By Aaron Shafovaloff
Posted August 15, 2021
Two LDS responses to my “Dilemmas of Mormon Exaltation” article are worth noting.
Timothy R. Berman argues that 1) Christ was subordinate to the Father and 2) the Father and Son are “interdependent.” From this he seems to imply:
- If the disciples become exalted as gods, they will remain subordinate to God but be in mutual interdependence with God — God dependent on his disciples, and his disciples dependent on God.
- If the Father has a Father, they likewise would have a relationship of subordination and interdependence: the Father subordinate to Heavenly Grandfather, the Father dependent on Heavenly Grandfather, and Heavenly Grandfather dependent on our Father.
This does not solve the problem. Indeed, it worsens: God would be dependent on us, and Heavenly Grandfather dependent on Heavenly Father. And Heavenly Father would bend the knee to — if there is one — Heavenly Grandfather.
His rebuttal ends with a punt:
“Is God independent of, and not subordinate to, any other gods? Or, is he subordinate and dependent to any other Gods? The answer is – we do not know and that is the great mystery.”
Scott Banta argues that the gods become “exalted equals”, remain subject to their respective fathers, but have their own independent domains:
“Think of it in terms of a son becoming a father of his own children. The son has moved out and has their own job and wife and now a child. They have become the man of their own house and have taken upon themselves the role of provider and father. Does that imply that that son, now new father, has undone his relationship with his own father, and thereafter is not subject to him? Or is that son actually not the man of his own house and domain, simply because he still has a father? The idea is inane, because the first father still is over the house and domain in which the son was, and is now, still directly a part of. But the son now has his own house and domain and family that he alone is in charge of, independent from the first father; or more technically more further removed from the dependency of the first father. Both can be true in their own contexts.”
Instead of splitting the dilemma and avoiding the worst of each side, this view combines defects from each to multiply the problem. Heavenly Father would still be “directly a part of” Heavenly Grandfather’s house, and, in that context (visiting? cosmic hometown divine council meetings?), still be subject to him. Yet we as exalted gods would have “moved out” to have our own domain, which we alone are in charge of, independent of God.
If anything, Banta affirms that the exalted gods in Mormonism never really achieve comprehensive independence — they remain subordinate to, in at least some contexts, the gods who reared them. This also shows that the domains of ancestor deities are limited (they have boundaries, even if expanding, that exclude the domains of others), and newly exalted deities build their own independent, separate kingdoms, not under the jurisdiction of previous divine ancestors. Here we have cosmic regional deities that, when traveling to the domains of other gods, are subject to others.
(This raises another question: What does an exalted god do if visiting the domain of someone not his father, e.g. of heavenly grandfathers, or spirit-uncles, or spirit-grandchildren? Is there code of conduct or heavenly court decorum for subordinately approaching the throne of an exalted god who is a distant relative or a great-grandchild now-deity? Does one take a subordinate posture when visiting the domain of another deity, no matter the relation?)
On expanding vs. overlapping godheads Scott concedes: “I can be both a son and a father simultaneously, but each in their own context, therefore the roles never really overlap?” So one can conceivably belong to multiple godheads (one as father, another as son), but keep the duties and interests of each godhead separate.
But he rejects an expanding godhead:
“We do not “join the existing Godhead”, because they are still your Godhead in their own context and your dominion is not over their dominion, but an exclusive subsection of their dominion. Again just because I can become a father of my own dominion, doesn’t mean I cease being the son of my father’s dominion. There is not just one big pot of fathers and sons to pick from when building a Godhead, they must be within the realm of your own immediate dominions.”
The dilemma is real, and Scott has taken a side. Since any given “purpose” of a godhead is specific to the domain of a particular god, they indeed have different purposes.
If I understand him correctly, in response to “shared vs. independent dominion between gods” Scott says that the gods grant an initial subsection plot of dominion to their exalted children, from which they develop their own kingdoms:
“Our dominion is both exclusive to us in that no other Godhead has dominion over it, but is also a subsection of our own Godhead’s dominion. the Father gives of His dominion to the Son, where the Son can cultivate and create his own dominion with that space of the Father’s dominion granted to the Son. Many are confused by this because they imagine a plot of land owned by the father, where the son gets a portion and then his son gets a portion of that son’s portion and so on and so forth until their should be nothing left. They surmise an infinite reduction issue. Except dominion isn’t a finite plot of land. Think of it in terms of the universe. the universe is ever expanding, therefore by the time the son receives his portion, his portion is just as big as his father’s portion when he received it. if you are having a hard time picturing it, go look up videos of the Mandelbort fractal zoom effect. it is a 3d imaging display of a mathematical equation of how the universes can be equally expanding in size and infinite in number and yet can still co-exist.”
Scott seems to think the main proposed problem here is exhaustible matter. But the dilemma as I stated it was about shared vs. independent domains. Scott has confirmed this dilemma by picking a side: independent domains. In this case God’s domain is not comprehensive, and our God will not have ownership over kingdoms we exclusively own as exalted gods.
On “exhaustible vs. infinite pool of coeternal intelligences” he seems to take Brigham’s view: that intelligence is a material, and new identities are begotten out of such material. In this case intelligences are not co-eternal individuals, but are egos or persons that have a beginning. This contradicts the position of Joseph Smith, as well as the view of B.H. Roberts later popularized within Mormonism and dominant today within LDS manuals.
“The premise is still based upon the same basic principle of there either being a finite plot of land rather than an ever expanding plot of land as explained in 3. And the proper way to view the intelligent material within those plots of land, isn’t to look at the dirt, but rather to imagine how much crops you could get out of that dirt. In any given season (round of creation), the crop yield is finite, but ultimately there is an infinite number of seasons that crops can come from that same plot of land, as long as it is properly maintained, of course. Essentially the dirt never dwindles away, no matter how many seasons worth of crops I grow on it.”
In other words, Scott’s solution here to the problem of Joseph Smith’s theology of co-eternal intelligences is to simply reject it. He found Brigham’s view more favorable.