God the Father or Jesus Christ, or the Holy Ghost for that matter. Given Joseph’s teachings on the uncreated and eternal nature of man, it’s difficult to see how replication of life experience can be a goal. Consider that there are human beings out there who can do things that I can’t do and will never be able to do, no matter how hard I tried or how much time I was given, even though we are the same “species.” Most likely, men and women will never experience identical paths precisely because of distinctions, despite being the same “species.” Our goal is to re-enter into the presence of God by entering into covenant with God becoming his sons and daughters by covenant, becoming joint-heirs with Christ and receiving all that the Father has.

    aquinas

  25. Seth R. says:

    Part of what makes this project so difficult is that it requires us to formulate a coherent LDS view of time and how we experience it, and how God experiences it, and what the differences are.

    Traditional Nicene Christianity has posited a solution by placing God entirely outside time. Thus chronological questions of God preceding us temporally are quite beside the point for many Christian theologians.

    LDS theology has some tendencies toward a similar solution – mainly in the notion of the “eternal now.” But other LDS thinkers seem to be suggesting that God lives within time as much as we do.

    But it’s another unsettled point and it makes resolution of this question very difficult as well.

  26. James says:

    Thanks for your comments everyone. After the labor day weekend I’ll find some time to digest all of this and hopefully make some useful comments. Have a nice weekend.

  27. James says:

    Blake,
    Thanks for stopping by. My remarks here are for both you and Aquinas.

    Do you believe that all beings have eternally possessed the capacity to choose to enter into an interpenetrating relationship of love, as the members of the Godhead have? Are they the only three beings, out of an infinite number (perhaps), who have eternally made that choice? If that is the case, they are wonderful persons indeed.

    Also, how do you understand the following comment by Joseph Smith: “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.”

    It seems to me to be a point blank statement that God was not always God. I assume you’ve identified a very specific meaning of the word “God” in this context that may not be obvious to the casual reader. I assume you have one meaning in mind for “God” and another for the word “divine”. Blake even goes so far as to suggest that we have all been divine for all eternity, though we obviously are not gods.

    Would you then agree with the following statement: “God has not always been God, but he has always been divine” ?

    Thanks.

  28. Brad says:

    Really great discussion. I’ve tried to skim the comments I didn’t read thoroughly but forgive me if these points have already been addressed.
    One possible reason to favor non-A tracks is simply sheer probability. We’re taught that anyone who follows the proper steps can obtain exaltation and godhood, thus if we operate on the assumption that a large percentage of this world’s populations from past and present will eventually get exalted then we would conclude that sinner->God is a common pathway. Of course this only jives if we assume that the process we’re now living is a repeat of the process God the Father experienced, and that most people who go through this process live rather sinful lives and repent (remember the other worlds our Savior also atoned for? But none of them were wicked enough to reject him so he had to come to this one?).

    However I would propose that even supposing tracks B, C, or D doesn’t change the fact that God the Father has “always” been divine. That’s because pertaining to our mortality and our concept of time worlds like “eternal” and “forever” and “without end” are perfectly applicable. You may think I’m just being pedantic but honestly, we don’t really even know how existence if possible outside of space-time as we know it, and yet apparently it is. You may be familiar with Joseph Smith’s example with the ring, how connecting the ends eliminates them, now there’s no end and no beginning. How does that work? Is one conscious of all of time at once? Who knows. As far as God’s existence (and maybe the existence of the locations for beings outside of mortality), is He outside of our know universe of space-time? Or does He (and these places) exist in our realm but perhaps on another plane or dimension? I don’t want to go off topic be there are massive amounts of discussion as to what it means to be eternal.
    Basically my point is I don’t think God is just patronizing us and saying “yeah technically I wasn’t always like this but for now let’s just say I’m eternally God”, I think it’s more like: “there’s no other way to explain it to your understanding, I am eternal. Look back as far as you’re able, maybe to the Big Bang, maybe before. I existed as a perfect God ‘before’ then. I will exist ‘after’ all of this that you know has ceased. These words ‘before’ and ‘after’ aren’t really the right terms to use, but I’ll use them since there’s no other way for you to grasp it. Always, forever, eternal, everlasting; from where you stand those are the right terms.”

  29. Blake says:

    James: First let’s make a few basic distinctions. I distinguish between having divine nature or being of divine species and being fully divine. I am a homo sapiens by nature. I am of the human species. I don’t choose that. However, I am not fully human. I have not fully developed my human capacities and potentialities. However, I am more fully developed than a month old baby in terms of my natural human capacities. How I develop my human nature is a function of the inherent capacities of that nature and the free choices that I make.

    The answer to your first question is: Yes. All have the species-kind capacity to choose to love in a way that would make them fully divine. Not all have the present ability because they haven’t learned to love yet. They could have had the fully ability, but they have made choices to close themselves off and they must learn to open to others. That is one of the primary purposes of our mortal experience — to give us an environment in which we can learn to love in the way that the divine persons love each other. Opposition serves us to learn to love.

    Of all those who could choose to love in interpenetrating unity, only the Father, Son and Holy Ghost have made the choice to do so in each moment that they could — and they have made themselves capable of doing so by their choices throughout eternity. The capacity to love in this way is an inherent capacity of divine/human nature. They are wonderful indeed! As a united Godhead they are the only ones worthy of our unmitigated trust and faith.

    I suggest that Joseph Smith’s statement that God has not been God from all eternity is referring to the Father. He is merely indicating that the Father at one time became mortal. If God was mortal from time t2 to t3, then he hasn’t been “God” (the one running the universe) for all eternity because there was a period of time he wasn’t in charge as God. That certainly doesn’t entail that God hasn’t been fully divine before t2 and that he regained full divinity after t3. Nor does it entail that God (the Father) didn’t have greater capacities as a mortal then we enjoy. After all, Jesus had greater capacities than we presently exercise like the ability to lay down his life and take it up again.

    We have been of the divine species for all eternity (isn’t that part of what it means to be divine?). Of course God (each of the divine persons of the Godhead) has always been divine in this same sense and also in the additional sense that he has fully realized the divine potential in each moment. However, God was fully human in a sense that we haven’t fully realized. Indeed, to be fully human is also to be fully divine.

    I don’t believe that the notion that God is timeless is feasible given that God is embodied. It always makes sense to ask how long it takes to travel at any given speed the distance between the fingertips of God’s outstretched arms.

  30. aquinas says:

    James, as I stated above in a previous comment, I think we need to read Joseph Smith contextually, looking at the entire sermon. As Joseph unpacks his phraseology, I do not see any hint that he means to say that there was a time when there was no God, or that God became divine at a point in time. Rather, Joseph focuses on the ability for man to converse with God, that God has a form. I’ve attempted to explain why this makes sense against a backdrop of Joseph’s previous experiences and revelations.

    Incidentally, the term “species” is not, as I understand it, the kind of language that Joseph himself used to describe the relationship between God and man. Joseph preferred speaking of man’s essentially eternality. Speaking of man in the King Follett Discourse, Joseph taught “It is a spirit from age to age and there is no creation about it.” Indeed, the discourse shows Joseph’s preferred metaphors for speaking about the relationship between man and God. Biological terms like “species” and “gods in embryo” would not become solidly established in the Mormon idiom until after Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. This is not to say such metaphors are inaccurate or improper. Clearly they have become part and parcel of the Mormon vocabulary. Yet, in examining Joseph’s thought we need to be aware of the development of these ideas.

    Joseph seems to have consistently referred to the Godhead as being united in covenant, rather than united ontologically. Rather than all three persons of the Godhead sharing one will, as traditionally held in Christian theology, Joseph envisioned a Godhead of united wills, and that is only possible if each personage has their own will. Joseph taught, “An Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth. These personages according to Abraham’s record are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator.”

    Clearly we have the capacity to enter into relationships with God. Joseph’s revelations focus on men and women entering into covenantal relationship with God, thus being born again, becoming his sons and daughters. I’m not aware of Joseph seeking to elucidate alternative models for the Godhead, or offering an explanation as to why these entered into an everlasting covenant and not others.

    I will say that in my experience discussing these issues with others, I feel there is a strong drive for complete and total equality in all respects between God and man in Mormon thought. That is, it isn’t just a confidence that we can do what God desires or asks of us. It goes beyond faith in God to redeem us. The idea is that whatever God can do or has done in the past, many believe that it must have been the case that we too could have done so. Otherwise, there is a kind of feeling of alienation or isolation where we really aren’t like God if we couldn’t have duplicated his journey. I understand this Mormon ethos, but I’m very cautious about building theology solely on this premise. I believe, in some cases, this unintentionally forces one into a position where there is really nothing particularly special in God, because to be “special” is necessarily interpreted as some ontological difference. (It is difficult for me to not view this as the reason why some are willing to entertain the notion that God was a sinner or that Christ’s singular performance of a sinless life is mere hyperbole that we shouldn’t push too far). I feel that this has the danger to lead to eternally generic and fungible beings, where any being can easily be substituted for another. Joseph’s religious thought is bold and radical but I personally don’t see Joseph intending to have caused a kind of genericism of eternal beings. To me, Joseph’s vision of God is highly personal and God often calls Joseph and his associates “my friends.”

    This is a kind of meta-analysis or meta-observation. Perhaps some of this comes down to personal dispositions.

  31. James says:

    Thanks for all of your thoughts guys. I don’t think I have much more to add at this time. Are you aware of any informed debates on this topic other than what is found at New Cool Thang (a blog I’ve read with much interest over the years)?

  32. Tom Jones says:

    I’m amazed that so much speculation can be exercised to the exclusion of the word of God which claims that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). To James’ early premise — “The mainstream Christian tradition has inherited ancient Greek ideas about God” — I would have to reply that the word of God, specifically Psalm 90:2 which states “from everlasting to everlasting you are God” preceded the ancient Greek philosophers. So, It would appear that those Greek philosophers were in agreement with God had already revealed to man. Christians don’t go to Greek philosophers to learn about the nature of God but rely on the word of God alone. By the way, a casual reading of the original D&C (1835) reveals that, early on, Joseph Smith also agreed with Psalm 90:2. He quoted Psalm 90:2 and then reiterated “He is God over all from everlasting to everlasting” (D&C, p.39, 1835 ed. If you don’t have access to the 1835 D&C which is photocopied in Joseph Smith Begins His Work, vol 2, see Lecture 3rd in the Lectures on Faith which, in 1835, were the Doctrine of the Doctrine & Covenants until they were taken out of canonized scripture in 1921 because they conflicted with the new LDS doctrine of God) Then, 9 years later, in the King Follett discourse he refuted that idea — “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil so that you may see…he was once a man like us.” (TPJS, pp. 345,346) If the original word of God was not reliable, I see no reason to trust a replacement, or restored word of God. All the speculation in the world is useless if we cannot trust the Bible which teaches today what it has taught from the beginning, unlike the LDS scriptures which have evolved, following the changing theology of Joseph Smith and subsequent LDS authorities. For a thorough article on the changing of the nature of God in LDS scripture, call me at 727-667-4112 — Tom Jones

  33. James says:

    Tom,

    For a discussion of 2 Tim 3:16 see here: https://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/2008/09/27/discussing-2-tim-315-17-with-evangelicals/

    For a discussion of Psalm 90:2 see here: https://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/2008/02/26/everlasting-to-everlasting/

    For some comments about the philosophical roots of Trinitarian doctrine, see these comments by Evangelical scholar Roger Olson: https://lehislibrary.wordpress.com/2009/11/26/the-philosophical-roots-of-the-trinity-alexander-and-arius/

    Concerning the changing nature of God in LDS scripture….whether or not this allegation is true is ultimately irrelevant from my perspective. We happily embrace the biblical principle that all truth is revealed line upon line, and precept upon precept.

  34. […] following quote comes from the blog Lehi’s Library: “So in our view it doesn’t matter one bit that a person sinned at some point in their […]

  35. Doug says:

    The Nicene and Athanasian creeds make three assertions which I think are valid as far as they go.

    1. Jesus and God the Father are co-eternal and co-equal.
    2. Jesus was begotten of the Father before all worlds.
    3. Jesus was begotten[…] not made. There is a difference between begotten and created.

    1. Joseph Smith undeniably and unambiguously said that Jesus is co-eternal and co-equal with God even if he said it in the context of all men being co-eternal with God the Father.

    2. The apparent conflict between this and the fact that Jesus along with the rest of us were begotten by our Heavenly Father and Mother comes from preconceived ideas about birth and begetting; namely that out begetting was the beginning of our existence. However the doctrine of pre-mortal existence tells us this is not true with regard to our mortal birth and to me and others strongly hints that the same is true of our spiritual begetting. We have to admit that this is still a mystery in the LDS church. The articles of Faith state that there are yet many “great and important” things to be revealed pertaining to the kingdom of heaven.

    3. It is clear enough from official LDS doctrine that there is a difference between begetting and creating. Our begetting required both of our heavenly parents; Heavenly father and Heavenly Mother. The creation of the Earth by contrast required no such involvement of male and female.

    In my capacity as member missionary I take the strategy of Ammon as I was taught in the MTC. Find as much commonality between LDS doctrine and the beliefs of those you teach as can be made. So I use the following facts.

    1. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus is co-eternal and co-equal with God the Father.
    2. Official LDS doctrine states that Jesus was begotten by our Heavenly Father and this is still a mystery as it is to Catholics, Episcopalians, Presberterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Methods and other non-Mormon Christians.
    3. Official LDS doctrine makes it clear that there is a difference between “begotten” and “created”.

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