By Eric Johnson
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS/Mormon) teaches unique doctrines contrary to biblical Christianity. One such belief is that Jesus, Lucifer, and all humans are literally spirit brothers and sisters from a previous existence. To understand the teaching, we must consider what a variety of LDS teachers have said throughout the years.
The Origin of God the Father
A church manual states, “God is a glorified and perfected man, a personage of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22). Inside his tangible body is an eternal spirit” (Gospel Principles, 1985, 9). This description is consistent with what church founder Joseph Smith taught in the King Follett Discourse: “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. . . . he was once a man like us” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-346. See also Gospel Principles, 1997, 305).
Church historian and apostle B.H. Roberts agreed with Smith’s claim when he said, “The Prophet Joseph Smith corrected the idea that God that was always God” (New Witness for God 1:465). On the next page, Roberts described an “endless line” of deities:
But if God the Father was not always God, but came to his present exalted position by degrees of progress as indicated in the teachings of the prophet, how has there been a God from all eternity? The answer is that there has been and there now exists an endless line of Divine Intelligences—Deities, stretching back into the eternities, that had no beginning and will have no end. Their existence runs parallel with endless duration, and their dominions are as limitless as boundless space.Ibid., 1:466.
Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “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” (Doctrines of Salvation 2:47. Italics in original). Smith also described God this way:
God is an exalted man. Some people are troubled over the statements of the Prophet Joseph Smith as found in the King Follett sermon delivered in Nauvoo in 1844. The matter that seems such a mystery is the statement that our Father in heaven at one time passed through a life and death and is an exalted man.Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, 9. Bold in original.
The God of Mormonism had to qualify to become the god of this universe. He worshiped another god above him, as Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stated how Joseph Smith taught that “there is ‘a God above the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’‘” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 322. Italics in original).
Apostle Orson Hyde taught on October 6, 1853,
Remember that God our Heavenly Father was perhaps once a child, and mortal like we ourselves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement; has moved forward and overcome, until He has arrived at the point where He now is.Journal of Discourses 1:123. See also The Gospel Through the Ages, 104-105 and Achieving a Celestial Marriage, 1976, 129.
George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, explained:
The Prophet Joseph teaches us that our Heavenly Father was once a man and dwelt on an earth like we do upon this and that He has gone on from step to step, from one degree of glory and exaltation to another, until He now rules and governs.Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, 1:128.
According to Apostle John A. Widtsoe, “God and man are of the same race, differing only in their degrees of advancement” (Rational Theology, 1915, 61).
In essence, Elohim became “God” only through faithful obedience to eternal law. Apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught, “The Father is a glorified, perfected, resurrected, exalted man who worked out his salvation by obedience to the same laws he has given to us so that we may do the same” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 64).
Summary: What can be understood about the origin of God the Father as taught by these LDS leaders?
- Elohim has a tangible body with an eternal spirit
- He once lived in another realm (“earth”) as a human
- He obeyed eternal law in order to become God
According to Mormonism, through physical relations with his heavenly wives, Elohim sired all spirits who existed in the preexistence. According to Apostle Boyd K. Packer, “The doctrine is simply this: life did not begin with mortal birth. We lived in spirit form before we entered mortality. We are spiritually the children of God” (“The Mystery of Life,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1983, 16).
This teaching is unique to Mormonism, as acknowledged by church leaders. For instance, “Of all the major Christian churches, only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the human race lived in a premortal existence with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (“Life Before Birth,” Ensign, February 2006, 30). (The idea that only this church teaches a doctrine that, historically, has never been believed previously ought to be a warning of its own!)
The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains it this way:
While members of other Christian denominations may speak metaphorically of all humankind being brothers and sisters and children of God, Latter-day Saints believe it literally in the sense that a father in heaven and a Mother in Heaven created spirit children in a premortal existence. Those spirit children, born into this or other worlds as mortal men and women, are therefore all of the same “generation” and are literally brothers and sisters, children of deity.1:234.
Lucifer and Jesus are clearly taught as being spirit brothers. For example, Apostle Robert D. Hales stated,
We cannot remember that we once lived with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and that we probably sat in meetings much like this, where the Father’s plan for us was explained. We cannot remember that Lucifer, a son of God the Father, a brother of Jesus Christ, rebelled against God’s plan and, in his rebellion, promised he would bring us all back home. But Lucifer would have denied us our free agency, the freedom to make decisions. We cannot remember that his plan was not accepted by us because, without choice, there would not have been a purpose for coming to this mortal probation. We would not have had opposition or repentance. We would not have learned obedience.“The Aaronic Priesthood: Return with Honor,” Ensign, Conference Edition, May 1990, 39. Italics added.
Eleventh President Harold B. Lee taught,
The person and influence of Satan are realities. Unfortunately there are among us—and I am afraid some of them are among the “intellectuals” in the Church-those who deny the reality and probability of there being any such person as a devil. I want to warn you that anyone who has that concept is just one step from disbelief in a personal God. We have put Satan in his place as a personal devil, the offspring of Deity in spiritual form just as the Savior was before He came here and took upon Himself a body. When we deny that there is a personal devil, we are by that same token denying that there is a personal Savior, because they were related, they were brothers in the spirit world. Let us make no mistake about that.The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 36-37. Italics in original.
Not only are Jesus and Lucifer considered brothers, but all humans are related to both as taught by Howard W. Hunter:
The brotherhood of man is literal. The brotherhood of man is literal. We are all of one blood and the literal spirit offspring of our eternal Heavenly Father. Before we came to earth we belonged to his eternal family. We associated and knew each other there. Our common paternity makes us not only literal sons and daughters of eternal parentage, but literal brothers and sisters as well. This is a fundamental teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.Speeches of the Year 1978-1979, 32. Cited in The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 10. Bold and italics in original.
Apostle Joseph F. Merrill gave the following information to a general conference audience:
According to our teachings, Satan and an army of supporters were cast down to earth from the premortal spirit world. They are spirit brothers of ours, and are real persons having spirit bodies.Conference Reports, April 1941, 49.
A church manual describes the time between preexistence and mortality when humans are born onto the earth:
The “first estate” refers to the period of time before we were born on this earth, also known as the premortal life. To “keep” this first estate, a spirit child of God in pre-earth life had to use his or her agency to choose to follow the plan of salvation offered by Heavenly Father. A third part of the spirit children of Heavenly Father followed Lucifer (the devil) and rebelled against God and the plan of salvation, thereby failing to keep their first estate. They were therefore cast out of heaven, with no more opportunity to progress. The “second estate” refers to mankind’s mortal existence on this earth. This estate is a probationary period in which individuals “prepare to meet God” (Alma 12:24). All who accept and obey the saving principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ will receive eternal life, the greatest gift of God, and will have “glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:26). Those who do not have the opportunity to accept and live the gospel in mortality are given that opportunity in the spirit world, after they die.The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual Religion 327, 2000, 38-39.
Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball describes contention between the two brothers during the lifetime of Jesus:
In the wilderness of Judaea, on the temple’s pinnacles and on the high mountain, a momentous contest took place between two brothers, Jehovah and Lucifer, sons of Elohim… Satan, also a son of God, had rebelled and had been cast out of heaven and not permitted an earthly body as had his brother Jehovah. Much depended upon the outcome of this spectacular duel.(Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 34. Ellipsis mine).
Summary: What can be understood about Mormonism’s doctrine of preexistence?
- God and Heavenly Mother(s) sired all spirits in the preexistence
- These spirits are literally the “children of God”
- Lucifer and Jesus are literal brothers of all humans
- Satan was cast out of heaven along with a third of God’s spirit children who became the demons
Implications of this LDS doctrine
Fourteenth President Howard W. Hunter explained at a general conference how Mormonism teaches in a “common genealogy leading back to God”:
Latter-day Saints have a positive and inclusive approach toward others who are not of our faith. We believe they are literally our brothers and sisters, that we are sons and daughters of the same Heavenly Father. We have a common genealogy leading back to God.“The Gospel—A Global Faith,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1991, 19.
There are huge implications with such a view. For instance,
- There is no biblical support that the preexistence is true. See Crash Course Mormonism: Preexistence / Premortality
- If God was once a human with a body of flesh and bones, then He must have been a sinner on a previous world, which is a contradiction of the Bible (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15, 7:26; 1 John 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:22). See Responding to the Claim that God was Once a Man and God Never Sinned
- The teaching that God has not always been God is contrary to the Bible. See Crash Course Mormonism: God the Father
- The teaching that Jesus has not always been God is contrary to the Bible. See https://www.mrm.org/different-lds-jesus and Crash Course Mormonism: Jesus as well as 10 Reasons Why the Jesus of Mormonism is Not the Same as the Jesus of the Bible
- Eternal matter is neither logical nor biblical. See How God Created: Creatio ex nihilo or ex materia?