Nature of God


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“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.... It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know... that he was once a man like us.... Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves... the same as all Gods have done before you...”

- Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., “King Follett Discourse,” Journal of Discourses, v. 6, pp. 3-4, also in Teachings of the Prophet of Joseph Smith, pp. 345-346.

“He is our Father – the Father of our Spirits, and was once a man in mortal flesh as we are, and is now an exalted being.”

- Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 7, p. 333.

“The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like himself.”

- Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 3, p. 93.

“... God... is a personal Being, a holy and exalted man...”

- Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966 ed., p. 250.

“Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar that through which we are now passing. He became God – an exalted being – through obedience to the same eternal Gosepl truths that we are given opportunity to obey.”

- Apostle Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 104

“God is an exalted man. Some people are troubled over the statements of the Prophet Joseph Smith... that our Father in heaven at one time passed through a life and death and is an exalted man...”

- Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, v. 1, p. 10

“There is a statement often repeated in the Church, and while it is not in one of the Standard Church Works, it is accepted as church doctrine, and this is: ‘As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”

- Apostle LeGrand Richards, letter to Morris L. Reynolds, July 14, 1966, cited by Tanner in Mormonism: Shadow or Reality, p. 164.

The church's message, he explained, "is a message of Christ. Our church is Christ-centered. He's our leader. He's our head. His name is the name of our church." At first, Hinckley seemed to qualify the idea that men could become gods, suggesting that "it's of course an ideal. It's a hope for a wishful thing," but later affirmed that "yes, of course they can." (He added that women could too, "as companions to their husbands. They can't conceive a king without a queen.") On whether his church still holds that God the Father was once a man, he sounded uncertain, "I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it... I understand the philosophical background behind it, but I don't know a lot about it, and I don't think others know a lot about it."

- Time, August 4, 1997

After a spokesman for the LDS Church questioned the accuracy of the Time quotation, the transcript was released:

“Q: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follett discourse by the Prophet [Joseph Smith, Jr.]
Hinckley: Yeah.
Q: ... about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?
Hinckley: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”

- Full transcript of Interview with Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, Time, August 4, 1997

“Q: There are some significant differences in your beliefs. For instance, don’t Mormons believe that God was once a man?
A: [Gordon B. Hinckley] I wouldn’t say that. There was a little couplet coined, ‘As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.’ Now that’s more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about.”

- San Francisco Chronicle, interview with Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, April 13, 1997, Sunday Interview, by Don Lattin, p. 3/Z1.

“None of you need worry because you read something that was incompletely reported. You need not worry that I do not understand some matters of doctrine... I think I understand them thoroughly.”

- Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, General Conference, October 4, 1997

“First, we believe that God is a being with a body in form like man’s; that he possesses body, parts and passions; that in a word, God is an exalted, perfected man.
“Secondly, we believe in a plurality of Gods.
“Third, we believe that somewhere and some time in the ages to come, through development, through enlargement, through purification until perfection is attained, man at last may become like God – a God.”

- LDS Historian B.H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts-Van Der Donckt Discussion, p. 11

“God must have been engaged from the beginning, and must now be engaged in progressive development, and infinite as God is, he must have been less powerful in the past than he is today.... We may be certain that, through self-effort, the inherent and innate powers of God have been developed to a God-like degree. Thus he has become God.”

- Apostle John A. Widtsoe, Rational Theology, 1915, pp. 23-24

“The Father became the Father at some time before ‘the beginning’ as humans know it, by experiencing a mortality similar to that experienced on earth... Gods and humans are the same species of being, but at different stages of development in a divine continuum, and that the heavenly Father and Mother are the heavenly pattern, model, and example of what mortals can become through obedience to the gospel.... Knowing that they are the literal offspring of Heavenly Parents and that they can become like those parents through the gospel of Jesus Christ is a wellspring of religious motivation.”

- Encyclopedia of Mormonism

“Mormonism has developed the notion of a self-made deity, who through activism and effort has achieved a relative mastery over the world... a God whose transcendence is merely relative to human perception and whose relatively transcendent position with regard to man and other uncreated elements of the universe is the result of a conquest. God is God because he has risen to ‘Godhood’ by his own labor.”

- Thomas O’Dea, sociologist, The Mormons, p. 124

"The real question should be, is President Snow's couplet an accurate reflection of LDS doctrine? Everything Latter-day Saints teach about God is in agreement with the rest of the Christian world, with the exception of His nature. Joseph Smith said God is in the same form as we are, because we were created in His image as the Bible plainly and clearly tells us... But again, we do not emphasize Heavenly Father's past, but the possibility of our future.

- The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research, http://www.fairmormon.org/apol/misc/misc09.html

"The idea that the Lord our God is not a personage of tabernacle is entirely a mistaken notion. He was once a man. Brother Kimball quoted a saying of Joseph the Prophet, that he would not worship a God who had not a Father; and I do not know that he would if be had not a mother; the one would be as absurd as the other. If he had a Father, he was made in his likeness. And if he is our Father we are made after his image and likeness. He once possessed a body, as we now do; and our bodies are as much to us, as his body to him. Every iota of this organization is necessary to secure for us an exaltation with the Gods."

- Prophet Brigham Young, "True Character of God," Salt Lake Tabernacle, February 23, 1862, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p.286

"What, is it possible that the Father of Heights, the Father of our spirits, could reduce himself and come forth like a man? Yes, he was once a man like you and I are and was once on an earth like this, passed through the ordeal you and I pass through. He had his father and his mother and he has been exalted through his faithfulness, and he is become Lord of all. He is the God pertaining to this earth. He is our Father. He begot our spirits in the spirit world. They have come forth and our earthly parents have organized tabernacles for our spirits and here we are today. That is the way we came.

- Prophet Brigham Young, 14 July 1861, recorded in The Essential Brigham Young, p.138

"That exalted position was made manifest to me at a very early day. I had a direct revelation of this. It was most perfect and complete. If there ever was a thing revealed to man perfectly, clearly, so that there could be no doubt or dubiety, this was revealed to me, and it came in these words: "As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be." This may appear to some minds as something very strange and remarkable, but it is in perfect harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and with His promises."

- Prophet Lorenzo R. Snow, Unchangeable Love of God, Sunday, September 18, 1898.

"We all know that like begets like and that for the offspring to grow to the stature of his parent is a process infinitely repeated in nature. We can therefore understand that for a son of God to grow to the likeness of his Father in heaven is in harmony with natural law. We see this law demonstrated every few years in our own experience. Sons born to mortal fathers grow up to be like their fathers in the flesh. This is the way it will be with spirit sons of God. They will grow up to be like their Father in heaven. Joseph taught this obvious truth. As a matter of fact, he taught that through this process God himself attained perfection. From President Snow's understanding of the teachings of the Prophet on this doctrinal point, he coined the familiar couplet: "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." This teaching is peculiar to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ."

- Apostle Marion G. Romney, General Conference, October 1964

"We often say, and you have heard the expression as it has already been referred to in this conference, that "as man now is, God once was, and as God now is, man may become." The only way man may become as God now is, is through fulfilling the laws of celestial marriage and the laws of the gospel, as I have just read to you the word of the Lord from the D&C. Can we afford to overlook such opportunities for exaltation? Temple marriage is not just another form of church wedding; it is a divine covenant with the Lord that if we are faithful to the end, we may become as God now is."

- Patriarch Eldred G. Smith, General Conference, October 1948

"Mormonism be it true or false, holds out to men the greatest inducements that the human mind can grasp. And so it does... It teaches men that they can become divine, that man is God in embryo, that God was once man in mortality, and that the only difference between Gods, angels and men is a difference in education and development. Is such a religion to be sneered at? It teaches that the worlds on high, the stars that glitter in the blue vault of heaven, are kingdoms of God, that they were once earths like this, that they have been redeemed and glorified by the same laws, the same principles that are applied to this planet, and by which it will ascend to a perfected and glorified state. It teaches that these worlds are peopled with human beings, God's sons and daughters, and that every husband and father, may become an Adam, and every wife and mother an Eve, to some future planet."

- Apostle Orson F. Whitney, Divine Evidences of Truthfulness, Y.M.M.I.A. Annual Conference, June 9th, 1895.

"So the Prophet Joseph Smith, in this age, has added to this truth by the assertion that "As man is God once was, and that as He is man may became," because He is our Father, and like begets like, and inherent within us are the attributes of divinity that shall lead us into perfection, which Christ intended His Saints to attain unto."

- Elder Joseph E. Robinson, General Conference, April 1912

"God our Heavenly Father is still progressing. While He knows all that is, all that has been, and possibly all things that He designs for the future and what will be in the future, yet He is constantly adding to His dominion, constantly increasing His power, constantly developing in His resources and in His glorious aspirations. This, at least, is our understanding of the condition of our Father in heaven. The thought has been expressed and accepted as a truth, that as we are now, God has been, and as God is now we may be; and if we admit this to be a truth—and I have no disposition to dispute it—then I repeat that even God our Heavenly Father has not reached the ultimatum of His greatness, His power, or His capacity, but that He is continually increasing and expanding in power, in dominion, in glory and in greatness, if I may be permitted to use such terms as these which some people who know no better would call blasphemous, in connection with the Supreme Being, the Father of us all."

- Prophet Joseph F. Smith, Sustaining Each Other in the Gospel, Sunday, February 16, 1896.

"We are His children in Very deed, having been born of Him in the spirit, and we have inherited the very attributes which he possesses. They are in us, and they make us God's embryo, We believe that as we are now God once was, and by the practice of virtue and righteousness, by obedience unto law and authority, He has become what He is, and as He is, man may become, on the same principle."

- Apostle George F. Richards, General Conference, April 1913

"The doctrine of the relationship between God and men, as made plain through the word of revelation, is today as it was of old, though in the light of later scripture we are enabled to read the meaning more clearly. It is provided that we, the sons and daughters of God, may advance until we become like unto our Eternal Father and our Eternal Mother, in that we may become perfect in our spheres as they are in theirs. That grand truth, taught by the Prophet Joseph and ridiculed for the time, has now gripped the minds of the thinkers and philosophers of the age... It was crystallized into what we may call an aphorism, by President Lorenzo Snow: 'As man is God once was; as God is man may be'."

- Apostle James E. Talmage, General Conference, April 1915

"I don't understand that the Mormon doctrine, announced by President Lorenzo Snow, and so often quoted by us: "As man is God once was, and as God is man may become" means that all men are going to become what God is, not by any manner of means. It is possible they may become; yes, when men keep and obey the fulness of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I understand, my brethren and sisters, this great scheme of our Father contemplates that the privilege of gaining celestial glory has been extended to nearly all of his children. There are a very few in the world who are barred from all the privileges. Evidently according to the revelations of the Lord, those races and divisions existing among us now, existed before we came into this world, and some had failed to carry out the will of God and to conform to his plans in their former life to prove themselves worthy to receive the highest of privileges, namely, salvation in the celestial kingdom of our God."

- Apostle Melvin J. Ballard, General Conference, October 1917

"It is a Mormon truism that is current among us and we all accept it, that as man is God once was and as God is man may become. That does not signify that man will become God. I am sorry to say, and yet it is a truth, that not many men will become what God is, simply because they will not pay the price, because they are not willing to live up to the requirements; and still all men may, if they will, become what God is, but only those who are heirs of the celestial glory shall ever be possible candidates, to become what God is."

- Apostle Melvin J. Ballard, General Conference, April 1921

"We believe that God is a personal being. By a personal being, we mean that he is a man--an exalted man. Approximately one hundred years ago, soon after Lorenzo Snow became a member of the true Church of Jesus Christ, he formulated a remarkable couplet which has since that time become famous. He said: "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." (Lorenzo Snow, The Millennial Star 54:404.) Time and time again during the period of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Prophet Joseph Smith, various evidences were given to him sustaining, amplifying, and explaining the personality of God. If time would permit, many excellent quotations could be cited from the D&C which would help to describe the personality of our Eternal Father."

- Apostle Milton R. Hunter, General Conference, October 1948

"... the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follet sermon (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 342-62; and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become! (See The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984, p. 1.)."

- Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, "Don't Drop the Ball," Ensign, November 1994, p. 46

"Perhaps there is something else that we will learn as we perfect our bodies and our spirits in the times to come. You and I—what helpless creatures are we! Such limited power we have, and how little can we control the wind and the waves and the storms! We remember the numerous scriptures which, concentrated in a single line, were said by a former prophet, Lorenzo Snow: “As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become.” This is a power available to us as we reach perfection and receive the experience and power to create, to organize, to control native elements. How limited we are now! We have no power to force the grass to grow, the plants to emerge, the seeds to develop."

- Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, "Our Great Potential," Ensign, May 1977, p. 49

"After men have got their exaltations and their crowns---have become Gods, even the sons of God---are made Kings of kings and Lords of lords, they have the power then of propagating their species in spirit; and that is the first of their operations with regard to organizing a world. Power is then given to them to organize the elements, and then commence the organization of tabernacles."

- Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 6, pp. 274-275

"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."

- Apostle Orson Hyde, Deseret News Weekly, October 27, 1853, p. 78; also see Melchizedek Priesthood Study Guide, 1979-80, p. 82; online at http://www.spires.net/Historical/230_quotations/230_1.html


“Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight. I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods. There seems to be plenty of space out there in the universe. And the Lord has proved that he knows how to do it. I think he could make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us, for every one of us 225,000.

“Just think of the possibilities, the potential. Every little boy that has just been born becomes an heir to this glorious, glorious program. When he is grown, he meets a lovely woman; they are married in the holy temple. They live all the commandments of the Lord. They keep themselves clean. And then they become sons of God, and they go forward with their great program—they go beyond the angels, beyond the angels and the gods that are waiting there. They go to their exaltation.”

- President Spencer W. Kimball in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, p. 120; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 80