During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
“It is a wonderful pleasure to speak upon the great things that God proposes to bestow upon His sons and daughters, and that we shall attain to if we are faithful.”
If you are a Christian who thinks that there are many similarities between Mormonism and biblical Christianity, this will be a chapter that will show how far apart these two faiths really are.
From the Life of Lorenzo Snow
In the spring of 1840, Lorenzo Snow was in Nauvoo, Illinois, preparing to leave for a mission in England. He visited the home of his friend Henry G. Sherwood, and he asked Brother Sherwood to explain a passage of scripture. “While attentively listening to his explanation,” President Snow later recalled, “the Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon me—the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown me. …
“As man now is, God once was: “As God now is, man may be.”
This is known as the Lorenzo Snow couplet, found in a church manual used in meetings throughout 2013 for officially teaching Latter-day Saints doctrinal truth. The idea that God was once human and that obedient Latter-day Saints can some day attain godhood is fundamental to Mormonism. Of this, there can be no doubt. In his book In their Own Words, Bill McKeever has compiled LDS quotes on a variety of topics. For the topic of “godhood,” he has listed no fewer than six pages of quotes (out of 312 pages with more than a hundred topics), more than for any other single topic. Obviously, I can’t quote them all, but a few will do. For example, consider these quotes from church manuals:
“Can you see the reasonable basis for belief that you can become a God like he is by progressing here and hereafter?” (Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 58).
“We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation” (Gospel Principles, 1985, p. 290).
“All good things come from God. Everything that he does is to help his children become like him – a god. He has said, ‘Behold, this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39)” (Gospel Principles, 1997, p. 9).
“Consider this fact: Your marriage is a laboratory for godhood” (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, p. 65).
Reflecting on Snow’s couplet, a 2003 manual explained,
“One of Lorenzo Snow’s great contributions was his elucidation of the doctrine that man might one day become like God. As President of the Church he gave a discourse entitled ‘The Grand Destiny of Man.’ He related how as a young man he had been inspired by one of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s sermons about the manifestations of God and Jesus Christ to him. Two and one-half years later, after a patriarchal blessing meeting, Joseph Smith, Sr., had promised Lorenzo that he could become as great as God himself. Two and one-half years after that, while Lorenzo listened to an explanation of the scriptures, the Lord inspired him to compose this couplet: ‘As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.’ President Snow stated, ‘Nothing was ever revealed more distinctly than that was to me.’ Shortly before Joseph Smith’s death, Lorenzo heard him teach the same doctrine. Thereafter Elder Snow made the doctrine one of the subjects of his own discourses” (Church History in the Fulness of Times, 2003, pp. 451-452).
In his web article on the topic of Snow’s couplet, Bill McKeever talks about how some deny that this is taught any longer in a more politically correct Mormon Church. One denier is Dr. Richard Mouw, who for many years was the president of Fuller Theological Seminary. In 2012, Mouw wrote a book titled Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals. This past year he began to tour and speak to audiences with BYU professor Robert Millet. Mouw consistently minimizes the differences and stressed the similarities between Mormonism and Christianity.
Bill describes the event in 2004 when Mouw publicly delivered a blanket apology to the Mormons attending a Tabernacle talk by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias.
When asked to clarify, Dr. Mouw wrote, “I have received emails in the past few days where evangelicals have said that Mormonism teaches that God was once a human being like us, and we can become gods just like God now is. Mormon leaders have specifically stated that such a teaching, while stated by past leaders, is something they don’t understand and has no functioning place in present day Mormon doctrine.” Dr. Mouw offered no evidence from LDS leaders to support his claim. Considering how often LDS leaders have taught on this subject, it seems nonsensical to insist that they are confused about what Lorenzo Snow or Joseph Smith meant.
Dr. Mouw instead solicited the help of BYU professors Robert Millet and Stephen Robinson in his defense: “Bob Millet has made the same point to many of us, and Stephen Robinson insisted, in the book he co-authored with Craig Blomberg, that this is not an official Mormon teaching, even though it can be found in non-canonical Mormon writings.” If Dr. Mouw is accurately relating what he was told, then we must ask why Dr. Millet would make such a comment when he himself supported Lorenzo Snow’s couplet in a July 1996 Ensign article titled “The Eternal Gospel.”
On page 53 Dr. Millet wrote, “Knowing what we know concerning God our Father—that he is a personal being; that he has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as our own; that he is an exalted and glorified being; that he was once a man and dwelt on an earth—and knowing that this knowledge was had by many of the ancients, should we be surprised to find legends and myths throughout the cultures of the earth concerning gods who have divine power but human attributes and passions?”
It should also be pointed out that in the book Dr. Mouw mentions above (How Wide the Divide?) co-author Stephen Robinson does not at all discount the significance of Snow’s couplet. In fact he calls this teaching “normative” in LDS thought. On page 87 of How Wide the Divide he wrote, “…it is the official teaching of the LDS Church that God the Father has a physical body (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22). The belief that God the Father was once a human being rests mainly on two technically uncanonized sources (sermons of Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow) which have, however, in effect become normative.”
Notice that Dr. Robinson fully acknowledges that this was taught by both Smith and Snow. Why in the world should it matter if the teachings are “uncanonized” if they are, in fact, normative in Mormon thought? To downplay the teaching’s significance with such a game of semantics seems like an incredible display of intellectual dishonesty.
On page 91 of How Wide the Divide, Dr. Robinson goes on to state, “Nothing I say here should be interpreted as denying the importance for Mormonism of God’s corporality and God’s nature as an exalted man. Neither am I denying the importance of LDS belief that we humans are literally God’s children and can become what God is. These are lynchpins in LDS theology.”
Consider also that the July 1982 edition of the Ensign magazine, Elder Gerald Lund (now serving as an LDS Seventy) stated, “It is clear that the teaching of President Lorenzo Snow is both acceptable and accepted doctrine in the Church today” (“I have a question,” Ensign, p.38)” To my knowledge this statement has never been rescinded by the First Presidency.
Bill went on to say:
Dr. Mouw accuses evangelicals of telling Mormons what they believe rather than asking them. While I am sure some Christians have unfortunately approached Mormons in that manner, I don’t think it is wise to elevate a Mormon’s unique and personal views to the level of LDS leaders.
For instance, Dr. Mouw claims he was told by Robert Millet that Lorenzo Snow’s couplet has no functioning place in present-day Mormonism. I contacted the LDS Church public relations department and asked if Dr. Millet “was expressing an official church position.” It wasn’t a trick question, but I did ask with the hope that I would get an “official” answer. On November 30, 2004, I received the following from LDS spokesman Dale Bills: “Dr. Millet does not speak for the Church. Church doctrine is established by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.”
While he made it clear that Dr. Millet has no authority to speak for the church (no surprise here), he really didn’t clarify whether or not the couplet was still considered a part of the LDS faith. Since my question wasn’t really answered, I sent a follow up email on December 2nd. In this post I wrote, “Mr. Bills, Thank you for your reply. May I then conclude that Lorenzo’s Snow’s couplet still has a vital role in LDS teaching?”
After patiently waiting a month and a half for a response, I sent another post on January 17, 2005. Once again I asked Mr. Bills if the Snow couplet was a functional teaching in the LDS Church. As of this writing, he has not seen fit to reply. I found his silence quite baffling. Why can’t the LDS Church PR department answer a simple yes or no question? After all, the January 2005 issue of the Ensign magazine had no problem supporting at least half of Snow’s couplet in an article titled, “Created in the Image of God, Male and Female.” On pages 48-49 it stated, “The Prophet Joseph Smith taught of a much simpler and more sensible relationship: God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens.”
Among their public appearances during January 2013, Millet and Mouw spoke at a Christian book company’s event. On tape, Mouw is quoted as saying, “That every Mormon man and his family is (SIC) going to live on a planet and be a God and all that. That’s not canonical. That’s not official teaching. So it’s so important to distinguish between folk Mormonism and the official teachings, the canonical teachings. So there’s the folk Mormonism, i.e. what God now is what man is God once was, what God is man may become, it’s never found in Mormon scripture. It’s kind of a folk thing that has been taken on but it doesn’t have official status.”
Mouw’s reasoning is quite fallacious. Of course, he can believe whatever he wants to believe about the teachings of Mormonism. However, it is misleading to use a public forum to make Mormonism look compatible to Christianity. After all, Snow’s couplet must have some type of “official status” since Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow is vetted and is considered a part of correlated curriculum! This whole chapter five is about how human beings were created with spiritual DNA, a direct link to God and ultimate godhood. Contrary to what Mouw told those in attendance at his January 2013 meeting, the couplet “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may be” is still being taught. If this teacing isn’t accurate, then why did the LDS Church leaders publish this chapter in a book that is being studied by the membership in 2013?
If you would like to read more on this issue, I recommend Dr. Ronald Huggins’ article that criticizes Mouw’s naiveté or, if you will, his outright deception. Click here. To me, Mouw’s denial about a classic but current doctrinal teaching is completely puzzling, especially since he has been approached a number of times by Christian pastors, apologists, and scholars about this particular issue.
Feeling that he had received “a sacred communication” that he should guard carefully, Lorenzo Snow did not teach the doctrine publicly until he knew that the Prophet Joseph Smith had taught it. Once he knew the doctrine was public knowledge, he testified of it frequently.
Notice, the Snow couplet is considered to be a “doctrine” in this church manual. Where did Snow get this communication? Neither the Bible nor the Book of Mormon agree with his couplet. It wasn’t until the year or two before he died that Smith expounded on the teaching that humans can become gods. In his famous “King Follett Discourse,” Smith taught,
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret… [Y]ou 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…”
In a later sermon, he boldly preached:
“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? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.”
In addition to making this truth a theme for many of his sermons, he adopted it as the theme for his life. His son LeRoi said, “This revealed truth impressed Lorenzo Snow more than perhaps all else; it sank so deeply into his soul that it became the inspiration of his life and gave him his broad vision of his own great future and the mighty mission and work of the Church.” It was his “constant light and guide” and “a bright, illuminating star before him all the time—in his heart, in his soul, and all through him.”
To me, these words are cause for great concern. This teaching apparently “sank so deeply into his [Snow’s] soul that it became the inspiration of his life…” When one comprehends the teaching that Snow proposed, we realize how blasphemous his words really are. If this made up the theological core of Snow’s beliefs, then we must conclude that this man really was a false prophet.
For an excellent look at this topic, please click here.
In this chapter, President Snow teaches the doctrine that we can become like our Heavenly Father. In chapter 6, he gives practical counsel on how we can apply this doctrine in our lives.
Once more, the word “doctrine” is used–this is certainly not a teaching that is less than authoritative for Latter-day Saints today. So why do Christians not consider Mormonism to be the same as “Christianity”? If our views on God are different, then we certainly have a problem. Many Mormons who are reading this may have argued, “But we’re Christians too.” However, if the LDS God was once a human being and graduated to godhood and all people have the same opportunity to do what Heavenly Father did, then the difference is as great as night and day. Both views on God cannot be true. If Mormonism does not get it right about God, then nothing else the church teaches can be accurate.
Teachings of Lorenzo Snow
Because we have divinity within us, we can become like our Father in Heaven.
The very first recorded lie told by Satan (called the “Father of all lies” by Jesus) is that “ye shall be as gods.” Isn’t this a problem?
We were born in the image of God our Father; he begat us like unto himself. There is the nature of deity in the composition of our spiritual organization; in our spiritual birth our Father transmitted to us the capabilities, powers and faculties which he himself possessed, as much so as the child on its mother’s bosom possesses, although in an undeveloped state, the faculties, powers and susceptibilities of its parent.
To a Bible-believing Christian, this is outright blasphemy! To say that humans have “the nature of deity” is far from biblical teaching.
I believe that we are the sons and daughters of God, and that He has bestowed upon us the capacity for infinite wisdom and knowledge, because He has given us a portion of Himself. We are told that we were made in His own image, and we find that there is a character of immortality in the soul of man. There is a spiritual organism within this tabernacle [the physical body], and that spiritual organism has a divinity in itself, though perhaps in an infantile state; but it has within itself the capability of improving and advancing, as the infant that receives sustenance from its mother. Though the infant may be very ignorant, yet there are possibilities in it that by passing through the various ordeals of childhood to maturity enable it to rise to a superiority that is perfectly marvellous, compared with its infantile ignorance.
Instead of digging himself out of heresy, Snow creates an bigger hole.
We have divinity within ourselves; we have immortality within ourselves; our spiritual organism is immortal; it cannot be destroyed; it cannot be annihilated. We will live from all eternity to all eternity.
Listen to what the Psalmist says in Psalm 90:2: “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Humans did not exist in the beginning with God. Instead, Isaiah 43:10 says, “’You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” If there were other gods, certainly this God doesn’t know of any. He says in Isaiah 44:6,8, “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no god….Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
Certainly, if there were other gods before God and there will be other gods after God, wouldn’t God know about these gods? Either God is not omniscient or there are no other gods. A comprehensive reading of the Bible shows that humans do not “live from all eternity to all eternity.”
This leads us to the question, Is it possible that God the Father—if he were a human at one time in another realm—was a sinner? For this topic, we highly recommend this article and this website. For a Christian who has never heard this information before, it is crucal to understand how vitally important this issue really is.
It is a wonderful pleasure to speak upon the great things that God proposes to bestow upon His sons and daughters, and that we shall attain to if we are faithful. … Our travel in this path of exaltation will bring to us the fullness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to stand in the presence of our Father, to receive of His fullness, to have the pleasure of increasing in our posterity worlds without end, to enjoy those pleasant associations that we have had in this life, to have our sons and our daughters, our husbands and our wives, surrounded with all the enjoyment that heaven can bestow, our bodies glorified like unto the Savior’s, free from disease and all the ills of life, and free from the disappointments and vexations and the unpleasant sacrifices that we are making here.
Christians do believe in having a glorified body. First Corinthians 15 talks about this, so we have no problem with the idea. However, this concept involves more than just “glorification.” After all, Mormonism teaches that those attaining the celestial kingdom will “increase” in their “worlds without end,” and have the possibility of residing forever with their early eternal families.
Through a continual course of progression our Heavenly Father has received exaltation and glory and he points us out the same path and, inasmuch as he is clothed with power, authority and glory, he says, “walk ye up and come in possession of the same glory and happiness that I possess.”
How could God have “a continual course of progression” if, as Psalm 90:2, He has always been God? For a list of attributes of the God of Mormonism and how this god does not correspond to the biblical version of God, see here.
The people of God are precious in His sight; His love for them will always endure, and in His might and strength and affection, they will triumph and be brought off more than conqueror. They are His children, made in His image and destined through obedience to His laws to become like unto Him… This is the high destiny of the sons of God, they who overcome, who are obedient to His commandments, who purify themselves even as He is pure. They are to become like Him; they will see Him as He is; they will behold His face and reign with Him in His glory, becoming like unto Him in every particular.
See the review of chapter 4 from Snow’s book for more information on what is required to “overcome.” (Hint: over and over again, personal obedience is the requirement.) See here.
The scriptures teach of our divine potential.
It is apparent to me that LDS church leaders hope that by throwing a ton of proof texts at the topic, this will somehow convince the reader that what has been discussed is a biblical idea. Let’s see which verses they use and how they use them.
The Lord has placed before us incentives of the grandest character. In the revelations which God has given, we find what a person can reach who will travel this path of knowledge and be guided by the Spirit of God. I had not been in this Church [very long] when it was clearly shown to me what a man could reach through a continued obedience to the Gospel of the Son of God.
We’re not just talking about obedience but “continued obedience.” This is what is we call the “impossible gospel.”
That knowledge has been as a star continually before me, and has caused me to be particular in trying to do that which was right and acceptable to God. … It seems, after all the education that we had in things pertaining to the celestial worlds, that there are some Latter-day Saints who are so well satisfied with simply knowing that the work is true that when you come to talk to them of our great future they seem surprised, and think it has nothing to do particularly with them. John the Revelator, in the third chapter of his first epistle, says: “Now are we the sons of God.” [1 John 3:2] … And he goes on: “And it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as God is pure.” [See 1 John 3:2-3]”
To be “like him” is taken by Snow and LDS leaders to mean that humans could possibly end up having all of the attributes of God Himself, including omnipotence, or “all-powerfulness.” However, since only one being could hold “all power,” having more than one omnipotent being defies the very meaning of the word. In his commentary on 1 John, Christian theologian Simon J. Kistemaker writes:
“Scripture discloses that at the coming of Christ we will be glorified in body and soul. ‘We shall be like him.’ The Bible nowhere states that we shall be equal to Christ. Instead it tells us that we shall be conformed to the likeness of the Son of God. We share his immortality. However, Christ has the preeminence, for the Son of God is ‘the firstborn among many brothers’ (Rom. 8:29).” (New Testament Commentary: James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude, 295).
It also ought to be pointed out that we become “sons of God” at our confession of faith (belief); this is not something we were at some “preexistent” state. Notice the words of John 1:12-13: “Yet to all who received him to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” When John writes 1 John, he makes it clear that “now” we are the children of God, something we were not before conversion. In 1 John 3:1-2, he separates the “children of God” from those who belong to the world. “Now we are the children of God,” as in before they were not. There is no evidence in the Bible to support the idea that anyone was a child of God before their birth.
… The Spirit of God has conveyed to us that there are solid and solemn truths in expressions of this kind. Paul, in speaking to the Philippians, suggested that they cultivate an ambition which is quite strange to the people at the present time, though not so to the Latter-day Saints, especially those who are not satisfied to be but babes in the things of God. He says:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” [Philippians 2:5-6.]
What is deceiving about the quoting of this passage is that the editors of this manual put a period after “God” when the King James Version uses a colon. To be accurate, the editors should have used an ellipses (…) to indicate more was meant to be said. What are the following verses:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
According to the context, Paul is attempting to explain the humility he wanted the believers to have (see verses 1-4). Then, beginning wiht verse 5, the context shows that Paul is talking about Jesus in this passage and not about the possibility that somehow humans can “be equal with God.” Someone who didn’t understand the context of Philippians 2 could be left with the impression that verse 6 is support for the LDS doctrine of men becoming gods. Paul says that Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, or boasted about! Thus, this passage has absolutely nothing to do with humans becoming gods. Shame on the editors for making this verse look like it supports an unbiblical teaching.
… This [is] what Paul taught, and he understood what he was talking about. He was caught up to the third heaven and heard things, he tells us, that were unlawful for man to utter [see 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 ]. … Would it be wrong for us to ask the people here to cultivate an ambition of this character?
Paul had this experience, but it had nothing to do with becoming gods. I’m not sure how this passage fits in the conversation.
There are a number of sayings in the Bible, particularly in the New Testament, that seem strange to people not in possession of the Spirit of the Lord. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things.” [Revelation 21:7] What an expression is that? Who believes it? If a father were to say to his son, “My son, be faithful, and follow my counsels, and when you become of age you shall inherit all that I possess,” it would mean something, would it not? If the father told the truth, that son would have something to encourage him to be faithful. Did Jesus want to deceive us when He made use of this expression? I will assure you that there is no deception in the language. He meant precisely what He said.
Once more, a verse is ripped out of its context to say something that the original author never intended. Christians will inherit heaven, but they will not inherit their own worlds. Christians believe that they will have glorified bodies and live with Him forever. Present this idea to many Mormons and they might get offended. More than once I’ve been told by Latter-day Saints that they have no desire to reside with Jesus for eternity; after all, they say, why would anyone want that when it’s possible to be with your wife and family throughout eternity? However, Mormon 7:7 gives a different impression from traditional Mormonism. It says, “And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.” This is a much different picture of heaven than what LDS leaders teach.
Again, Jesus said: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne.” [Revelation 3:21] That is a wonderful saying. Is there any truth in it? It is all true. It is the Lord Almighty that said it.
The notion that God progressed from human to God is a great source of comfort to many Latter-day Saints. This gives them the hope that if they too are faithful, they also can achieve godhood.
Brigham Young taught, “All those who are counted worthy to be exalted and to become Gods, even the sons of God, will go forth and have earths and worlds like those who framed this and millions on millions of others.” (Journal of Discourses 17:143) He added that these worthy members will create earths “like unto ours and to people them in the same manner as we have been brought forth by our parents, by our Father and God.” (Journal of Discourses 18:259)
According to Mormonism, not only will exalted humans be forming and ruling over worlds, but they will also have the ability to procreate throughout eternity. This doctrine is known as eternal increase. A church manual declares,
“Mortal persons who overcome all things and gain an ultimate exaltation will live eternally in the family unit and have spirit children, thus becoming Eternal Fathers and Eternal Mothers. (D&C 132:19–32.) Indeed, the formal pronouncement of the Church, issued by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve, states: “So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring.”(Eternal Marriage Student Manual: Religion 234 and 235, 167).
Apostle Orson Pratt (1811–1881) said that “the inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited.”(The Seer, 37). Spencer W. Kimball wrote, “Each one of you has it within the realm of his possibility to develop a kingdom over which you will preside as its king and god. You will need to develop yourself and grow in ability and power and worthiness, to govern such a world with all of its people.”(Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual: Religion 430-431, 29)
A 2004 LDS student manual recounts a story about Lorenzo Snow (1814–1901), who, while visiting a kindergarten class in Provo, Utah, saw several children making clay “spheres.” Snow told the school official accompanying him:
“These children are now at play, making mud worlds, the time will come when some of these boys, through their faithfulness to the gospel, will progress and develop in knowledge, intelligence and power, in future eternities, until they shall be able to go out into space where there is unorganized matter and call together the necessary elements, and through their knowledge of and control over the laws and powers of nature, to organize matter into worlds on which their posterity may dwell, and over which they shall rule as gods” (Presidents of the Church Student Manual: Religion 345, 90).
Citing Spencer W. Kimball, Apostle L. Tom Perry said,
Peter and John had little secular learning, being termed ignorant. But they knew the vital things of life, that God lives and that the crucified, resurrected Lord is the Son of God. They knew the path to eternal life. This they learned in a few decades of their mortal life. Their righteous lives opened the door to godhood for them and creation of worlds with eternal increase. For this they would probably need, eventually, a total knowledge of the sciences . . . Secular knowledge, important as it may be, can never save a soul nor open the celestial kingdom nor create a world nor make a man a god. (“The Tradition of a Balanced, Righteous Life,” Ensign, August 2011, 51).
Why wasn’t this aspect further explored in Snow’s manual? Despite the above references made by LDS leaders and church manuals pointing to the possibility of Mormons being able to make and rule over their own worlds, the Mormon Church posted a statement on its official
Newsroom Web site relegating such comments to nothing more than mere speculation. Answering the question “Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will ‘get their own planet’?” the statement answered, “No. This idea is not taught in Latter-day Saint scripture, nor is it a doctrine of the Church. This misunderstanding stems from speculative comments unreflective of scriptural doctrine.” The statement appears to use semantics to cover up teachings made by past LDS leaders who speak of Mormons making and ruling worlds and earths.
It is not uncommon for a Latter-day Saint to tone down the impact of this teaching by emphasizing that Mormons can merely become “like God,” as if this somehow means there is a distinction between what the LDS God is now and what Latter-day Saints hope to become. Though Mormons assume that exalted humans will always be subordinate to God, to insist that exalted beings will be merely “like God” suggests there will always be, to a certain degree, a substantial difference in quality and attributes between Elohim and his offspring. If this is so, is the Mormon Elohim also dissimilar from the God(s) who preceded him? In other words, if every generation of gods lacks in any degree the power, might, and dominion of the gods who preceded them, then it must be assumed that the God worshipped by present-day Mormons is also lesser in power, might, and dominion than the myriad of gods who were exalted before him. This means that the Mormon God is subordinate as well as inferior to the gods who preceded him. For more information on being “like God or as God,” see here.
We are told in the Scriptures by the Apostle Paul: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” [2 Corinthians 5:1.] I believe that. And when he says that Jesus “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” [Philippians 3:21] I believe that also. Do the Latter-day Saints believe these things that I am talking about? You must, of course, believe them.
Christians also believe that our bodies will be changed. It’s called glorification. However, Christians don’t believe this concept means that a person can become the god of his own world.
Again: “For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; “And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; “And he that receiveth my Father, receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.” [D&C 84:36-38.]
A passage from the Doctrine and Covenants is not considered scritpure to those Christians who deny the authority of Joseph Smith.
Could anyone think of anything more that could be given? … Paul comprehended these things very well, for he said he “pressed forward to the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” [See Philippians 3:14.]
Again, this biblical reference has nothing to do with becoming gods. The prize for the Christian is eternal life with God forever! It is not about attaining “godhood.”
In these remarks which I have made we may see something in regard to the nature of this high calling in Christ Jesus. …… I do not know how many there are here that have got a real knowledge of these things in their hearts. If you have, I will tell you what its effects will be. As John said: “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as God is pure.” [See 1 John 3:3.]
Once more, here is another prooftext having nothing to do with becoming gods.
… God has pointed out the results of traveling upon this road of glory and exaltation and the promises are sure. The Lord knew precisely what He could do. He knew what materials He had to operate with, and He knew just what He said. If we do the part that He has assigned unto us, and keep our second estate, we shall be sure to realize these promises in every particular, and more than you and I can possibly comprehend.
Presuppositions have to be made in order to manufacture Joseph Smith’s later ideas into proper interpretation of scripture. Exaltation is an idea that finds absolutely no support in the Bible.
As we remember the blessings the Lord has prepared for us, we find joy amid the cares and vexations of life. There is no Latter-day Saint within the sound of my voice but that certainly has this prospect of coming forth in the morning of the first resurrection and being glorified, exalted in the presence of God, having the privilege of talking with our Father as we talk with our earthly father.
There could not be placed before men more glorious prospects than are placed before the Saints. No mortal man could wish anything greater or that will ultimately prove more satisfactory. Everything that pertains to perfect peace, happiness, glory and exaltation is before the Latter-day Saints. We should enjoy the spirit of this, and keep it actively before us. We should not let our prospects be darkened in the least by doing that which is not acceptable before the Lord.
My hopes in reference to the future life are supremely grand and glorious, and I try to keep these prospects bright continually; and that is the privilege and the duty of every Latter-day Saint.
We do not all of us fully comprehend the blessings and privileges that are prepared in the gospel for us to receive. We do not fully comprehend and we do not have before our view the things which await us in the eternal worlds, nor indeed the things which await us in this life and that are calculated to promote our peace and happiness and answer the desires of our hearts. …
We frequently, in the multitude of cares around us, get forgetful and these things are not before us, then we do not comprehend that the gospel is designed and calculated in its nature to bestow upon us those things that will bring glory, honor and exaltation, that will bring happiness, peace and glory. We are apt to forget these things in the midst of the cares and vexations of life, and we do not fully understand that it is our privilege, and that the Lord has placed it in our reach to pursue that gospel whereby we may have peace within us continually. …
The carrot is before the horse. In these paragraphs the leadership encourages its membership to continually contemplate the possibility of exaltation. And all that needs to be done is obey! It sounds so simple. Yet there are millions of faithful Latter-day Saints who are doing the best they can and not realizing that they are striving for the impossible.
Where is there cause to mourn? Where is there cause for the Saints to wear long faces? Where is there cause for weeping or repining? There is none; but it is life or death that is set before us; principalities and powers are ours if we continue faithful; sorrow and banishment if we disregard the gospel.
For those who understand that what Snow and other LDS leaders are explaining about exaltation is pure heresy, there really is a “cause to mourn.” If Snow’s couplet—again, it’s “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may be”—is false, then Mormonism is a false gospel. As Paul warned in Galatians 1:8-9 (quoted earlier), this is a gospel that ought to be avoided at all costs.
What can we wish for more than is comprehended in our religion? If we will stand firm upon the rock and will follow the Spirit that has been placed in our bosoms, we shall act right in the way of our duties, we shall act right to those who are placed over us, we shall act right whether in the light or in the dark.
Instead of just relying on “the Spirit that has been placed in our bosoms,” Latter-day Saint, compare the Bible with what is taught in Mormonism. None of the verses cited by Snow in this manual supports the idea that becoming gods is a real possibility.
Where is the man that will turn aside and throw away those prospects that are embraced in the gospel which we have received? In it there is satisfaction, there is a joy, there is stability, there is something upon which to rest our feet, there is a sure foundation to build upon and upon which to yield that which is required of us. Let us never allow our prospects to become dimmed; let them be fresh before us by day and by night, and I will assure you that if we will do this our growth from day to day and from year to year will be marvelous.
The person who “will turn aside and throw away those prospects” are those who understand just how heretical this teaching really is. Just because it may sound very romantic, to be with one’s family forever, does not make it true. See here for more information on this topic.
We are all aiming for celestial glory, and the grandeur of the prospects before us cannot be expressed in human language. If you will continue faithful to the work in which you are engaged, you will attain unto this glory, and rejoice evermore in the presence of God and the Lamb. This is worth striving for; it is worth sacrificing for, and blessed is the man or the woman who is faithful unto the obtaining of it.
Suppose I told a child, “Let me tell you about Disney World in New York City. It has lots of wild rides, Cinderella’s castle, Mickey Mouse, and amazing shows. All you need to do is obey and I’ll take you there. It will be a gift.” “Oh, I can do that,” your daughter exclaims. Then I give her the clincher. “Just one more thing,” I add. “You have to be obedient every single day, for 10 years. If you commit an offense, say, talking back to mom and dad, you can apologize (repent). But you can’t be disobedient in that way any more because then you will know the right thing to do. Once you accomplish your goal and keep your end of the bargain, then I will keep mine and take you to this wonderful place that fulfills all your imaginatons.”
What kind of parent would you say I was? Demanding? Absolutely. Impossible? Quite. Deceiver? Since there is no such place as Disney World in New York City, the answer is YES. Snow says that “if you will continue faithful to the work in which you are engaged,” then all of the promises in chapter five will somehow come true. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Thus, the goal of reaching this mirage is not worth “striving” or “sacrificing for.” Instead of setting your sights on treasure that’s impossible to obtain, why not receive the treasure that Jesus wants to give you? This is what the Bible describes as a relationship with Him, made possible by the sacrifice of His blood. All of this comes based not on your merits but His.
This is an important chapter in this book, and I hope that you can see why those of us at MRM believe Mormonism cannot be compatible with Christianity. If you have further questions about these issues, please let us know at [email protected]. We really do care.
Check out more Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow articles.