Personal Online Journal

Friday, July 17, 2009

Exaltation

The comment thread of Divide? Maybe not so much — Part 2 has prompted me to express what I believe exaltation to mean. Clean Cut commented
I believe in deification and becoming a god; sharing in God’s divine nature is fully scriptural. But I do not believe in being an independent God (as if we’ll become our own Godhead to other planets), and I don’t find scriptural support for it nor any evidence for it in the teachings of Joseph Smith. However we end up sharing in God’s power, it will be an extension of His power–”joint heirs”–not our own.
Until recently, I was not aware of this belief within orthodox LDS faith. It does not fit with what I see is taught in our scriptures.

In the oath and covenant of the priesthood it says, "And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him." (D&C 84:38) If I receive all that my Father has, wouldn't that also include being able to create what he has created?

D&C 132:20 says,
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. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.
To be from everlasting to everlasting seems the same as being Eternal like God is. To have all power seems pretty clear.

Clear Cut summarized himself, "I do not believe I will become a “worshiped” God. Only the one true God (or Godhead) is worshiped–not all the gods whom He made so through His grace and the grace of His Son."

This reminds me of the time when Jesus was called Good Master and he replied, "And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." (Mark 10:18) We will defer honor to God the same way Jesus did. Any honor or power the Lord gives to us will only be because of the grace of God, because of the atonement. Any worship we may receive eventually will only serve to increase the glory and honor of God.

I have progressed spiritually very much in the last 14 years because I of my marriage to a kind, forgiving and persistent wife. She has helped me to repent and grow. I have thought about how is it that I can really become like Jesus is, to be perfect as He is. Perhaps our relationships with others who are also increasing in faith and honor of their covenants will help us to reach what God wants us to have. D&C 88:133 is a passage I have often been drawn to.
Art thou a brother or brethren? I salute you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, in token or remembrance of the everlasting covenant, in which covenant I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all the commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever. Amen.
What if we actually kept a covenant like this? As we grow in our faith and obedience to the Lord we will be able to.

Now I go on to my own thought. What if God's power comes from a covenant He has with other perfect beings? He is perfectly supported by those around Him. He perfectly supports the others in the covenant. Maybe God is preparing us to become part of this covenant that is perfectly kept and allows those who have grown to be able and willing to also keep this covenant perfectly.

Does this mean that all in this covenant are equal? I will always acknowledge where my strength comes from. It is only through His grace that I able to continue to work out my salvation. Any honor I receive will be given from Him and to His greater glory. Mathematics are different when you deal in the infinite. Even if the Lord gives us an infinite amount of power and authority and ability, it does not take away from His. Since anything we have we get from Him, it actually increases His dominion and power and glory.

Update 2009-07-19

I am putting some more comments from the original post for my own reference. Eric Nielson commented (#20),

Clean Cut:

For starters, I do not believe that God institutes the laws. These laws are eternal and must be obeyed, even by God.

Further, some questions:

What is your view of the purpose of eternal marriage?
What is your view of the purpose of eternal gender?
Do you believe that exlted couples will be able to experience a continuation of the ’seed’? i.e. have their own spirit children?

If so, do you believe the relationship between such spirit children and spirit parents would be the same relationship between us and our spirit parents? And if so, what does this have to do with gods and Gods?

Clean Cut responded (46),

Eric (#20), I just got back from a family trip; sorry I didn’t respond sooner. It’s unclear whether you were disagreeing with me or with Joseph Smith in terms of having the power to create the laws by which we advance and become exalted. I was merely quoting Joseph Smith. I’m not sure he’s talking about all laws of science or what not, but he IS specifically talking about God creating the laws by which we become “gods”, and I still maintain a distinction between God and subordinate gods.

I do believe that God intends Christ to be an example of what we can become through His atonement. Christ intends to make us what He is, if we will allow it. However, what does that really mean? What does it not mean? For one thing, I know it does NOT mean that we will somehow have to perform our own “atonement” and/or relive a mortality with 23 chromosomes from a mortal mother and 23 from an immortal Father. So whatever it means to become like Him and share in all he has, there will still be a distinction between us. Christ was the Savior; I was not. He was already God when he took upon himself flesh and became a mortal; I’m not God, and I need His grace to become divine and exalted.

The Father and the Son invite us to be “one” with Them (see John 17), but we’re left to speculate on what that really means. I believe that it will be glorious and a relationship of unity based on love. But I don’t go so far to speculate that being one with Them will make us an independent God of our own world. That would be a contradiction! Yes, He will share with us all that he has. This may even include powers of creation and participation in creating other planets or what not, but like I said–it will be an extension of God’s power, not my own.

As to your other questions:
“What is your view of the purpose of eternal marriage?”

Broad question here. Hmmm. I’ll keep this one short and sweet: To bring us joy and exaltation–the kind of quality of life God enjoys.

“What is your view of the purpose of eternal gender?”

Beyond what the Proclamation on the Family says, I don’t really have any other views to add.

“Do you believe that exalted couples will be able to experience a continuation of the ’seed’? i.e. have their own spirit children?”

I’m not really sure how to interpret D&C 132:19 and the “continuation of the seeds”. You seem to interpret it to mean having spirit children after the resurrection. I’m not sure that we can definitively say we know what it means or how it will work. Heck, I’m not even sure precisely how we’re “spirit children” of God and how that actually works–especially when you remember that Joseph Smith taught that spirits are co-eternal with God and uncreated.

I do know there’s more than one way to understand “Father” and even “Mother” (including in an adoptive sense, or simply nurturing an advancement of our intelligence, etc.), and the truth is we simply don’t know exactly how we became children of heavenly parents. I do know more, however, about how we are begotten children of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ (see, for example, Mosiah 5:7).

I personally don’t believe in a viviparous “spirit birth”, especially when Joseph Smith said over and over again that spirits are uncreated and eternal. I know that a lot of people synthesize these conflicting ideas by believing in the Tripartite model of existence (from intelligence to spirit to mortality), but Joseph never made any distinctions between eternal intelligence and spirit, and there are other concerns with the Tripartite model.

Whatever the “continuation of seeds” means, I don’t believe it involves a viviparous “spirit birth”. There are still too many unknowns, so I think I’ll simply decide to stop while I’m on firm doctrinal ground and not skate out on thin speculatory ice.

Clean Cut (46),

I agree that we can move out into speculatory thin ice. It is interesting to see your point of view.

My ten year old son has for a while been trying to grasp an eternal regression of Gods, with quite a bit of emotional angst. He, and I, have a hard time getting our minds around it. I also remember mentally struggling with it. I have settled in myself that it is something that I will fully understand only after this life. It is enough to accept the love and help of my Father in practicing the life he would have me walk.

Some say that the most important thing they learned in school was how to learn. The most important thing I can learn while in my school on earth is how to repent. I will exercise my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I will be willing to accept the teachings I get from Him. I will practice what I learn to obtain attributes God has like patience, kindness, service, hard work and love. Everything else I will learn and obtain if I have learned to turn to God.

36 comments:

Stephanie said...

I enjoyed our talk last Sunday about all these kinds of things. I have been thinking a lot about it this week also. I love getting deep into doctrine and thoughts with you. You have help me grow tremendously as well these last 14 years. I love you!

Rich Alger said...

On Thursday I listened to a the Apr 2009 talk from Elder Oaks on unselfish service. I kept thinking about you as I listened to it. You are tireless in serving others.

Eric Nielson said...

I think your response is a good one.

Clean Cut said...

Rich, I'm honored that you would even take an interest in my thoughts. I've very much enjoyed your comments and "hearing" your thoughts. I would have commented sooner but I’ve been so busy studying for a midterm. Now that it's done, I would love to have a conversation with you and try to understand your position better.

You wrote: “Until recently, I was not aware of this belief within orthodox LDS faith. It does not fit with what I see is taught in our scriptures.
In the oath and covenant of the priesthood it says, "And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him." (D&C 84:38)

I’m curious what "belief" I expressed that was new to you, as well as what I wrote that you think specifically doesn’t fit with our scriptures. (This is all respectful and friendly, of course--just wanting to understand better).

Another question. Are you under the assumption that because we have God’s power, we will be worshipped too?

One certainly can’t believe we will be a God just like God is simply because we too are eternal, since that is true of all spirits, whether or not they become gods. I guess I am just wanting to understand your thoughts better. I’m not sure where you think we actually disagree. People forget that we have a relationship with God, we have entered into a covenantal relationship with God. We are becoming one with God. That’s the goal—be one with Him--not to be an independent Godhead. We shall go on to progress, because only gods progress, but nowhere in the scriptures or in the teachings of Joseph Smith do I find any warrant for believing we will become independent Gods to other worlds just like God is to us now.

We shall have all power because God has all power and when we are joint-heirs with Christ, then we have all that the Father has. All that the Father has will become ours, but He is still the source. How can the one receiving what the Father has be greater than the Father?

So I have no disagreement whatsoever with the scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants concerning deification. But sometimes I do have disagreements with assumptions and interpretations that people have of those scriptures. The problem isn't with having creative powers, the problem is the extent. If you think we will become an exact replica of God the Father then I think that could be a problem.

Clean Cut said...

I also really like your comment: “What if God's power comes from a covenant He has with other perfect beings? He is perfectly supported by those around Him. He perfectly supports the others in the covenant. Maybe God is preparing us to become part of this covenant that is perfectly kept and allows those who have grown to be able and willing to also keep this covenant perfectly.” I think you’re right about this.

You also wrote (and I agree) that “it is only through His grace that I am able to continue to work out my salvation.” But I want to point out that God and Christ never had to work out their salvation. Joseph Smith never taught that, and I reject the idea. How can the Godhead work out their "salvation"? It makes no sense at. McConkie got Joseph Smith wrong on that point. Joseph Smith said he worked out his KINGDOM, not salvation.

Clean Cut said...

I also like that you wrote: “Even if the Lord gives us an infinite amount of power and authority and ability, it does not take away from His. Since anything we have we get from Him, it actually increases His dominion and power and glory.”

However, we can only tap into the infinite by joining our finite with His infinite. If he had once been finite too, then there would have had to have been someone outside of God to save Him and make Him infinite—someone even greater then Him. And I don’t believe that the scriptures or Joseph Smith teach this. If this were the case, shouldn’t we be worshipping that God who is even greater?

You wrote: "My ten year old son has for a while been trying to grasp an eternal regression of Gods, with quite a bit of emotional angst. He, and I, have a hard time getting our minds around it. I also remember mentally struggling with it."

One thing I don't understand is why you would struggle with something that may not be true to begin with. You seem to have already decided that this is true and even though you can’t understand it, you nevertheless accept it as true. It sounds to me like Christians who talk about the Trinity.

If we are just doing what God did, then God the Father is in his own Celestial Kingdom, and his power isn't his, but an extension of some grandfather God, and there are infinite Christs and infinite God the Fathers and God the Father dwells in the presence of his own Christ. And Christ, being a God will dwell in the presence of his Christ. Well, who is the Savior for Jesus Christ? And if people want to think God the Father was a sinner and had a savior, when how do we explain Jesus Christ, who didn't have a savior?

Now, I’ve already made it clear on My Take on Joseph Smith's King Follet Sermon that I believe that Joseph Smith clearly taught that God the Father’s mortal existence was undertaken already as God, the same as Jesus Christ. According to Joseph Smith, He had the power to lay down his life and take it up again. Therefore, he didn’t need a Savior. And yet some people make the assumption that God the Father was once a sinner and progressed into being God and we’re going to do the exact same thing.

Clean Cut said...

Not to monopolize the conversation before you even have a chance to respond, but I thought it might also be beneficial to discuss the logic of some of this reasoning, if that's okay.

I'm not saying this is what you believe, but I do know that some people make some of these assumptions, and I can't figure out why. Assuming that the foregoing assumptions are true, then that would mean that there is a Savior-strain of Gods that runs throughout time and space. I’ve even heard some suggest that if God the Father wasn't a Savior God as a mortal, then they conclude that he must have had another mortal probation where he became a Savior God. And this leads to a belief in multiple mortal probations, which means then that Jesus Christ must have had a previous life as a sinner on some other planet. See how this really messes everything up? It doesn't make any sense.

But if Jesus Christ was a sinner on some other planet before he had another mortal life where he was sinless, then he still has a Savior and apparently must be living in a Celestial Kingdom with his Christ forever. But this doesn't make any sense because the Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ didn't have resurrected body before he was born.

So then we would have to invent another doctrine. That is we now need to construct a theology where you start out as a mortal sinner with a Savior, you get resurrected with a body of flesh and bone, then you separate your resurrected body to go through another mortal probation and this time magically you are sinless and then you are resurrected again with a body of flesh and bone. So what was the point of the first resurrection? Again, more problems with this. This is the kind of reasoning that led to the Trinity.

And where did Joseph Smith teach any of this?

Now if they assume that Joseph was teaching that the Father’s mortality was exactly like ours, including sin and needing grace and an atonement like us, then what about Christ who did not sin? That makes Christ more superior to the Father if you think about it, because Christ did something the Father couldn't do.

So I just reject that interpretation and I don’t believe Joseph taught it either.

Finally, I love your last paragraph:
“Some say that the most important thing they learned in school was how to learn. The most important thing I can learn while in my school on earth is how to repent. I will exercise my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I will be willing to accept the teachings I get from Him. I will practice what I learn to obtain attributes God has like patience, kindness, service, hard work and love. Everything else I will learn and obtain if I have learned to turn to God.

Amen to that.

Rich Alger said...

Those who are exalted will have spirit children the same as our Heavenly Father has. "They will have their righteous family members with them and will be able to have spirit children also. These spirit children will have the same relationship to them as we do to our Heavenly Father. They will be an eternal family." (“Chapter 47: Exaltation,” Gospel Principles, 301) Since we will have the same relationship to our spirit children that we do with our Heavenly Father, I believe we will be worshiped. That does not mean we will stop worshiping our Father in Heaven. I see it as an infinite chain of Father to child relationship.

You asked, "We shall have all power because God has all power and when we are joint-heirs with Christ, then we have all that the Father has. All that the Father has will become ours, but He is still the source. How can the one receiving what the Father has be greater than the Father?"

It is not about being greater. It is not about putting myself above my Father. If I am to receive all that my Father has, I will have the kind of life He leads. I will have spirit children like He has with the same relationship to me as my relationship to my Father. That does not put me above my Father. All that I receive will be because of my Father, because of the perfect covenant relationship that will never be broken. Any honor or worship I receive will add to His. I will only be worthy of any honor because of His gift of life to me.

In like manner, Jesus Christ will also receive honor forever from me. I am born again because of Him. He has become my spiritual father in that sense. Any glory that I receive, I will thank him for forever and ever. And I will receive all the blessings Jesus enjoys. Father in Heaven will hold nothing back from us because our hearts will have become as Nephi the son of Helaman. We will not ask that which is contrary to His will (Hel 10:4-5).

Rich Alger said...

It is my opinion that we will be interdependent with God. That is how I see Heavenly Father's relationship with Jesus and the Holy Ghost. They work in perfect interdependence. An important distinction from a human interdependent relationship is that Jesus and the Holy Ghost know who their Father is. Father in Heaven provided Jesus and the Holy Ghost something they could not receive on their own.

God the Father would be superior to Christ even if He did not live a perfect mortal life. Heavenly Father provided Jesus his spirit body and provided him with an opportunity to progress in mortal life. It was only under His direction and authority that Jesus created the earth. This places him subordinate to the Father.

Even though I have struggled understanding an infinite regress of Gods, that does not make it untrue. Alma gave his opinion about when the resurrection happens (Alma 40:20). He was trying to find the truth about it. It was not until later that his opinion was confirmed.

It is also hard for me to get my mind around the infinite largeness of space and time. That does not make it untrue. I have the same difficulty trying to comprehend God (or ourselves) having no beginning. In mortal life everything has a beginning and an end. Maybe this is why we find it hard to grasp. If our Father in Heaven experienced a mortal life like Christ did, who was His Father? Wouldn't He have a Father just as Christ does? The same question can be asked of His Father and on and on. I am reasonably settled on this. That does not mean that my opinion may ever change.

I just found "Infinite regress of Gods?" on fairmormon.org. I like the summary in the conclusion:

"Not all Latter-day Saints accept the ideas which suggest a regression of divine beings. LDS doctrine on this point is not clear, and mostly speculative. It does not play much of a role, one way or the other, in LDS worship or thought.


Objections based on the infinite regression problem usually rely on a misunderstanding of the properties of infinities, and require that the critic improperly apply finite properties to infinities. These problems are not unique to LDS theism, but must be confronted in some form by all believers in the existence of God."


In 1997, Time magazine reporter David Van Biema asked Gordon B. Hinckley:

DVB: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follet discourse by the Prophet.

GBH: Yeah

DVB: ...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?

GBH: 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.


We do not know the details about this doctrine. I do not see it as a central doctrine or essential to understand the actual truth of this in this life.

Clean Cut said...

Thank you for your thoughtful response Rich! I think it's helpful to have these kinds of conversations from time to time. I have some follow-up thoughts and some questions for you.

Do you see any distinction between God and gods?

You write: “Those who are exalted will have spirit children the same as our Heavenly Father has. "They will have their righteous family members with them and will be able to have spirit children also. These spirit children will have the same relationship to them as we do to our Heavenly Father. They will be an eternal family." (“Chapter 47: Exaltation,” Gospel Principles, 301)”

It seems to me that Gospel Principles may be making an assertion about “spirit children” that is never made by Joseph Smith or by the Scriptures. In fact, the term “spirit children” never appears in the scriptures or in the teachings of Joseph Smith.

This is definitely one area that has been debated within LDS circles and I’ve come to the final conclusion that we shouldn’t be making any final conclusions about this. *grin* I just can’t pretend to know what “a continuation of seeds” will mean for us and how precisely it will work, especially if all spirits/intelligences already exist and are eternal and there’s “no creation about it”, as Joseph Smith taught.

I personally put more weight on the Standard Works and the words of Joseph Smith. Although I generally find church manuals to be very helpful, they have been wrong before (which is why comments/suggestions can be sent to the curriculum writers) and aren't really the last resort for ultimate doctrine.

But even assuming the Tripartite model is correct (as so many Church members do) and assuming “spirit birth” for whatever that means or however it works (again, another term never asserted by Joseph Smith or the scriptures), must we conclude that there will be no difference between gods (us) and God, or that we will therefore also be worshipped? (I don’t worship my parents, even though they gave birth to me. I worship only the one Eternal God(head). Why should that pattern change?)

You write: “Since we will have the same relationship to our spirit children that we do with our Heavenly Father, I believe we will be worshiped.”

Even assuming we will have our own “spirit children”, perhaps we’re merely working interdependently to adopt and nurture/mentor God’s children, etc. I just don’t think we can definitively say we know how this is going to work. To paraphrase President Hinckley, “we don’t know a lot about it”.

It seems that you believe that in our exalted state we will essentially repeat or be a replica of what God is to us to other future mortals. Is that assumption correct? If you do assume this, how to you account for the fact that the Father and the Son’s mortal experience was so very different from our own? How can we possibly be “exactly” like them when our histories will be so very different?

Clean Cut said...

I know that whatever is the case with deification, we can't go back in time and become God's history. I mean no matter what happens, we all won't have our histories or personalities erased.

Joseph taught: "The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits."

So, yes, God desires to give us everything he has and for us to advance like he has. But who instituted the laws? God did. And in my view, that's just not going to change. I didn’t institute the laws. So, that will always mean God instituted the laws and I didn't.

As Mark D mentioned on that Times and Seasons post, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are considered to be “one God, infinite and eternal, without end” (D&C 20:28). “God is the supreme and presiding power in the universe, who has the capacity to bring about all of His purposes, by definition. There cannot be more than one such entity, more than one head under which all divine power and glory flows.”

I recognize our focus is on returning to live with God, not on how we’re going to pass the time once we become gods by grace. Therefore, it’s really not essential to understand all the details right now. Nevertheless, I still believe in a distinction between God (who is worshipped) and gods (made so through His grace). Beyond that, I think it’s safe to not make too many more assumptions. For that reason, I believe the Church was very wise in their answer to Fox news:

“We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.”

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317272,00.html

I’m skeptical of the belief that our emulation of God as gods (always with a lowercase “g”) can equate to actually becoming a God (with a capital “G”). I believe that emulation will entail doing the kinds of things God does, and sharing in all that He has, but I still don’t think we can say that we will be worshipped beings too. I certainly don’t think that’s the only way we can add to God’s glory, nor is that even a desire of mine. I don't even desire to be a bishop! :)

Clean Cut said...

You wrote: “That does not mean we will stop worshiping our Father in Heaven.”

Agreed.

You wrote: “It is not about being greater. It is not about putting myself above my Father. If I am to receive all that my Father has, I will have the kind of life He leads.”

I appreciate and agree with this statement. But do you then believe we will be equal to God in our own sphere as he is God to us in our sphere? And if so, to where do you trace that idea?

I believe being one with God is not the same thing as being equal to Him. I believe we will be subordinate gods. Even Jesus Christ is subordinate to the Father, even though they are more infinitely one than they are separate. I do believe God places more emphasis on our relationship of unity and love with him more than any distinctions, but I still see some pretty important distinctions. I do agree, however, that by advancing and progressing we add to God’s glory and joy.


You wrote: “Even though I have struggled understanding an infinite regress of Gods, that does not make it untrue.”

Fair enough. I agree that there are many things that are difficult to understand but may still be true. Maybe I can just ask what you understand by it and what leads you to believe it is true?

Rich Alger said...

I also appreciate your thoughtful responses.

"Do you see any distinction between God and gods?" I don't think there is any difference in their abilities and attributes. Perhaps gods receive their redemption and glory from Gods.

Yes, I think those who receive exaltation will be a replica of our Father in Heaven. I believe He wants us to experience all that He enjoys. I believe that atonement of Jesus Christ will completely eliminate the effects of sin for those who grow in their faith and obedience to God. That is how I account for the difference in my history and that of Jesus Christ.

We do not worship our earthly parents because they are not perfect, holy beings. When we are perfected in Christ we will be given that honor.

I see the pattern of earthy life to be what our heavenly life can be. My parents raised me so that I might raise my own family and have the joy of family. I believe this mortal pattern is repeated in Heaven. Our Father in Heaven wants us to grow up to have every blessing that He enjoys.

Is there a reference you have to a manual or other official publication that interprets the scriptures as you have? I recognize that there have been errors in manuals and that it is not like the Scriptures. It seems to me that there would be some mention of it.

Perhaps it is because we have not received any official revelation on it. Maybe we need to be better collectively on the "ABCs" of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance before we will have a confirmation.

Rich Alger said...

"I agree that there are many things that are difficult to understand but may still be true. Maybe I can just ask what you understand by it and what leads you to believe [an infinite regress of Gods] is true?"

It comes from my understanding of the scriptures where the Lord says we will have all that he has. (D&C 132:20, D&C 84:38 and others) Those that receive exaltation will "emulate their Heavenly Father in every way" as the Fox News quote says. You seem to stop short of what the scriptures say. How can we emulate him in every way without having every ability and attribute He has?

If Christ only does what He sees his Father do then does that not mean that His Father also lived a mortal life? Who was in charge when Father in Heaven was growing grace to grace?

"I believe being one with God is not the same thing as being equal to Him. I believe we will be subordinate gods." I believe that we will be subordinate Gods. That we will enjoy all that He has including His abilities. That will never make me equal. Because He is the source of my life, and my salvation.

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one" John 17:21-22

We will be one in Christ the same as Christ is one with our Father. Christ will give those who are exalted the glory which Father gave Christ.

So that takes care of the future of those who will be exalted. They will be like God in every way. I guess I have extended what seems to be a future pattern into the past. I believe the Lorenzo Snow couplet, "As man now is, God once was, and as God now is, man may become"

President Hinckley has said that we don't emphasize it and that it has not been discussed in public discourse. I am not going to guess why.

Rich Alger said...

Joseph Smith said, "God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself."

Perhaps God the Father was instituting laws within His own sphere under the authority of and to the greater glory of His Father.

Rich Alger said...

I feel strongest about the limitation you put on God's ability to exalt us. Somehow our history of an imperfect life prevent us from living as God does. That the atonement cannot fully overcome the effects of our sins.

I reject this. The Lord says that we will become perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect.

Your interpretation reminds me of the incorrect analogy of the board and nail. Where the board is our soul and the nail is sin. If you pound a nail into a board you damage it permanently. You can remove the nail but the scar will remain. You will remain unpure.

The Lord will fulfill His promises. "..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." D&C 132:19

Rich Alger said...

D&C 132:30 says that the seed Abraham would continue as innumerable as the stars both in the world and out of the world.

"Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are, namely, my servant Joseph—which were to continue so long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue; both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them."

What else could this mean except that Abraham would have more seed out of the world?

Rich Alger said...

I agree with you on not desiring to be bishop. My favorite calling has been the nursery music leader. It is a joy to share music that uplifts all our hearts.

Clean Cut said...

Well, I have to take exception to the fact that you said I'm putting a limitation on God or denying the power of the atonement to cleanse us from all sin. Nothing could be further from the truth. We could not become exalted/gods without being cleansed from all sin. I'm just saying that perfection is not the only difference between us and God.

The only limitation I'd like to emphasize is defining the boundary between concrete doctrine and speculation. Beyond what the scriptures say (and which I completely believe) there seems to be jumping off points at which different interpretations can take us in different directions.

I'm fine with disagreement, as long as we can understand each other is actually saying and what we really mean by what we say. (For example, I wasn't trying to argue against spirit birth, just simply emphasize that there's a lot we don't know about it what what it would mean. I'm not convinced that having the ability to have spirit children makes us God just like God is to us.)

I'm not trying to rule out anything that might be true here. I'm just saying that the teachings that we've been given don't implicate that we will become God, but rather gods (always with a lowercase "g", even in the Doctrine and Covenants). Beyond that, it really is speculation.

Rich Alger said...

Yet you limit what our progress may be because our mortal experience is not perfect like that of Jesus.

"For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace." D&C 93:20

If we keep His commandments, we will progress as Jesus did while in this life. We will go as far as He has gone.

When the scriptures say we will have all power, you exclude the power to have our own spirit children. You leave out abilities that our Father has. His abilities are His power.

I agree that there is much we do not know about how spirit children come to be. It is clear that Father in Heaven is the Father of our spirits. However that came to be. If we are to receive all the power that God has we will have the same power to have spirit children.

Everything I have read from you indicates that you understand what the atonement is about. The we obtain exaltation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, by entering into a covenant relationship with God through His authorized servants. That we become the sons of God through a process of a refiners fire of our obedience. Our obedience that is only made possible by the grace of the Lord every day.

If I am correct, you do not believe that we can progress grace to grace in the same way Jesus did as long as we are keeping His commandments. Is this correct?

Do you believe that the atonement will remove all the effects of sin for those who are exalted?

I did not mean to be disrespectful.

Rich Alger said...

It seems like you believe that our imperfect mortal life is an irrecoverable loss that forever will keep us from having what Jesus inherited. Nathan Richardson describes an idea he calls irrecoverable loss in his post, "Paradise Lost Forever?". Does this describe your belief correctly?

He goes on to describe in "As Though It Never Happened" what I believe our spiritual progression will be as we grow to be like God. In the graph labeled "True Doctrine" it shows a black straight line named obedience. This is progress Jesus made "from grace to grace, until he received a fulness" (D&C 93:13) I have sinned and have lost temporarily the light and truth and other blessings that would have come from being perfectly obedient. Yet, through the atonement, I can (in this life and/or later) overcome the effects of sin "as though they never happened".

Through the atonement, I will be able to enjoy every blessing Father in Heaven has given Jesus.

Clean Cut said...

I think that there’s no doubt that we both agree on both the efficaciousness of, and the effects on sin of, the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Where we apparently diverge is on our level of comfort in terms of how far we take the doctrine of deification.

Now please don't get me wrong. I believe in eternal progression and sharing in all the attributes of God. Notice, I’m not saying your line of thinking definitively can’t be true, but I'm trying to express why I have concerns with certain lines of thinking.

If Joseph in the King Follet Sermon says "God himself who sits enthroned in yonder Heavens is a man like unto one of yourselves" how far do we take this reasoning? Does this mean God is like me in every respect or only in some respects? Well, first off I think it's important to look at the respects that Joseph makes explicit. He makes explicit the fact that God has form like man, that we can talk with him as a man talks with another man, that he laid down his life and took it up again. That is explicit. Everything else would then be implicit. I feel important about weighing implicit against explicit statements in the rest of the sermon, in all other sayings of Joseph, and in other scriptures.

To believe that Joseph implies that there are multiple savior Gods on other planets, or that the Father was a savior on another world, etc is implicit. But then we look at explicit statements by Joseph such as "These personages according to Abraham's record are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator" [Extracts from Wm Clayton's Private Book, 10-11, Nuttall collection, BYU Library]. In addition Joseph translates the Book of Mormon to say "believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind."

As I mentioned earlier, I understand that some try to interpret this to be true for our earth only, understanding that there are other earths where there would then supposedly be different circumstances than ours. However, I’m unaware of any explicit statements by Joseph Smith that say this.

I can be sympathetic to to those who wonder how this can be that there are worlds without number that apparently do not have any Savior being born into their history. But then again I look to explicit references and the Book of Moses states: "And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten." (Moses 1:33). Therefore, if all those worlds without number were created by the Son, it only stands to reason that these worlds are also redeemed by the Son.

Now, some Latter-day Saint could say, yes but that again only applies to the worlds this Godhead created but it doesn't apply to other Godheads. However, I simply can't find any scripture or teaching by Joseph Smith that talks about "other Godheads" creating other worlds with other saviors. So, to me, it is the weaker position. The stronger position is explicit, the weaker the implicit. And it seems to cut against the view that God the Father was a savior on some other planet, unless one takes a infinite regress of God model.

Clean Cut said...

I’ve already stated elsewhere that I’m not convinced Joseph was meaning to imply all of this, or even the infinite regress of God model. In both the King Follet Sermon and the Sermon in the Grove (where one or two statements are used as proof of infinite regression while ignoring the rest of the sermon), Joseph emphasizes again and again that there is a Most High God—a Head God of all the Sons of God. This seems to me to conflict with this implicit framework that then needs to be constructed to make the infinite regress of God model work.

I feel uncomfortable putting faith into a theology I don’t find supported in the scriptures and that I don’t find taught by Joseph Smith. Too much unsupported baggage would come along with the assumption that when God the Father was a God the Son in some other Godhead in eternity before this current eternity, that there he too created numerous worlds as the Only Begotten of some other God the Father, as part of a different Godhead.

If that were the case, then we can only assume Jesus Christ is destined to become God the Father and perform another iteration of the plan of salvation, go someplace where nothing is created and then create, and choose for him his another Only Begotten (that apparently grows into a God) that will atone for sin and choose some other person to be the Holy Spirit and do it all over again and then his Only Begotten will do exactly what his God the Father did. Or more to the point that we will all do the same thing worlds without end, so that I'm going to have to do the same thing and maybe I'm gonna have to rotate in and become a Holy Spirit or Only Begotten or God the Father sometime a billion aeons from now.

I don't know. While that is a possible interpretation, I think it is the weaker one. I’ve discussed this with a friend of mine, and I’ve expressed some of the ideas he expressed to me. He went on to say that “Mormonism focuses on the possibilities and potentialities, but the drawback is sometimes a lack of rigor. I think people need to stop only focusing on what is possible and focus on what is more likely, what is more plausible. Let's put it this way, I don't think God would condemn me to hell if I didn't accept this view of infinite regression of Gods. Thus my view, the default interpretation is that there is only one God and one Godhead (because the scriptures say so) and if a person wants to get me to believe otherwise they have the burden of proof. They have to show me not only how Joseph Smith taught this and how the scriptures teach this, but how it is critical to my salvation to embrace this over and against my current view.”

I just couldn’t agree more. I know that obviously not everyone thinks alike and therefore they come to vastly different conclusions. I recognize that Mormonism has some wide and divergent interpretations that have not been set forth as “official doctrine”. But again, instead of only focussing on the possibilities, perhaps we should step back and think about what is more likely.

So in short, we both agree with the scriptures and even the Lorenzo Snow couplet “As man now is God once was, as God is man may become”, however we disagree with the extent of that statement. I tried to make my understanding of that couplet (based on Joseph Smith’s own teachings) clear in my post My Take on Joseph Smith's King Follet Sermon.

Rich Alger said...

"I don't think God would condemn me to hell if I didn't accept this view of infinite regression of Gods."

I agree completely with this. I am convinced that that the only vital thing is that we live what we know. And none of us do that perfectly, that is why we need a Savior. As we truly follow what we truly believe to be right, the Lord will continue to bless us.

Becoming Christlike in our relationships is far more important than the ideas we have been discussing.

Rich Alger said...

It does seem that the Most High God idea is more explicit than that of an infinite regress of Gods. I don't think I really examined where I got my belief in this. Perhaps from the writing of Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie and elsewhere.

It fits well with one reason I think the Lord has set up the family on earth. I think that is why the Lord has asked us to get married and raise children, because it is practice for what he has in store for us later. I have become more patient. I have learned that it more important how you say something or rather "am I approaching the person out of love or malice?"

I think of of the most wise things the Lord has done is allow us to have families.

Rich Alger said...

Regardless of whether there is an infinite regress of Gods or there is a Most High God, I believe we will be able to have spirit children as God has been able to.

"...-Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; 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." (D&C 132:19)

You mentioned earlier that you are not sure what "a continuation of the seeds" means. What other meaning of seeds would it mean other than being able to have spirit children?

It also says, "all heights and depths", "exaltation and glory in all things". D&C 84:38 says we will have all that the Father has. The Lord is explicitly saying that everything that the Lord has we will have. That includes every power he has including being able to have spirit children.

You said,"I do know there’s more than one way to understand “Father” and even “Mother” (including in an adoptive sense, or simply nurturing an advancement of our intelligence, etc.), and the truth is we simply don’t know exactly how we became children of heavenly parents."

This is an implicit interpretation. The stronger position is what the scriptures have said in many many places. We will become perfect as as our Father in Heaven is perfect. We will have every ability and blessing He has.

Perhaps there is a Most High God that has existed forever as God. To be consistent with the promises explicitly stated in the scriptures, I believe that this Most High God provided so that we can progress to have a continuation of seeds.

Clean Cut said...

"Perhaps there is a Most High God that has existed forever as God. To be consistent with the promises explicitly stated in the scriptures, I believe that this Most High God provided so that we can progress to have a continuation of seeds."

I'll drink to that! *grin*

I've appreciated our conversation Rich. I don't think it was ever my intention to convey the idea that I don't believe in having spirit children. I've actually always taken that for granted. My intention was simply to state that there's so much we don't know about it--what it actually entails and how it actually works. We also know so little about how we came to be children of Heavenly Parents. I know people can put forth their own ideas, but it's all somewhat speculation.

There are tensions between Joseph Smith's teaching that all spirits are eternal and uncreated and the traditional understanding how how God is the Father of our spirits. I believe there is a perfectly reasonable and clear answer to this. I just don't know with exactness how this is and I'm perfectly fine with waiting to learn more of the details until whenever they are revealed.

Perhaps that's why I took exception to the assertion made by the Gospel Principles manual. I just don't think it's wise to make assertions we know so little about.

Clean Cut said...

I do know, however, that our Heavenly Father is our Father in important senses. (The rest of the Christian world doesn't even believe we are of the same species as God!) I also know that He sent His only begotten Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. Through the marvelous and almost breathtaking Plan of Salvation, we can return to live with Them, and with our families--forever.

Perhaps just as the brightness and glory of the Father and the Son "defy all description", the future glories and kingdoms he has prepared for those who love Him and serve Him defy all description. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9).

While I may not know what exactly my eternal destiny has in store for me, I do know that it will involve those I love the most, including the Father and the Son. Even the Son becomes our Father in important senses as well, for we are begotten sons and daughters unto God through Christ--the Father of our spiritual re-birth.

(Perhaps this implies that we had our first spiritual "birth" with the Father before we were "born" into mortality. Notice the difference between "spiritual birth" and "spirit birth". Just a thought that just now came to me).

I suppose if I can't aptly described what they've prepared, perhaps it's wise to stay with what HAS actually been described and revealed.

"Great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter" (D&C 76:114-115)

So I'm with you--best to focus on the ABC's of salvation than how we're going to pass the time in the hereafter. After all, nothing else matters unless we have faith in Jesus Christ--faith unto repentance--and rely wholly upon His merits, mercy, and grace--turning our lives over into His service. That really should be where we focus our energies.

Clean Cut said...

Elder Oaks in his most recent Conference address quoted C.S. Lewis from "Mere Christianity". Ironically, it's a quote that I have heard other Christians use against certain Latter-day Saints:

"The moment you have a self at all, there is a possibility of putting yourself first—wanting to be the centre—wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. Some people think the fall of man had something to do with sex, but that is a mistake. . . . What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come . . . the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy."

Now we know that God wants us to be like Him, and certainly he's very generous, but there's a danger in thinking that we will become gods if Latter-day Saints don't recognize that it will be only in a relationship WITH God, not independent of Him. Our happiness is tied up with His happiness. You recognize that we will be connected with Him through our covenant relationship for eternity.

On the other hand, although C.S. Lewis was not a Mormon, he certainly understood and accepted a notion of theosis (not necessarily the LDS notion but a notion nonetheless) more strongly than is usually discussed today. Here’s how he put it:

“It may be possible for each of us to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden, of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.”

http://www.jberryman.com/quotebookLewis.html

Rich Alger said...

Our conversation has also given me a pleasant grin. I appreciate your persistence in distinguishing between was has been explicitly taught in the scriptures and what has been speculation which may or may not be true.

I plan on forwarding our conversation to the curriculum department. If there is speculative doctrine in the Gospel Principles manual I would like that clarified.

Clean Cut said...

How timely is this:

http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2009/07/review-gospel-principles-revised-chapters-1-–-10/1200/

http://www.mrm.org/gospel-principles

Rich Alger said...

Those are interesting changes.

Clean Cut said...

Rich, it's been quite awhile since we had this conversation, but I think it's never too late to revisit some things. I've found it enlightening to reflect back on this strand.

You may have already seen this, but Jeff Lindsay made a recent post which address the LDS doctrine of theosis/exaltation. Here's the link: Shocking Statements in the LDS Scriptures: An Apologist Explains Why They May Actually Be Somewhat Compatible with the Bible

Interesting to see later in the comments that he too "would argue that some Latter-day Saints take the concept too far". I'm comfortable with his view.

Rich Alger said...

Here is an update relating to this post.

Origin of God Agnostic

Rich Alger said...

"God, uncaused or self-caused events, infinite causal regressions: all seem impossible and absurd. When choosing between absurdities, is there any useful heuristic?"

An interesting addition for this discussion.
http://philosophicalmormonism.wordpress.com/2010/05/19/thomas-aquinas-cosmological-proof/

Richard Alger said...

Clean Cut, I thought this was interesting,

"Marriage performed by priesthood authority meant that the procreation of children and perpetuation of families would continue into the eternities."
https://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-in-kirtland-and-nauvoo?lang=eng