by Sharon Lindbloom
31 July 2020
The August 2020 issue of Ensign magazine includes two back-to-back articles that reference the LDS doctrine of human beings becoming like God. An apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is quoted in “Seeing Yourself in the Great Plan of Happiness” by Seventy Brian K. Taylor:
“Our entire perspective of ourselves, our worth, and what we can make of our lives is altered for good when we come to understand that we are God’s children and that we can become like Him.” (quoted in Ensign, August 2020, 37)
On the following page Mr. Taylor explains that in reading the Book of Mormon he “was able to see further and understand more—that grace for grace, my Heavenly Father and my Savior would bless me to become even as They are…” (ibid. 38).
On page 39, an article headlined “He is the Way” (no author named) says, “Before we were born, Heavenly Father presented a plan for us to become like Him.” And on page 42, following a center-spread graphic, the article concludes, “By following Him, we can become like God and return to Him one day.”
While it would be helpful for readers to know what it means to “become like God,” the only statement in these articles that even approaches a definition is in Mr. Taylor’s article when he writes, “…become even as They are—holy and full of joy forever!” (38). The Mormon doctrine of becoming like God surely is that, but includes so much more.
The LDS church published an online essay in 2014 titled “Becoming Like God” in which it is explained,
“Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people may ‘progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny.’ Just as a child can develop the attributes of his or her parents over time, the divine nature that humans inherit can be developed to become like their Heavenly Father’s.”
In order to get a fuller understanding of the LDS doctrine of becoming like God, or of developing one’s divine nature to become like Heavenly Father, it’s helpful to look at how this core teaching of Mormonism has been described by additional church authorities.
Beginning with LDS scripture, “[they] shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths…and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them.” (D&C 132:19-20)
Of course Joseph Smith agreed, and in 1844 taught that not only can human beings become like God, God was once like human beings and later achieved his Godhood: “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea…he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did…” Therefore, in like manner, “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…” (King Follett Discourse).
Joseph Smith’s prophetic successor, Brigham Young, explained in greater detail, “We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven” (Journal of Discourses 3:93). Furthermore, “When they receive their crowns, their dominions, they then will be prepared to frame earth’s 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).
LDS Church manuals have carried this doctrine forward, tying the human achievement of Godhood to the church’s unique practice of “celestial marriage.” Stating on page 1 that marriage is a “laboratory for godhood,” the church’s 1992 Achieving a Celestial Marriage Student Manual went on to teach:
“In the relationship of husband and wife and parent and child we begin to approach the divine calling of godhood. Our Heavenly Father and mother live in an exalted state because they achieved a celestial marriage. As we achieve a like marriage we shall become as they are and begin the creation of worlds for our own spirit children.” (65)
Gospel Fundamentals, a book published by the Mormon church in 2002 (and available on the church’s website) says, “To live in the highest part of the celestial kingdom is called exaltation or eternal life. To be able to live in this part of the celestial kingdom, people must have been married in the temple and must have kept the sacred promises they made in the temple. They will receive everything our Father in Heaven has and will become like Him. They will even be able to have spirit children and make new worlds for them to live on, and do all the things our Father in Heaven has done” (201).
Another church manual (also available on the LDS church’s website) includes a story about a visit to a kindergarten class made by the church’s fifth prophet, Lorenzo Snow. President Snow noted, “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, 90-91, 2004).
According to the authoritative teachings of the LDS church, “becoming like God” is synonymous with “becoming a God.” It includes “growing up” from the lowliness of humanity to the achievement of the glory of Godhood. It includes inheriting “thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, [and] dominions.” It includes “the [self-]creation of worlds for our own spirit children.” It includes ruling “as gods” over our worlds and our posterity. According to Mormonism, this is exactly the path our God has followed and exactly what He has achieved; human beings may follow in their Heavenly Father’s footsteps, becoming just as He is–becoming like God, becoming a God.
The LDS church’s essay touches on the fulness of the Mormon doctrine of “becoming like God,” but does not flesh it out. The essay’s third paragraph, quoted in part above, merely hints at a clear doctrinal statement on this topic that was provided by a former First Presidency. On page 130 of the Achieving a Celestial Marriage manual, under the headings “Men are Gods in embryo. We have the Potential to Become like Our Heavenly Parents,” there is this official doctrinal statement:
“‘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.’ (The First Presidency [Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder, Anthon H. Lund], ‘The Origin of Man,’ Improvement Era, Nov. 1909, p. 81)”
The 2014 church essay states, “The doctrine of humans’ eternal potential to become like their Heavenly Father is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” This is the unbiblical heart of Mormonism (e.g., see Isaiah 43:10). And the fact that it’s noted and repeated several times in the 2020 August Ensign magazine confirms that “The Grand Destiny of the Faithful” — that is, the goal of becoming Gods just like Mormonism’s Heavenly Father — remains alive and well in the Mormon church.
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”
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