"As God" or "Like God"?

By Bill McKeever

Check out the following podcast: Nature of God  (August 11, 2011)

The ability to attain godhood in the next life is one of the more unique (and blasphemous) teachings associated with Joseph Smith and the LDS Church he founded. Brigham Young mixed no words when he said,

“The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself; when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things He puts into our possession. We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven. That is the truth about it, just as it is” (Brigham Young, August 8, 1852, Journal of Discourses 3:93).

Twelfth Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball wrote,

“Man can transform himself and he must. Man has in himself the seeds of godhood, which can germinate and grow and develop. As the acorn becomes the oak, the mortal man becomes a god. It is within his power to lift himself by his very bootstraps from the plane on which he finds himself to the plane on which he should be. It may be a long, hard lift with many obstacles, but it is a real possibility” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.28).

Knowing this doctrine is extremely offensive to Christians, Mormon apologists have tried to tone down the impact of this teaching by emphasizing that Mormons merely become “like God,” as if this means there is a distinct difference between what the Mormon God is now, and what Mormons hope to become. To understand why this emphasis is misleading you have to understand that the God of Mormonism is only one of a long succession of Gods going back into eternity past. In Mormonism, the one Mormons call “Heavenly Father,” also had a father who preceded him in the capacity of a God. Consider the following:

“If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 373.)

“Our Father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a Father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father, until we come to a stop where we cannot go further, because of our limited capacity to understand” (10th President Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 2:47).

Mormon President Lorenzo Snow made this quite clear when he said, “As God is, man may become.” What God is right now, faithful Mormons hope to eventually achieve. However, Mormons are also led believe that by the time this actually happens, God will have also progressed. In other words, because the Mormon God continually progresses, and because he has such a big head start, Mormons will never be able to catch up with him, but this does not mean they will not share the attributes that make him a God. In his book, The Miracle of Forgiveness, Kimball stated,

“The other-eternal life-is a cooperative program to be developed by the Lord and his offspring on earth. It thus becomes the overall responsibility of man to cooperate fully with the Eternal God in accomplishing this objective. To this end God created man to live in mortality and endowed him with the potential to perpetuate the race, to subdue the earth, to perfect himself and to become as God, omniscient and omnipotent” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p.2).

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism concurs with this thought when it states:

“For Latter-day Saints, the term ‘godhood’ denotes the attainment of such a state—one of having all divine attributes and doing as God does and being as God is” (The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:553).

Joseph Fielding Smith used the words “like God,” but you can tell from the context that ontological similarity remained intact,

“Latter-day Saints believe in this progression in eternity until, eventually, we become worthy through knowledge, wisdom, humility, and obedience, to be like God, and then to have the privilege of being made equal in power, might and dominion (D&C. 76:95), and to possess all that the Father hath (D&C. 84:38) as members of ‘the Church of the First-born’” (The Way to Perfection, p.9).

If by saying they will only be “like God,” meaning there will always be a substantial difference ontologically, then we must also ask if Mormonism’s “Heavenly Father” is ontologically dissimilar with the God(s) who preceded him. If that is true, and every generation of gods is dissimilar by even a minute detail, then we have to assume that the God worshipped by present-day Mormons is also dissimilar from the myriad of Gods who precede him. In any case this is not the God of the Bible.

For more on the topic of God and the nature of the Godhead, click here.