Jeffrey Holland and the Determination of God

By Sharon Lindbloom
11 May 2016

A couple of weeks ago LDS Apostle Jeffrey Holland addressed a Mormon congregation in Tempe, Arizona, telling them “don’t cut and run” when membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gets tough. Mr. Holland assured his listeners that “every promise will be honored…This is the Church of the happy endings” [3:10; 19:25] Throughout his discourse, Mr. Holland referred to the “happy ending” faithful Mormons are taught to expect.

HeavenCentering his address on the idea that “God loves broken things,” Mr. Holland encouraged Mormons to be willing to suffer, persevere, and stay with the Church until the resurrection, because then,

“You’re gonna get your life back. You’re gonna get your kids back. Those of you who don’t have kids are gonna get ‘em. Those of you who aren’t married are gonna be married. You’re gonna get everything. You’re gonna get everything, just bring [God] a broken heart.” [11:10]

Mr. Holland was referring to the LDS doctrine of forever families. According to Mormonism,

“The family is not just the basic unit of society; it is the basic unit of eternity. We lived as Heavenly Father’s spirit sons and daughters before this mortal existence. In that grand premortal family council, our Heavenly Father’s plan for the eternal happiness and peace of His children was presented. We understood that we would come to this earth to live as families, and through the sealing authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, we could live throughout the rest of eternity as families.” (M. Russell Ballard, “The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood,” Ensign, March 2006, 26)

In Mormonism, families are essential to a “happy ending.” A Church manual makes clear that “only in and through the family unit can we obtain eternal life” (Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual Religion 231 and 232, 1986, 78). Jeffrey Holland himself has noted,

“I don’t know how to speak about heaven in the traditional, lovely, paradisiacal, beauty that we speak of heaven – I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife, my children. It would, it would not be heaven for me.” (LDS Temple open house video)

Thus Mr. Holland’s assurances that the eternal “happy ending” promised by Mormonism will include marriage and children. If you don’t have these things in mortal life, they will be obtainable in heaven:

“Some members of the Church remain single through no fault of their own, even though they want to marry. If you find yourself in this situation, be assured that ‘all things work together for good to them that love God’ (Romans 8:28). As you remain worthy, you will someday, in this life or the next, be given all the blessings of an eternal family relationship. The Lord has made this promise repeatedly through His latter-day prophets.” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference, 2004, 99)

A little later in his talk Mr. Holland said,

“We’re the Church that says we’re Gods and Goddesses in embryo. We’re the church that says we’re kings and queens, we’re priests and priestesses…people accuse us of heresy. They say we’re absolutely heretical, non-Christians, because we happen to believe what all the prophets taught, and that is that we’re children of God…We just happen to take the scriptures literally that kids grow up to be like their parents. But how does that happen?” [29:43]

Here Mr. Holland was referring to a core doctrine that has been taught in the LDS Church since the days of Joseph Smith. Many prophets, apostles and other Church leaders have taught it, but it was officially presented in a 1909 First Presidency Statement on “The Origin of Man.”

“Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of our earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages of aeons, of evolving into a God.” (Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund, quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Course Manual, 1976, 130)

The above-quoted LDS teaching manual introduced that portion of the First Presidency Statement in a simple way: “MEN ARE GODS IN EMBRYO.”

So according to Mormonism, human beings grow up to be Gods. “But how does this happen?” Mr. Holland asked. Joseph Smith said,

“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 to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exalta­tion to exaltation, 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.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 346-347)

Another LDS prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, taught,

“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…” (Quoted in Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual Religion 231 and 232, 1986, 52)

Mr. Holland continued his recent address:

“But how does that happen? …Do we just pop up? Are we just gonna pop up out of the grave? Just ‘Hallelujah, it’s resurrection morning. Give me a universe or two. You know? Bring me some mortals to run. I’m ready here.’ I don’t think so.” [30:15]

This was a very surprising characterization of Mormonism’s “happy ending” to hear coming from an apostle of the LDS Church. In February of 2014 the Church released a Gospel Topic Essay titled, “Becoming Like God” which lamented,

“Since human conceptions of reality are necessarily limited in mortality, religions struggle to adequately articulate their visions of eternal glory…These limitations make it easy for images of salvation to become cartoonish when represented in popular culture… Latter-day Saints’ doctrine of exaltation is often similarly reduced in media to a cartoonish image of people receiving their own planets.”

From Mr. Holland’s remarks it’s clear that he was going for a laugh (which he got), yet in his cartoonish representation of the LDS doctrine of exaltation he communicated the core of the “happy ending” for which Mormons strive. Consider this LDS manual’s teaching on exaltation:

“By definition, exaltation includes the ability to procreate the family unit throughout eternity. This our Father in Heaven has power to do. His marriage partner is our mother in heaven. We are their spirit children…” Achieving a Celestial Marriage Course Manual, 1976, 129)

“The Father has promised us that through our faithfulness we shall be blessed with the fulness of his kingdom. In other words, we will have the privilege of becoming like him. To become like him we must have all the powers of godhood; thus a man and his wife when glorified will have spirit children who eventually will go on an earth like this one we are on and pass through the same kind of experiences, being subject to mortal conditions, and if faithful, then they also will receive the fullness of exaltation and partake of the same blessings. There is no end to this development; it will go on forever. We will become gods and have jurisdiction over worlds, and these worlds will be peopled by our own offspring.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, quoted in Achieving a Celestial Marriage Course Manual, 1976, 132. Italics in the original.)

Mr. Holland concluded his address with an “apostolic blessing” which said in part,

“I bless you also for knowing the answer, the only answer, the God-given answer, the eternal answer is the [restored] gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the very discipleship we profess. And what He’s determined to make of us… He is determined to make us kings and queens, priests and priestesses, Gods in our own right, in our own effort, to be as He is, and to therefore have yet another season of life to bless people…” [43:15]

This is Mormonism’s “happy ending”: God is determined to make human beings into Gods; Gods “in our own right, in our own effort.” In other words, God is determined to see us become independent Gods who have achieved our Godhood because of our own qualifications and efforts (see “in one’s own right” dictionary definition), to populate worlds with our own offspring and rule over them, just as He has done before us. And just as His God has done before Him. “How does this happen?” Through Mormonism’s restored gospel, the laws and ordinances of the LDS Church:

“Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar to that through which we are now passing. He became God – an exalted being – through obedience to the same eternal Gospel truths that we are given opportunity today to obey.” (Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages priesthood manual, 1958, 104)

This Mormon gospel of laws, ordinances, and its promise of exaltation to Godhood is a far cry what is taught in the Bible. Mormonism has a different God, a different gospel, and a vastly different “happy ending” than what the Bible tells us God has promised to those who love Him.

There are those who want to believe that Mormonism is moving toward Christian orthodoxy, poised to abandon its heretical doctrines. LDS Apostle Jeffrey Holland has demonstrated that Mormon doctrine hasn’t changed. Just last month he preached that old-time Mormon religion of a God who was once a man, a God who is determined to see His children become Gods, to create, populate, and rule over worlds, “in their own right.”

Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism is not moving closer to Christianity.  Mormonism is not abandoning its heresies. Mormonism remains, in the words of Jeffrey Holland, “absolutely heretical, non-Christian.”