Although it is not found in any of Mormonism’s Standard Works, an expression that precisely defines the LDS teaching that men can become Gods was coined by fifth LDS President Lorenzo Snow. In June of 1840, Snow declared, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” Besides correctly illustrating the Latter-day Saint teaching that God was once a mere mortal man, this couplet also declares that man has the potential to become God. According to LDS theology, eternal life is synonymous with exaltation and godhood. In the words of LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie, “Thus those who gain eternal life receive exaltation. . . They are gods.” (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 237).
On page 115 of his book titled The Gospel Through the Ages, LDS Seventy Milton R. Hunter wrote, “No prophet of record gave more complete and forceful explanations of the doctrine that men may become Gods than did the American Prophet.” If eventual Godhood was such a common teaching among early Christians (as Mormons insist), why do we have to go to Joseph Smith to find out about it? If there was indeed a cover-up, it was surely one of unbelievable magnitude.
Though some Mormons may argue that godhood is not a teaching peculiar to Mormonism, history proves that it indeed was and is. Both the Journal of Discourses (JOD) and the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS) record that, on April 6, 1844, LDS Church founder Joseph Smith preached to a congregation of 20,000 saying, “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” (JOD 6:4; TPJS p.346). Brigham Young, the second prophet and president of the Mormon Church, delivered a message in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on August 8, 1852, in which he affirmed this teaching when he said, “The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself” (JOD 3:93).
Despite the strong emphasis on this notion that man can someday attain the atributes of deity, one would be hard-pressed to find a biblical basis for this teaching. Isaiah 43:10 makes it clear that no man, Mormon included, will ever attain godhood for it says, “I am He; before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me.”
Regardless of what Joseph Smith and other Mormon leaders have said about men earning the right of godhood, the fact remains that the God of the Bible, who is all knowing, says He knows of no other Gods (Isaiah 44:8). Surely this should prove that no mortal has ever attained godhood; not Joseph Smith, not Brigham Young, no one!
The God of the Bible adamantly declares that He is the first and the last. From eternity past to eternity future, there will never be a true God besides the one God as presented in the Bible (Isaiah 45:5).
Mormons will often use verses such as John 10:34 to counter these biblical truths. Here Jesus stands at the famous “porch of Solomon” and responds to the blindness of the religious leaders of his day. He rebukes their unbelief by quoting from Psalm 82:6 which reads, “I have said, Ye are gods.” Some Mormons have interpreted this to mean Jesus Himself said that men could one day attain the level of deity. The problem with such an interpretation is that Jesus does not say, “Ye can become Gods.” The text reads, “Ye are Gods.” Not even Mormons believe that they are Gods right now. At best they are what many LDS leaders have called, “gods in embryo” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 286). Successfully interpreting this passage lies in figuring out what the word “gods” means. Fortunately, we can discover this by the Bible itself.
When Psalm 82 is examined, it is not hard to see that this short psalm of Asaph is actually a word of rebuke. While Mormons are quick to quote verse six, they fail to include verse seven which states that the gods of verse six “shall die like men.” If gods can die, then eternal life, as defined by Mormonism, is not very eternal.
Scholars generally believe that the gods of Psalm 82 are nothing more than men who, by God’s sovereign design, are chosen to rule over other men. In fact, the word “Elohim,” used in verse six, is often translated “judges” in the Old Testament. An example of this can be found in Exodus 21:6 where it reads, “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges [Elohim] …” Another example is Exodus 22:8 which reads, “If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges …” Again, the Hebrew Elohim is used.
No doubt many Latter-day Saints will look upon this interpretation with suspicion. Should that be the case, itmay help to cite one of Mormonism’s most respected scholars, Apostle James Talmage. In his book Jesus The Christ, Talmage agreed that Jesus was referring to divinely appointed judges when he wrote, “Divinely Appointed Judges Called ‘gods.’ In Psalm 82:6, judges invested by divine appointment are called ‘gods.’ To this the Savior referred in His reply to the Jews in Solomon’s Porch. Judges so authorized officiated as the representatives of God and are honored by the exalted title ‘gods'” (p. 465).
Some Latter-day Saints have used I John 3:2 to support the Mormon claim that men can become Gods. This passage reads, “Beloved, now are ye the sons of God, and it doeth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.” Mormons insist that to be “like Him” means they will have all of the attributes of God Himself. If that is so, does that mean a Mormon will someday become omnipotent? To have more than one omnipotent being defies the very meaning of the word. Furthermore, to draw such a conclusion once again ignores the many passages of the Bible which declare the existence of only one God.
To Mormons who think they will someday become Gods of their own realms, we ask, “Did you make the heavens and the earth?” If not, consider the following passages from Jeremiah 10:10, 11:
But the Lord is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king: at His wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens.
If the Lord is the only true God then will you be a false god? If He is the only living God, will you be a dead God? If you hope to become a God but did not make the heavens and the earth, according to the above passages, you can expect to perish. It may be argued that this verse refers to pagan idols. However that may be, let us not forget Psalm 96:5, which says that God considers all the gods of the nations as idols, whether they are hewn from wood, or stone, or “exalted” through good works. All will perish.
Even if Godhood was a biblical possibility, obtaining it according to Mormonism would be in and of itself an impossible feat. According to Bruce McConkie, “. . .only those who obey the fulness of the gospel law will inherit eternal life” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 237). It would be safe to say that most Mormons do not even know what the “fulness of gospel law” includes, much less obey it.
The possibility of man becoming divine is a man-made promise that the true God will not honor. It was His plan that we become His children by faith in Jesus Christ, to live with Him throughout eternity as His people (not fellow Gods). In and of ourselves we can do nothing to earn our way into His presence. That debt was paid by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself. Because our good works on their own are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isaiah 64:6), it is imperative that we forsake any such hope of self-exaltation and Godhood and trust in Christ alone for the eternally true salvation that only He can give. Only then will you be able to rejoice at the sight of the new heaven and new earth and hear:
“… a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and He shall be their God.” Rev. 21:3
Check out the following podcast: Nature of God (August 11, 2011)