More Mormon Waffling on Deification

The following from T&S (14 Jun 2012) is a report by Dave Banack on a discussion between Robert Millet, Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU, and Greg Johnson, an Evangelical pastor who runs the Standing Together Ministry in Utah.  Together they coauthored Bridging the Divide:  The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical in 2007.

The conversation included a discussion of deification:

. . . As for the idea that humans can become gods, Millet cited New Testament scriptures such as Romans 8:17 (we can be joint-heirs with Christ), then suggested a better way to phrase the LDS view is that we believe that men and women can become more Christ-like. . . .

In response to this sentence “Course Correction” responded:

So, has Mormon doctrine tossed out the idea of eternal progresion–that we can become gods and create and people our own worlds?

Banack responded:

I think Millet’s position is that the way that idea is popularly expressed–that exaltation means becoming a God with a big G and getting your own world to play with in the hereafter–is speculation, not doctrine.  He would probably describe the idea of eternal progression as becoming more Christ-like by progressively developing Christ-like attributes of love and long-suffering patience in this life and the next. . .

More generally, Millet argues for defining Mormon doctrine from Mormon texts (scripture) rather than with reference to public speculation of various Mormon leaders of past eras (current Mormon leaders are much better at avoiding doctrinal freelancing).

As is the case with Millet, Banack’s response is a complete surrender to the Evangelicals.  (However, I would agree with him that getting your own planet is speculation.)  Why do Mormons need to compromise their beliefs on the subject of deification?  It’s an important defining doctrine of the LDS Church.

Also, Banack’s complete abandonement of the “King Follett Discourse,” as hinted in the second paragraph, is indeed disturbing.  And to asset that modern-day Mormon leaders are better at “avoiding doctrinal freelancing” made my eyes roll.

Theosis, deification, eternal progression, etc. were all an important part of my Mormon upbringing.  Let’s not let Millet and Banack speak for all Mormons.

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12 Responses to More Mormon Waffling on Deification

  1. I agree, Roger. This pandering to fundamentalist Christians makes me ill. Theosis is the most beautiful and empowering doctrine of Mormonism. We should cherish and magnify it.

  2. Joseph says:

    Three words: “ye are gods”. Jesus said them in the new testament

  3. Tom Moore says:

    Mormon deification gives LdS a different god. Christian, Jews and Muslims believe in a supreme being, but the Mormon Heavenly Father only presides over planet earth, so He is a different god.

    • Tom, that’s an unnecessarily narrow interpretation of Mormon theology. The Pearl of Great Price explicitly teaches that God created innumerable worlds. There is much in common between Mormon and non-Mormon descriptions of God, but the Mormon description adds much that enables an easier naturalistic understanding of God.

      • rogerdhansen says:

        The Mormon God is also different in that He is progressing. I think most Mormons would agree that God is progressing eternally, just as man is progressing eternally. This is another important point that separates Mormons from Evangelicals and others.

        The idea of eternal progression is something that was popularized by Alfred North Whitehead and his followers: the process theologists. One major difference between LDS theology and Process Philosophy is with the idea of a physical God. Something the Mormons believe strongly in and, to my knowledge, is not a concept that PTs would be comfortable with.

        But what does it mean for God to have a body of “fresh and blood.” After death, our bodies will obviously be different. Maybe it means that we maintain our own identity. If that is the case, then maybe we are not that different from PTs.

      • Yeah. I agree, Roger. Eternal progression is also an important differentiator.

        As a technicality, Joseph taught God has a body of flesh and bone, and not blood, which would be replaced by spirit in the transfiguration or resurrection process. That’s an interesting notion, particularly coming from someone who lived in the early nineteenth century.

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  5. Panama says:

    So, has Mormon doctrine tossed out the idea of eternal progresion–that we can become gods and create and people our own worlds?

  6. speaks of our “heavenly parents”, and is obviously not talking about a set of same-gender, homosexual parents. Eternal progression involves Celestial families continuously, eternally growing in progeny. Divine gender is permanent and eternal. Mormon Sunday school material has at times explicitly spoken of Heavenly Mother. Most every Mormon personally believes they have a Heavenly Mother who is married to their Heavenly Father. Even given all the above, Mormons are notwithstanding hesistant to publicize this belief or affirm it as Church doctrine. Mormons will even act offended at the suggestion that they believe that God has wife, guilting others into thinking they have used overly biased, uncredible sources to learn about their religion–sources that Mormon themselves don’t glean doctrine from. That the Mormon Church does not actively emphasize the Heavenly Mother, nor give her clear, public affirmation to the same degree as other doctrines, is seen as enough reason to give plausible denial–to deny that it is “doctrine”. Using this definition, Mormons deny to outsiders that such beliefs are “doctrine”, even knowing that others perceive such statements and attitudes to communicate that such ideas are extremely speculative and not clearly implied by the rest of the Mormon worldview.

  7. I’ve tried a number of times to contact Robert Millett in order to engage his sophistic Mormon mind in a discussion about his apologetic address that he presented before the Harvard Divinity School in 2001, wherein he stated that he was presenting the essence of Mormon theology. Since the 1984 Melchizedek Priesthood Study Guide lesson, “Lesson 21-Man May Become Like God,” was published and explicated on numerous Christian ministry websites, in late 2013, the Mormon Church has produced its own apologetic website, “On Becoming Like God,” which are intended to handle “Lesson 21” has revealed as canon LDS scripture and commandments. In Robert Millet’s speech to the Harvard Divinity School, he certainly did not broach the concept of Mormon polytheism, which is now called “deification.”

    If you recall what Mormon Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley said in response to Larry King’s national television question posed to him during his show in the late 1990s, “Does the Mormon Church believe that God the Father was once a man like you and me?” Hinckley had replied with a Machiavellian grin, “We don’t know very much about that.” And it was Gordon Hinckley, a Mormon apostle in the LDS First Presidency of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator Spencer W. Kimball, who, in 1983, personally oversaw the placement of “Lesson 21-Man May Become Like God,” into the 1984 LDS Melchizedek Priesthood Study Guide, “Search These Commandments.” “Lesson 21” is a restatement of Joseph Smith’s 1844 “King Follett Discourse,” and Mormon Prophet Lorenzo Snow’s refinement of it during the late 1890s. Of course, one lie always follows another in the behavior of a liar, as Hinckley blatantly during the Mormon murders, Mark Hoffman, FBI investigation in Salt Lake City, about his close intimate relationship with Hoffman during which time he paid Hoffman over a million dollars of Mormon tithing money for fake and forged documents created by Hoffman to fool Hinckley and other Mormon General Authorities.

    The most egregious aspect of the declaration by the 1984 LDS First Presidency, that the content of “Lesson 21,” is to be regarded by all of the Melchizedek Priesthood as commandments and canon Mormon scripture, is that the canon theology in “Lesson 21,” (which states that the ultimate destiny of all worthy Mormon elders is become as great as their Mormon father god, with a capital G, by becoming, each and every one of them, Mormon father-gods, with a capital G) is not included anywhere in the 6-part presentation of Mormon theology, doctrine, and history given to struggling Christian investigators by full-time Mormon missionaries. Full-disclosure to prospective Mormons is not made by full-time Mormon missionaries about their “deification process.”

    “Lesson 21-Man May Become like God” is the smoking-gun incontrovertible evidence that the Mormon Church is pagan and polytheistic. They Mormon hierarchy wants to use the BOM as the basis for their theology, but that’s impossible since the BOM contradicts “Lesson 21.” Any struggling Christian who reads “Lesson 21-Man May Become Like God” immediately realizes that Mormon polytheistic theology does not conform in any way to the gospel of Jesus taught by his apostles in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. If anyone reading this commentary wants a PDF copy of “Lesson 21,” please contact me at the following email address: . I will promptly send out the PDF copies as soon as I receive the requests.

  8. I guess you have to have been there to appreciate the sophistry of missionary Mormonism, from 1970 until the year 2000. I started out as an adult Aaronic Priesthood missionary right after I was dunked in late 1970, was made an elder in late 1972, and immediately was turned into a stake/branch/district missionary and military group leader, and later was made into a ward mission leader. And I actually believed everything I was told by the priesthood leadership for about five years, until my intuitive mind began to see through the sophistry; but even then the Mormon social web had me trapped in a temple marriage to, fortunately, an equally suspicious wife and three children, who now have nothing to do with Mormonism.

    It first began for me with the Book of Abraham and the Joseph Smith Papyri, when I discovered in the mid-1970s, through an hour-long conversation with Egyptologist Klaus Baer, that the BOA was completely bogus, and then, through the constant claims that true Christians made against me, the Mormon missionary, and Mormon polytheism, which I then thought was not canon LDS theology and doctrine. The back burners of my mind were being covered with slow simmering pots of skepticism, just like what happened to Thomas S. Ferguson during the 1960s. Eventually those pots on the back burners were affected by the Holy Spirit, and moved to the front of my mind, and the Lord Jesus told me in no uncertain terms to use my knowledge of Mormonism’s falsity to plant seeds of truth in the minds of active Mormons. Well, I tried, but later was revisited by the Holy Spirit and told about “Lesson 21-Man May Become like God,” that it would the tool for convincing struggling Christians, who would eventually be contacted by Mormon missionaries, that Mormonism isn’t to any degree Christian. For every TBM converted from error his ways, hundreds of Christians can be kept from accepting the lies of Mormon missionaries and accepting Mormonism. If hundreds of thousands of copies of “Lesson 21” are produced and distributed to all struggling Christians, the Mormon missionary recruitment of deceived Christians will be greatly diminished!

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I don’f find polytheism, eternal progression, and deification to be problematic. If there is no eternal progression, then what are we going to do in the hereafter? I don’t want to sing hymns with the MTC for ever and ever. For me, it’s either no hereafter or the Mormon version of eternal progression.

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