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Theosis vs Exaltation

Posted by nebula0 on August 26, 2008


If you run around in Mormon circles enough and especially if you get to the stage of looking at Mormon apologetics, you are bound to run into the following argument: Did you know that the church fathers taught that we can become gods??  Yes that’s right!  That implies that becoming gods isn’t a new Mormon invention, but rather a restored doctrine lost from the early church.

It’s true, several early church fathers did teach that we can become divine.  But, it wasn’t at all what Mormonism teaches.  Why not?  Let’s do a comparison of these two ideas.  The Mormon notion of becoming gods is called exaltation, and the early church fathers we’ll call it theosis.

Exaltation:  Gods are not different kinds of beings from us humans.  They are people all grown up into their full potential.  Hence, Heavenly Father was once a man on an earth, and became exalted to his position as a god (see the “King Follet Discourse Excerpt” I posted under “The Basics” and for confirmation that this doctrine is still taught in the LDS church day check out the Gospel Principles manual used to teach new converts during Sunday School, the exaltation section).  So that we can become gods as Heavenly Father is a god is like a seed growing into an apple tree, as long as we provide it the right conditions, and nurture it properly, it’ll become an apple tree.  Given the right conditions (righteous living, activity in the LDS church) it will become a tree (a god) because it’s in the nature of the seed (person) to do so.  After all, we are the spirit children of Heavenly Father, and as Heavenly Father as an eternal intelligence (core of being, not a god) so do we, we are co-eternal beings with God.

Theosis: God is a different kind of being altogether than we humans are.  God is not created, infinite, eternal, immutable, we are all the opposites of those things, created, finite, changeable.  We depend on God from moment to moment for our very existence, and He created us out of nothing at all.  God is a loving and wonderful God however, and desires for us to live forever with Him in His direct presence.  He desires to encircle us with His divinity, and as the Eastern Orthodox teach, invite us even in the Holy Trinity.  We as finite beings made out of nothing do not have it in our natures to be like God, if He shares with us any divinity, it’s because He has to infuse it into us, and we are always dependent on Him, utterly, for our very existence.  This is what the early church fathers meant about us becoming gods, they meant always little case ‘g’, they never intended to teach that we have the same nature as God, or the same potential.  We are dust, we are nothing- literally, and God is everything and out of His divine goodness may He infuse us with His divine nature.

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53 Responses to “Theosis vs Exaltation”

  1. JLFuller said

    nebula0
    I am glad you brought the subject up. I notice you left out the bible versus which talk to this subject. The bible seems to be quite clear on the subject. If you believe what the bible says, yes man can become a god (small g). Psalms 82:1,6-7, 1 John 3:1-3, 2 Peter 1:2-4, Phillipians 2:5-6, Romans 8:15-17, and Revelation 21:7 all talk about it. Genesis 3:22 indicates the belief has been around since before the earth was first populated.

    Two early chcurch fathers who are held in esteem today as Christian thinkers are Athanasius of Alexandria wrote “God became human so humans would become gods” (On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B). Maximus the Confessor said “A sure warrant for looking forward with hope to deification of human nature is provided by the incarnation of God, which makes man god to the same degree as God Himself became man.” and “let us become the image of the one whole God, bearing nothing earthly in ourselves, so that we may consort with God and become gods, receiving from God our existence as gods.” It seems to me that we disagree on the how much diefication not on whether it can happen. Not the absense of the a capitol “G” in God. The LDS version of theosis is subordinated to God the Father and Christ.

  2. JLFuller said

    I would also like to briefly address the anti-thesis to LDS theosis which is called Trintarianism. Mormons believe we can attain exaltation because we are are of the species species as God. He is quite literally the father of our spirits. We contain his spiritual DNA.

    The Trintarian view of the nature of God is rooted in neo-Platonism and Greek philosophy. It was included in Christian thinking and formation of the Creeds during the fourth century and is not biblical. It is a tradition. This would make a good subject for discussion at some point. There is a lot of early Chrisitan material available on this subject.

    JLFuller
    http://www.mormonthing.wordpress.com

  3. nebula0 said

    Hi JL,

    Thanks for responding. Since it wasn’t my intention to defend the doctrine of theosis, or disprove, but simply compare it with exaltation I didn’t find it necessary to look for biblical prooftexts.

    As far as the trinity goes, here is an interesting fact. One of the reasons that Athanasius defended the doctrine of the trinity with such vigor was to defend the doctrine of theosis. This is because by positing that Christ as God the Son incarnate became a person in order that He might bridge the infinite gap between us and the infinite God. The Arians, by positing that Christ was less than God in the flesh, destroyed this possibility, because only God Himself could help finite beings join the infinite God into eternity.

  4. JLFuller said

    Arians seem to have been discredited fairly early on in the Creed creating process because for the reason you state. The LDS understanding is quite different. Mormons believe every human spirit being – later to become human – co-existed with Father and that there is no beginning. But the tradition of Trinitarianism is antithetical to LDS theology as you so rightly point out. That is one reason why a study of how the doctrine oof the Trinity came into being can shed some new perspectives on the differences between traditonal Christians. and Mormons.

  5. JLFuller said

    We really are not all that different fundamentally save the Trinitarian view and the need for a restoration and the calling of new apostles and prophets. One commentator, if forget which, suggested Mormon doctrine had more of an OT flavor to it in some regards. I think I see where he was coming from given so much of our modern doctrine is based on the Book of Mormon which was written by prophets living in OT times although much written about Christ afterwards too. The OT was their frame of reference for 600 years before Christ. Nephi was especially fond of Isaiah. The post Christian era lasted just 200 years.

  6. nebula0 said

    jfuller, that we can agree on. I’m glad we can start by acknowledging the profound differences between Mormon theology and the trinity. Now the question becomes, how do we determine which position is most accurate to reality?

  7. JLFuller said

    Sorry for the double post. Delete one of them iff you will.

    We really are not all that different fundamentally save the Trinitarian view and the need for a restoration and the calling of new apostles and prophets. One commentator, if forget which, suggested Mormon doctrine had more of an OT flavor to it in some regards. I think I see where he was coming from given so much of our modern doctrine is based on the Book of Mormon which was written by prophets living in OT times although much written about Christ afterwards too. The OT was their frame of reference for 600 years before Christ. Nephi was especially fond of Isaiah. The post Christian era lasted just 200 years.

  8. JLFuller said

    I don’t think that is the issue, at least from my perspective. It isn’t about which is right. It is about which is accurately portrayed. Traditional Christians will not find the B of M as scripture without the confirmation of the Holy Ghost or so it has been explained to me by those in authority. And no traditional Christian is going to want to read the book unless they are curious or want to find some areas of commonality. There will always be those who are just bent on attacking us and skim through the book looking for ammunition but those people are not legitimately looking for understanding or want to bridge any divides. What they will miss is some very godly understanding on the nature of human beings and our perspective of our relationship with Deity. It has excellent literary elements well worth reading

  9. JLFuller said

    The rest of the conversation, on my side anyway, is about getting our doctrine and teachings right. We don’t expect everyone will agree with us but I think we have a right to expect the get the data correct. Otherwise it is just pure anti-Mormon propaganda and only serves Satans interest. Christ wants us as bretheren not enemies. But just as our own families have distinct opinions, so can we as believers in Christ.

  10. Todd Wood said

    Athanasius, theosis, exaltation, and Isaiah.

    What tremendous topics for a Monday, nebula0!

  11. nebula0 said

    JFuller, okay, I agree that it’s necessary to have an accurate representation of both sides before real, fruitful debate can happen. That’s why, if you disagree with something I post, you’re welcome to post your disagreements. I may not agree, but I’ll give it a read.

    Todd,

    Yes, it hit my fancy, what can I say. You certainly have an interesting blog. Good job.

  12. JLFuller said

    Neb
    I have a little bit of trouble with what you said about getting it right according to man’s interpretation. That is asking too much. It seems to matter on your side more than the LDS side. Our theology tells us we don’t do the convincing in any conversion. That is the Holy Ghost’s job. Our job is to present the material. If it responates then the investigator has to seek the confirmation. It is then out of our hands. In fact new members who don’t get the personal confirmation often fall away over time. So the major part of our theology is to teach and encourage people to get right with God so those avenues of communication are open and clear. That is what we teach – getting right with God by following the Commandments. We seek the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost so God can lead us personally. The prophet and apostles wouldn’t be needed if everyone was perfect in that area. But none are.

  13. JLFuller said

    I am not prostelizing. Of course I am available to assist if asked but that isn’t my purpose in participating in these discussions. My intent it to make sure others don’t deliberately misinform about us. Some commentators do not know what we teach or believe and present our story inaccurately but with without malice. I can help them to understand if they choose. When I correct someone else I usually have sources to confirm what I say. I fully expect that honest people will respect that. Not all do. In fact some deliberately go out of their way to misinform. I can call them on their behavior and do. When I come across someone who habitually and without remorse continues to defame or mislead others, I will use their names. But I will always provide space for them to respond on my blog if they choose. That is only fair. In fact I seldom reject posts unless the post is an openly prostelizing. I even allow deliberately misleading ones.

  14. nebula0 said

    JF,

    I agree that it is God who illumines us with His truth, ultimately. I think Mormons tend to take that idea to an extreme and reject the place of philosophy completely, but that is unwise. We are admonished to gather up whatever knowledge and wisdom that we can, and to be able to provide a reason for the hope that we have in God. THat means that if we have the truth, it will stand philosophical inquiry, and in fact, we ought to add insight from our side.

    As far as Mormonism goes, I know a fair bit about it. You may have noticed from my ‘About’ page that I was a Mormon, and as a Mormon I took learning about it very seriously. That is part of the reason I started up this site, I have a lot of knowledge about Mormonism, I wanted to do something with it ;).

  15. JLFuller said

    As long as your understanding is accurate you will have no trouble with me.

  16. […] 25, 2008 by Todd Wood Post-Mormon Nebula0 kicks it […]

  17. I would remove the following from the exaltation paragraph:

    Hence, Heavenly Father was once a man on an earth, and became exalted to his position as a god (see the “King Follet Discourse Excerpt” I posted under “The Basics” and for confirmation that this doctrine is still taught in the LDS church day check out the Gospel Principles manual used to teach new converts during Sunday School, the exaltation section).

    Although many members and leaders have and do believe this, and in fact it has been taught from the pulpit, etc., it is not official doctrine. Only what is contained in the Standard Works and First Presidency interpretative statements constitute official doctrine, and that I know of, the First Presidency has never issued a statement in this regard.

    I’m not sure that there should be a versus. Why be exclusive? I don’t see a whole lot of incompatibility between theosis and exaltation. For example, you state, “God is a different kind of being altogether than we humans are.” Well, using your own analogy, hold up a seed and compare it to its parent tree. Does it look at all like the tree? For the most part, theosis is consistent with the doctrine of exaltation and the scriptures. The only things I would take issue over are that “God is not created” and that man doesn’t have “the same potential” as God. God hasn’t revealed His origins. We know only so much about Him, nothing more. You can speculate that He was or wasn’t created, but it is just speculation. His origins are hidden. All we know is that He exists and has existed from “eternity to all eternity.” He knows what He means by that. Do we finite beings? Doubtful. As far as potential, Jesus taught that “all things are possible with God,” so man’s potential is limited only by God. If God desires man to become equal to Himself, then this is within the realm of possibility and is the real potential of man. As God is love (charity), it is reasonable to believe that man’s potential is God Himself. (Just as it is foolish to place artificial limits on God’s power, it is equally foolish to place artificial limits on God’s plans.)

    One more small point, in the exaltation paragraph, your description of the “right conditions” makes it sound like man himself does it on his own. This is not how exaltation works, at all. It is God, His Spirit and Jesus that cause man to improve and progress toward divinity, not man himself. Although it is nice to think of man as the seed, the seed is not man, but the word of God planted in man’s heart (the soil), which grows into a tree of eternal life. God is the moving energy in both exaltation and theosis. So, I see no division here.

  18. nebula0 said

    anarchist,

    I have to disagree here. The fact of the matter is that the doctrine is clearly taught in Sunday Schools across the world to new members in manuals published by the LDS church. The first Sunday School lesson I ever heard talked about this matter. Arguing that nonetheless the First Presidency hasn’t issued an official proclamation about it therefore it is possible to ignore the whole thing strikes me as a copout given the facts of the matter.

    As far as the vs go, what I really wanted to point out was that theosis assumes a qualitative ontological difference between humanity and God, and exaltation assumes a quantative difference. This is absolutely essential. I notice more MOrmons going your way of interpretation with time, that is, in much closer harmony with traditional ‘abominable’ Christian creeds, but to do so also ignores that the leaders of Mormonism boldly proclaimed the things that you now wish to disassociate yourself from. Saying that, well, it was never canonized so I’m free to do it at will ignores that historical reality completely. Before I accept that interpretation as valid, it must be shown how statements from past leaders are interpreted. If they are simply tossed off like an old bag of trash when inconvenient, the system becomes quickly laughable, at best.

  19. Neb, the members and leaders can preach anything they want as official doctrine and all of their listeners can believe it, but that doesn’t change what is and isn’t official. The prophet himself and all the twelve can hold whatever opinions they want to hold and preach those opinions, but that’s not official doctrine either. Church manuals can and have contained a lot of stuff that isn’t quite the doctrine of the church. The committees that write these things do the best they can, but are not always consistent.

    If you recall, when Pres. Hinckley was asked,

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

    Only First Presidency statements carry any weight concerning official doctrine, which official doctrine is found only in the Standard Works. From the inception of the church to now, there have been many, many doctrines put forth and published, which members during those times took as “gospel” and “official”, which later were just discarded. What’s up with that? Well, it is simply that people are free to believe whatever they want to believe, and also to use the scriptures and the Berean principle to sort through all information out there or in the church to determine what is true or not true. The whole using the Holy Ghost to manifest the truth of all things applies equally to the information published by the Church in SLC. So, I’m not coping out. You can say, “many Mormons believe that God was once a man like us,” but to my knowledge, the doctrine of exaltation as found in the scriptures and in First Presidency statements are silent concerning that point. People, though, are free to speculate, even en masse.

    Re: your second paragraph. Again, leaders and members both have boldly proclaimed a lot of things, e.g. that the blacks wouldn’t receive the priesthood until much, much later than they did, etc. Were not those statements of past leaders concerning the priesthood ban “tossed off like an old bag of trash?” Many members join the church under a mistaken understanding of what is the doctrine of the church. They believe that whatever an apostle or prophet says in an official setting (a church meeting) is official doctrine, and that sets them up for failure, because when conflicting “doctrine” shows up, as surely it will, as all these people have different opinions and interpretations, how do you harmonize it all? You can’t. Nor should it be. Opinions are just opinions and beliefs are just beliefs. This is why I tried to correct your statement of the exaltation doctrine to more closely align with what actually is the official exaltation doctrine.

    Theosis and exaltation are simply describing two parts of the same picture. Like two blind men touching an elephant, one touching the trunk and another touching the ear, each one describing the elephant differently and demanding that their description is the accurate description. Your presumption, and that of many people, is that only one of the descriptions is accurate, when really, both are accurate. Inaccuracy only occurs when the blind men start adding things to their descriptions that aren’t there, or that weren’t perceived, such as the potential for man and the non-creation of God for theosis and the God was once a man idea for exaltation.

  20. JLFuller said

    Dr. Robert Millet, former Dean of Religious Education at BYU gave an excellent presentation to the Religion faculty there on what our Doctrine is and is not. He quoted recent Church presidents who said doctrine is what is printed in official Church magazines, books, pamphlets and so forth. He also said personal opinions of even other Church presidents are not necessarily doctrine. That is why quoting from Journal of Discourses and other usually accurate sources are not always sufficient or timely. In every case, we should seek the latest from the First Presidency or official Church presentations for authoritative information about these subjects. Peiople and conditions of the world change and how we impliment the Lord’s instructions can change too. President Hinckley said a live prophet is better than a dead one for this very reason.

  21. nebula0 said

    JL,

    Thanks for sharing. That happens to benefit my side of the argument in this case, since the doctrine is published by the church in a church manual.

  22. nebula0 said

    anarchist,

    I find Hinckley’s statement incredibly problematic. Was he not aware that the church does teach the doctrine since it publishes manuals for its sunday schools with that doctrine explicitly in it?

    Furthermore, with all respect anarchist, when coming to decide what is LDS doctrine, should I trust official publications of the church currently in use, or should I trust your opinions about how you interpret scripture?

  23. President Hinckley was aware that the First Presidency never issued a statement on this issue, nor do the scriptures explicitly teach it. As that is where our official doctrine is found, not the manuals, the church doesn’t teach it. Church committees do the best they can to make sure the doctrine presented in the manuals is consistent with that found in the Standard Works and FP Statements, but they are human and are prone to err and insert their own opinions. Often, manuals will simply contain the latest LDS consensus, what the general membership believes about a doctrine at the point of time of publication. That doesn’t actually make it official church doctrine. Even church manuals must be examined in the light of the scriptures and FP Statements. The only official church doctrine found in manuals and other official church publications, are the quotations of the Standard Works themselves, and any citations from First Presidency Statements.

    Here are some documents that talk of this subject:

    What is “Official” LDS Doctrine?

    Declaring the “Word of God” by Michael R. Ash

    LDS Newsroom – Approaching Mormon Doctrine

    Notice, particularly, in the last linked document, where it says the official LDS doctrine “resides.”

  24. nebula0 said

    Yes, but ‘we’ do teach it, that is, the church at the time did (and does) teach it in that it publishes the doctrine in its manuals for basic sunday school classes, so Hinckley’s statement was still problematic. Considering the momentous nature of this teaching, I find it interesting that there is so much confusion over it in the first place. It was a rather common teaching by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others until contemporary times, to the point that, as you say, it represents LDS consensus on the matter– now it’s questioned. Why?

  25. Well, it is in the Gospel Principles book, in chapter 47:

    This is the way our Heavenly Father became God. Joseph Smith taught: “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God. . . . He was once a man like us; . . . God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-46).

    However, in the Introduction to that manual it says, “Never speculate about Church doctrine. Teach only what is supported by the scriptures and the Holy Spirit.” (Emphasis mine.)

    That manual contains both official and unofficial doctrine. It contains quotes from the scriptures (official doctrine) and quotes from modern prophets and apostles, including Joseph Smith (unofficial doctrine, otherwise known as opinion.) As it is a manual for newbies, the committee that wrote it obviously wanted to expose the new member to a wide variety of prophetic thought, whether official or unofficial, especially prophetic thought with which the general LDS membership is in agreement, so that we have somewhat of a uniformity of beliefs among the LDS.

    Nevertheless, the only text members are to teach from are the scriptures themselves. Everything else is supplemental. Manuals were never intended to supplant nor interpret the scriptures. Manuals are simply a help to organize topics and generate discussions with pertinent questions or by supplying other information and quotes (by GA’s).

    The Gospel Principles book has no author(s), therefore it has no accountability. You are free to look to it as authoritative or as official church doctrine (binding upon you alone as part of your personal canon), but it’s merely a lesson-planning tool created by a committee who did they best they could. They are allowed to include quotes by GA’s, as they see fit, and to summarize the doctrine, as they understand it and as they see it understood among the saints and preached at the pulpit. But the manual in no way, shape or form is held as 100% truth or equal in any measure to the revealed word of God. The only doctrine we have is the scriptures. Everything else is opinion.

    So, I see no conflict with Hinckley’s statement. The First Presidency has never taught this as doctrine (that I know of.)

  26. JLFuller said

    I am not sure why Anarchist is determined to prevail here. It is Church policy to take the consensus of the 12 and First Presidency on a subject as being doctrinally correct. Either you accept that or you don’t. There is no middle ground. If it curently taught in Church manuals and is found in other official Church publications it is considered current practice and doctrine.

  27. nebula0 said

    JL’s statement seems reasonable to me. It may be that what is published in official manuals, especially used for teaching, is of less stature than canonized works (this is obviously so) but it can’t be considered ‘mere’ opinion. Why? WHat about the Church Handbook of Instruction, if that is ‘mere opinion’ then what are bishops doing punishing Mormons based on its instructions?? So many Mormon lives are affected by the Handbook, it seems near insanity to claim that it is nothing more than ‘opinion’.

  28. The Church Handbook of Instructions contains Church policies and guidelines. It also contains official doctrines and interpretations. So, for example, if you look under the section on tithing in that handbook, to find out what “interest” means, it will quote from a First Presidency letter issued in the 1970’s which defined that term. Why? Because FP interpretative letters are official doctrines of the church. The handbook is a bit tighter controlled than the other publications of the Church, which is why you can’t get yourself a copy of it. The wording in there is much more precise and careful than other publications, perhaps because bishops and other leaders rely upon it and the Church doesn’t want legal problems. That publication is actually a safer bet to read official church doctrine than the other manuals meant for the general membership (which is written by committees). For example, if you look in the Gospel Principles book under “tithing”, you won’t find the official FP interpretation of the tithing revelation. But, even the CHI will not quote the entire FP statement, only a short portion of it, leaving out the portions of it that further interpret the revelation on tithing.

    If you’ve got the Standard Works, you’ve got the official doctrine. The official interpretation of that doctrine is found in FP statements and those you must dig out yourself. The Church won’t do that for you.

  29. JLFuller said

    Anarchist
    Me thinks you are too smart by half. Like a friend of mine once told me, his b-in-law once recieved inspiraion to the effect that he should “mellow out!”

  30. Seth R. said

    As a practical matter, although I cannot be entirely certain of the doctrinal status of whether God the Father was ever “a sinful man,” I am willing to discuss the idea and defend it.

    The fact is, regardless of whether the “God once was” part of Lorenzo Snow’s famous equation is official or not, one thing is undisputed: it remains a very real possibility for Mormon theology. And believing Mormons should be ready to defend that possibility.

  31. Seth, obviously within the gospel framework and the doctrinal truths that have been communicated to us, there are lots of possibilities that might explain how this or that is so, including that God progressed to His current state in much the same way we do. This is what Joseph, Brigham and others believed and taught. But there are other possibilities, as well, also within the gospel framework. Alma 7: 13 explains that the Spirit knoweth all things, even without coming to an earth and experiencing earthly things, so other possibilities exist. Until the FP makes a definitive statement on this issue, or until new revelation or scripture comes forth that explicitly states how God became God, these are all just speculations and opinions. We have enough real doctrine to defend, as it is. Why waste time defending “possibilities?”

  32. Seth R. said

    Anarchist,

    Surely you realize that traditional Christians are not going to be at all assured by the distinction that this is not “official doctrine?”

    For them, the mere fact that our theology leaves it as a possibility is disturbing enough.

    So I would think, in their minds, it’s a distinction without a difference.

  33. Seth, well, how about the Adam-God doctrine or the men on the moon, men on the Sun and any other number of beliefs held by prophets/apostles/members in this dispensation? If we don’t draw a line somewhere and state, here is our official doctrine, and here are speculations, then will we have to defend everything? Just because something is possible shouldn’t mean I have to defend it, does it? A possibility does not necessarily mean that it is the reality, does it? We should only be called upon to defend the realities dictated by our official doctrine. There have been a lot of Christian thoughts of many different Christian denominations, all using the Bible, and many of them disturbing. Must the Christians defend every possibility found within the framework of the Bible? Or just the one’s their particular denomination regards are “official?”

    Any any rate, Neb says she is a former Mormon, so, I was just trying to correct her statement on exaltation to more closely conform to what Mormons officially hold as doctrine so that we don’t have to defend something that hasn’t even been established as doctrine.

  34. Seth R. said

    Anarchist, I think that the “moon men” statement and “God once a man statement” are really theologically comparable.

    God-as-man is a lot further along on the doctrine-o’meter than a lot of other things.

  35. Seth R. said

    I mean, I “don’t think.”

  36. Seth, I can take those two statements and make both fit our theology just fine. Even Moon and Sun men are compatible with our theology. D&C 76: 24 opens these up as possibilities. Must I defend these positions? I don’t think so. Simply saying they are within the gospel framework doesn’t necessarily make them true.

    I would say that God-as-man is further along on the LDS believ-o-meter, not on the doctrine-o’meter, because, doctrinally, both statements fit just fine. However, modern LDS believe one statement and don’t believe the other because modern LDS have accepted science as part of their religion and they believe what scientists say on some things, while discarding other things. So, science says there are no men on the Moon and Sun and LDS believe it. But science says there cannot be a God that never dies or decays as that would break the laws of physics and LDS say, well, you don’t know nothin’ about that.

    Science is used selectively by LDS to discount one theory over another, but really, science throws our entire theology out the window and into the garbage. Angels? Translations from Egyptian using stones? Existence of an all-powerful being that doesn’t die? Etc. None of our theology really is compatible with modern science.

    But, what most people don’t realize is that among all the scientific findings are other findings, scientific anomalies, which invalidate current scientific theories (and so these inconvenient bits of information are swept under the rug), which, taken together, keep open the possibility that men may live in the Moon or on the Sun.

    So, what the average LDS believes at any given time is not really a good gauge to determine what our doctrine is. Scientific findings modify scientific theories all the time, which change how LDS perceive and interpret their own doctrine. Only by sticking to certain guidelines can rampant speculation be constrained, and we have those guidelines: the Standard Works contain the doctrine and only the FP interprets it officially. We LDS are bound only by the scriptures and the FP interpretations and to nothing else.

    I am as much a LDS to say I believe that God was once a man as to say that I don’t believe that God was once a man. Either statement is valid. I am also as much a LDS to say men live in the Moon as to say men don’t live in the Moon. Science cannot be selectively used for men-on-the-Moon and not used for God-as-man. Either you use science as your measuring stick for both or you use doctrine as your measuring stick for both. You can’t be selective. Doctrinally, both beliefs are on equal ground.

  37. JLFuller said

    Bretheren –
    You forgot one thing in this discussion. We as men, some of us really old one’s, must follow a woman’s intuitition. I am sure that somewhere we are counseled to do so. So if Neb says so, it is carved in stone. Right Neb? At least that is what my wife and daughters think. And I ALWAYS do EVERYTHING a woman tells me to do. 🙂

  38. JLFuller said

    And one more thing. I am much ahppier for the expereince. Now if you will excuse me, I have vacuuming and dishes to do.

  39. JLFuller said

    Anarchist brings up a good point. How does doctrine and church teaching change over time and is that a sign of a false doctrine? I suggest not. In fact I think that has to be a sign of a correct doctrine.

    The fundamentals don’t change. The need for baptism, temple endowment, priesthood authority and so forth are eternal. The plans of exaltation and salvation (aka happiness) are not of earthly origin so how can we know all their aspects? We can’t. We know the basics – enough to get the job done according to our understanding within the limits imposed on us by the circumstances of our Telestial existence.

    We know Joseph had to ask for guidance when certain problems arose in the church. But the fundamental point is Joseph didn’t know but knew where to get the answer. That early church dynamic established the procedure. It shows what is normal and what we can expect. It is our example.

    Joseph, like all of us, was a creature of his environment. People had uninformed and goofy notions of what the world was like. Of course we now know just how off course those folk tales were back then but we have our versions too. I think Evangelicals are a prime example of just how off-course modern people can be. They would say the same about us, but this is my story so I am pointing at them. (It is a good natured finger pointing my friends.)

    The bottom line is, we suggest the way to discover truth is the same eternally – ask God in the manner the B of M says. As folk tales dissipate in the common consciousness and are replaced with knowledge, the need for knowledge increases because we find a new methodology that supplies real answers to our growing need to know. Science and the gospel are inseparable. In fact I suggest they are part of the same eternal truth. As science reveals more and more, the greater our understanding of God’s work becomes. The more closely we live the principles of the gospel the greater our understanding of God becomes.

  40. JLFuller said

    Anarchist says the church uses science selectively. I hope so. Science, just like some versions of other eternal truths, can and is manipulated to serve speculative and parochial interests. How many times has erroneous science been claimed to be fact only to be discredited later? It happens all the time. This is a process of discovery. Scienific discover may look like an event but it isn’t. It is a process. The supercolder at CERN may very well provide us with new clews as to how the universe began. String theory mathmatially shows us the existance of eleven dimensions and postulates the notion of an ocean of universes constantly coming into existance of which ours is but one. Do either of these prove anyting? I don’t think so, but they provide a possible glimpse of how Father has organized his work. Who knows how accurateit is. Maybe all it is supposed to do is open the human mind to the possiblities beyond human myth, legend and folk tales. I think relgion is in that mix too.

  41. JLFuller said

    I should have run that last post through spell check. Sorry about that.

  42. JLFuller said

    I included religion in my post because I think it can be seen as part of the same process of discovery. The idea of an infallible bible was disproven centuries ago yet there are many who believe it to be so. The idea that God created the world in six 24 hour days is clung to like a life line by some when we know it is scientifically disproven. Yet rather than look forward to discovering how God created the world, these same closed minded people look at science as an attack on them and God. They fight what they consider dangerous ideas by admonishing the hitherto uninformed that they will go to hell for such thinking. In essence they keep the folk tales alive and thus protect their parochial power base and income. I think the more people become literate and educated in the works of God the more these modern day folk tales will go away.

  43. nebula0 said

    anarchist,

    But your statement (way back when, sorry) about the handbook doesn’t really address my issue, which is, here is a non canonized official publication official enough by which Mormons are excommunicated. So can you then say that manuals published by the church are ‘just opinions’ that you are free to discard? By offering up one obvious example otherwise, your argument is in question.

    I suggest that Mormonism has a tiered system of what consists of ‘official’ doctrine: the standard works, because they’ll never go away- first presidency declarations, like the declaration on the family (which sometimes get canonized anyway such as OP 1 and 2)- official publications which are standardized by church headquarters and used worldwide such as the handbook of instructions and church manuals used to direct sunday schools- from then, hmm, ensign articles and the like.

    Ignoring everything past the ‘standard works’ is to ignore the realities of lived Mormon life.

  44. Seth R. said

    Also keep in mind nebula, that orthodoxy is not how Mormons usually approach religion. By and large, we aren’t all that interested in the question of what is “binding doctrine” to begin with. We’re more interested in practical ethics and “likening the scriptures unto ourselves.” We just don’t get all bent out of shape over theology the way almost all other Christian denominations do.

    This is a fundamental difference in how Mormons view the world from other Christians and it causes a lot of misunderstanding.

    Believe it or not, the most common answer you are likely to get from lay Mormons on the question of whether God had a Father is “who cares?”

    And we mean it. We really don’t prize systematized theology that highly. So we are generally fine with things being a bit ambiguous at times.

    This of course drives other Christians absolutely nuts and causes a lot of misunderstanding and accusations of “being sneaky.” Traditional Christians just cannot get their head around the possibility that someone might not approach religion the same way they do. For them, orthodoxy is the ONLY way to approach religion.

    But it just isn’t. And we Mormons refuse to play by their rules.

  45. JLFuller said

    Neb
    In a church court proceeding, the Holy Spirit’s presence is requested and relied on. Now some people are going to suggest that opens up the proceeding to serendipitous results. They want to know what exactly the charges are and evidence is so they can provide the kind of defense found in civil courts. The church doesn’t operate that way. No investigation beyond talking to other interested parties is undertaken. An unrepentant member may find himself in or out based the HS manifestations to the bishop or high counsel. A truly repentant member will of course be sorrowful and looking for what he or she has to do to repent and make amends. The unrepentant person will be relying on tactics for a defense. He is trying to prevail. The two are oceans apart. It isn’t hard to tell the difference. This is based on my outsider but somewhat informed understanding. I have never been involved in an excommunication proceeding but have had this related to me by others who have. But I have been a hearing officer in civil proceedings of people who found themselves in such uncomfortable situations and they behave in the same way. I have held many such hearings and the behaviors are the same.

  46. JLFuller said

    The part I left out is that the repentant person cares little about where or if some doctrine is official or unofficial or anything like what you talk about above. They have faith in the bishop or High Counsel and Stake President and believe the Holy Ghost is a participant in the process and willingly and gratefully submit themselves to those appointed to preside in the matter. The faithless person is looking to prevail. They want a way out. They are more concerned with of they look in other peoples eyes or whether they can wiggle out of being accountable. Removing the person from the church’s roles also removes the blessings of the priesthood and companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is an effort to rehabilitate the person and bring them back into the fold by the stark differences they experience.

  47. Neb,

    The CHI is principally a book of policy, so that bishops and stake presidents don’t get into legal troubles and so that the church runs smoothly and orderly. It tells them what forms to use, how to fill them out, etc., for the various functions of those offices. It also contains snippets of official doctrine (quotes from the scriptures and from FP statements) or restatement of scriptural procedures (in modern, plain English) that clarify issues for leaders and for members who ask their bishop about those issues, or who ask to see and read the CHI. It contains guidelines on how to conduct meetings, perform procedures, etc. These are policies that help to make the church run easier.

    My understanding is that the CHI is not used to excommunicate any person. The doctrine of excommunication comes from D&C 42, etc. The precise procedures and forms to use when a person is excommunicated, though, may come from the CHI, etc.

    So, although there are many manuals, magazines, pamphlets, videos, etc., published and produced by the Church (corporate Church), there are only a few places in which that Church publishes its official policies, the CHI being one of them. Unlike doctrines, which do not change, policies can change in a moment’s notice, with the reprinting of one of these CHI manuals. Thus, when blacks could not hold the priesthood and missionaries were preaching to a race that may have had negro blood in it, they received instructions (policies) to determine whether a candidate was eligible for the priesthood (looking for tell-tale signs, such as the flat nose, the dividing color line between the palm and back of the hands, etc.) As soon as it was decided that blacks could hold the priesthood, all those instructions (policies) went into the trash bin.

    Your tiered system is romantic, but wouldn’t hold up in court. I mean that literally. No court in the land would believe that every word published using the Church-owned printing presses and bearing the words The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is official doctrine. It would be nice to think that every six months in General Conference we receive a new set of scriptures, as authoritative as the Standard Works, composed of the conference talks. We would be able to quote any of the apostles of this dispensation with equal weight as Paul or John or Peter. Unfortunately, we can’t. Paul, John and Peter trump the words of any of the living or dead apostles of this dispensation, and even of the prophets. Why? Because their words are canonized. If any of the modern apostles’ words were canonized, they would then, and only then, have equal weight. However, the current FP (all three men, not just the prophet alone) trumps anyone alive or dead, even though their words are not canonized.

  48. Seth R. said

    I just don’t see anything wrong with this doctrine, and don’t see why you are so gung-ho to discredit it.

  49. Seth, you’ve lost me. Which doctrine do you believe I am trying to discredit?

  50. Seth R. said

    It seemed to me like you were doing your darndest to distance our faith from the God-had-a-father idea.

  51. I wasn’t trying to denounce that. That idea is within the doctrinal framework (a doctrinal possibility). All I was saying is that it isn’t official doctrine, so Neb’s paragraph on Mormonism’s definition of exaltation is partly correct and partly incorrect.

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