The "Gods" Of Mormonism
One of the most fundamental doctrines to any religious system, is its comprehension of the nature of the God or "Gods" that it worships and how "He", "She" or "They" relate to mankind. How a person conceives of their God will determine how they worship and how they then live. If one's concept of God is incorrect, that is, the God that they worship is not who God really is, then their lifestyle will be ungodly and consequently, they will suffer all the consequences of such ungodliness. On the contrary, if their conception of God is accurate, then their lifestyle should correspond and they will realize all of its blessings, both here and now, and in eternity. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for any religious system to understand the true nature of God.
If you were to read only in the Book of Mormon to find the Mormon's concept of God, you would most likely conclude that the Mormons hold to the orthodox Trinitarian concept of God, one God existing in three persons. The Mormons however, do not believe in such. As they proclaim,
"People frequently assert that the Book of Mormon is Trinitarian in nature, that the Book of Mormon really only refers to one God. But a careful reading of the text reveals references to Elohim, our Heavenly Father, as well as to his Son. Jesus, or Jehovah, is the central character of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon testifies, predominately, of him. But it is clear in the record that Christ worships another God."1
"If by "the doctrine of the Trinity" one means the New Testament teaching that there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Ghost, all three of whom are fully divine, then Latter-day Saints believe in the doctrine of the Trinity."
"However, if by "the doctrine of the Trinity" one means the doctrine formulated by the councils of Nicea and Chalcedon and elaborated upon by subsequent theologians and councils--that God is three coequal persons in one substance or essence--then Latter-day Saints do not believe it."
"The Latter-day Saints accept both the oneness and the threeness of God--both are biblical. They reject, however, the attempts of the postbiblical church to define, for the sake and in the language of the philosophers, how the oneness and the threeness of God are related- attempts which amount to putting words in God's mouth."2
"Latter-day Saints believe in God the Father; his Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost (A of F 1). These three Gods form the Godhead, which holds the keys of power over the universe. Each member of the Godhead is an independent personage, separate and distinct from the other two, the three being in perfect unity and harmony with each other (AF, chap. 2)."3
From these quotations of Mormon doctrinal literature, it is clear to see that Mormons are not monotheists, they believe in a plurality of gods. While they hold to a functional unity among the gods, there are, nonetheless, in Mormon thought a plurality of gods. But not only do Mormons believe that God exists in the masculine, but that there is also a feminine god. They claim,
"Latter-day Saints infer from authoritative sources of scripture and modern prophecy that there is a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father."
"Latter-day Saints believe that all the people of earth who lived or will live are actual spiritual offspring of God the Eternal Father (Num. 16:22; Heb. 12:9). In this perspective, parenthood requires both father and mother, whether for the creation of spirits in the premortal life or of physical tabernacles on earth. A Heavenly Mother shares parenthood with the Heavenly Father. This concept leads Latter-day Saints to believe that she is like him in glory, perfection, compassion, wisdom, and holiness. In 1909 the First Presidency, under Joseph F. Smith, issued a statement on the origin of man that teaches that "man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father," as an "offspring of celestial parentage," and further teaches that "all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity" (Smith, pp. 199-205).4
To Biblically justify this position, Mormons realize that they have a great difficulty. The principal argument they use is that in creation, God created mankind both male and female. In that mankind was created in the image and likeness of God, then God must be male and female. What they fail to realize is that the image and likeness spoken of in Genesis 1:27 is not a physical likeness, since God is a spirit being without flesh and bone. The likeness is moral and personal. The personal likeness is that as God thinks, emotes, and acts according to a will, so does man. The moral likeness is a likeness to all the attributes of God such as holiness, justice, long-suffering, etc.
Unable to find sufficient Biblical support for the concept of a female god, Mormons resort to the following argument, "Today the belief in a living Mother in Heaven is implicit in Latter-day Saint thought. Though the scriptures contain only hints, statements from presidents of the church over the years indicate that human beings have a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father. This doctrine that there is a Mother in Heaven was affirmed in plainness by the First Presidency of the Church (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, and Anthon H. Lund) when, in speaking of pre-existence and the origin of man, they said that "man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father," that man is the "offspring of celestial parentage," and that "all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity." (Man: Origin and Destiny, pp. 348-355.)"4
Not only do Mormons disagree with the historic, orthodox position of God in His nature, but they also reject the eternality of God. To them, God has not always, from eternity, been God, but a mortal man, who long ago, became God. They write,
"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible,-I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form-like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man. . . .It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did."
"That God was once a mortal being is in no way inconsistent with the fact that he now has all power and all knowledge and possesses every virtue, grace, and godly attribute. He acquired perfection through long periods of growth, development, and progression, "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," as Joseph Smith explained. "When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the gospel-you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. But it will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned them. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it will be a great work to learn our salvation and exaltation even beyond the grave."
"How, then, do Latter-day Saints reconcile the scriptural description of God as being "from everlasting to everlasting" with the idea that he has not always been God? For one thing, they believe that biblical passages that speak of God's eternality and of his being the same yesterday, today, and forever make reference to his divine attributes- his love, constancy, and willingness to bless his people (see, for example, Psalm 102:27; Hebrews 1:12; 13:8).5
Once again they are confronted with the problem of justifying this position with the evidence of Scripture. In much the same way as they tried to justify their concept of the "Eternal Mother", Mormons defend their concept of the progression of God. Their argument is,
"Not much has been revealed about this concept beyond the fact that God was once a man and that over a long period of time he gained the knowledge, power, and divine attributes necessary to know all things and have all power. Because he has held his exalted status for a longer period than any of us can conceive, he is able to speak in terms of eternity and can state that he is from everlasting to everlasting."
"President Brigham Young taught that our Father in Heaven "has passed the ordeals we are now passing through; he has received an experience, has suffered and enjoyed, and knows all that we know regarding the toils, sufferings, life and death of this mortality, for he has passed through the whole of it, and has received his crown and exaltation."
"These doctrines are not clearly stated in the Bible. Mormons believe, however, that this knowledge was once had among the ancients and that it has been restored through modern prophets."5
With God having progressed from the status of a man to God, then Mormons believe that all faithful will have the same opportunity to become gods. This they refer to as the deification of man. Concerning this doctrine, they write,
"Logically and naturally, the ultimate desire of a loving Supreme Being is to help his children enjoy all that he enjoys. For Latter-day Saints, the term "godhood" denotes the attainment of such a state. Ńone of having all divine attributes and doing as God does and being as God is. Such a state is to be enjoyed by all exalted, embodied, intelligent beings (see Deification; Eternal Progression; Exaltation; God; Perfection). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all resurrected and perfected mortals become gods (cf. Gen. 3:22; Matt. 5:48). They will dwell again with God the Father, and live and act like him in endless worlds of happiness, power, love, glory, and knowledge; above all, they will have the power of procreating endless lives. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ attained godhood (see Christology) and that he marked the path and led the way for others likewise to become exalted divine beings by following him (cf. John 14:3)."
"All of God's spirit children have within them a divine nature with the potential to become like him. To become more like God, individuals must gain increased light and truth and follow all the commandments that God has given. They must know God (John 17:3; D&C 88:49) and see him (1 Jn. 3:2). Those who achieve this level of perfection will become joint-heirs with Christ." "Latter-day scriptures refer to several persons, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who once lived on earth and who are now resurrected beings and have become gods (D&C 132:37)."
"People qualify themselves for this rank and degree of exaltation by bringing themselves fully in line with all that God has commanded them to do: "Here, then, is eternal life-to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and t be kings and priests to God,...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, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power" (TPJS, pp. 346-47)." 6
Having examined what Latter-day Saints believe concerning the nature of God and His relationship to mankind, we now turn our attention to Scripture to examine their beliefs in the light of God's revelation, to determine the veracity of their statements. To begin with, we look at the Bible's teaching on the triunity of God.
Mormons contend that since the word "trinity" is not to be found in Scripture, the concept of the trinity is not then Biblical. While the word "trinity" is not found in Scripture, the concept certainly is. By the word "trinity" or better the word "triunity" we mean that God is one in essence but three in person. Does the Bible support such a concept?
The answer is an emphatic YES! To begin with the concept of one God is found in both Old and New Testaments. In Deuteronomy 6:4 we read that, "...the Lord our God is one", likewise in James 2:19 we find the statement that there is but one God. Neither of these statements are limited in meaning by a unity of function or cooperation, but insist upon a unity of essence and being.
While the essence of God is limited to one God, we find passages of Scripture that indicate that God exists in more than one person, three to be exact. In Genesis 1:1f we find that God created the earth while the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. In Psalm 110:1, David writes that the Lord said unto his Lord. We know from the New Testament that the second Lord of that passage refers to Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 7:14, where Isaiah proclaims the virgin birth, he states that the child will be called Emmanuel which means "God with us". If God is in heaven and God is on earth, then there must be more than one person of the Godhead. One other significant passage of the Old testament speaks of the three persons of the Trinity. Isaiah 61:1 speaks of a person anointed by the Lord upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rested. In Luke 4:18, Jesus claimed that part of that prophecy had been fulfilled in Him in that day.
Likewise, the New Testament speaks of the three persons of the Godhead. The Father is declared to be God in 1 Cor. 8:6. The Son is declared to be God in Hebrews 1:8-10. The Holy Spirit is declared to be God in Acts 5:3-4. In Matthew 28:18-20, where the great commission is given, the apostles were to go out into the world making disciples of all men, baptizing them in the singular name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the same manner we find Paul invoking the name of God in the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14 where he lists the three persons of the Godhead. Without question, the Bible speaks of three persons who are called God, but of one God. This is what the Bible teaches. That man is incapable of comprehending this doctrine only affirms the greatness of God above man. Man's incomprehension does not nullify the doctrine.
Secondly, we find that God is eternally God. Two important Biblical doctrines are encompassed in this statement. They are the doctrine of God's eternity and the doctrine of God's immutability. By the doctrine of the eternity of God, we mean that God has always been God. He has never existed simply as a man who through progression became God. Two passages of Scripture speak directly to this issue. the first is found in the confrontation of Moses with God at the burning bush. In Exodus 3:14, Moses asks God for His name so that when the Hebrews ask who sent him, he may have an answer to give them. The Lord responds that he is to say, "I Am" sent him. The name I Am indicates one who is eternally existent. God was not called, "I Was", "I Shall Be", or "I Became", but I Am. Had God been a man who became God, He would need to be called I Became. But His name is I Am and it always has been.
We also find a declaration in the New Testament of the eternality of God in John 5:26. There God is said to have life in Himself. That is that He is not dependent upon anything other than Himself to exist. All of creation depends upon the rest of creation to live. Take man away from creation and he will die within a minute from lack of oxygen. Remove plants from creation and they would die being cut off from the nutrients of the soil and the nurture of the sun. All of creation requires the rest of creation to live. Not only that, all creation was created by a Creator. (Now I know that comes as a shock to you). The point is that before there was any of creation, the Creator existed. He did not need creation to survive. It was not necessary for Him to even create us, for He had life in Himself. In that He has life within Himself, He must be eternal. God has always been.
But God has always been God. He is immutable. He does not change. This is born out of statements in Malachi 3:6 and James 1:17. It is impossible for God to change. There is nothing greater for Him to change into and any change for the worse would cause Him not to be God. When the Bible says that from everlasting to everlasting God is God, it means exactly that. To say that the first everlasting is not eternity past, but some point in time ages and ages ago, so long that man can not comprehend it is illogical. If that was possible, then of necessity the second everlasting would also be a point in the future where God could change once again. Since it is impossible for God to change in the future, it is necessary for us to conclude that God never changed in everlasting past either. God is eternally God. He never was a man who became God.
But is it possible that man today may become God tomorrow? The answer is a resounding NO! Man, who comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin is positionally, and one day, experientially, glorified, but never deified. Just as the moon reflects the glory of the sun, so the believer in Jesus Christ does and will reflect the glory of Christ. But just as the moon will never be the sun, so too the believer will never be God.
Where did this idea that man can become a god originate? One need only to look into the third chapter of the Book of Genesis and there you find that Satan tempted Eve with the thought that if she would eat of the forbidden fruit she would become a god. Satan always has been a liar (John 8:44) and always will be. His lie in Eden that man could become a god is still a lie today.