“Becoming Like God”: Personal Comments

Updated:  2 Mar 2014

In a recent Mormon encyclical, there is a fairly detailed discussion on the subject of “Becoming Like God.”  The posting is under “General Topics” at lds.org.  I find the discussion generally well done:

Latter-day Saints see all people as children of God in a full and complete sense; they consider every person divine in origin, nature, and potential.  Each has an eternal core and is “a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.”

While many Christian theologians have expressed the magnitude of the Savior’s Atonement by emphasizing human depravity, Latter-day Saints understand the magnitude of the Atonement of Christ in terms of the vast human potential it makes possible.

Likewise, while few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet, most would agree that the awe inspired by creation hints at our creative potential in the eternities.

planet1

I would encourage everyone–particularly Mormon transhumanists–to read the posting carefully.  Robert Kirby–humorist and Mormon theologian–has an interesting take on the subject:

Anyway, the church recently issued a statement regarding Mormons believing human beings can become gods or that God was once a man.  Just how much this is a solid part of Mormon doctrine is a subject for debate by people with more time than I have.

I have a few general comments from TRW who apparently has too much time:

  • I wish the discussion had dealt more with the nature of God, particularly the issue of whether He continues to progress.  Quotes from Brigham Young indicate a strong belief that He is eternally progressing.  However, this idea was roundly discounted by Bruce R. McConkie.
  • I wish the idea of eternal progression had been better developed.  For example, the idea that you can take what knowledge you gain is this life into the hereafter is one of the beautiful doctrines of Mormonism.  When it comes to the concept of eternal progression and the creation, Mormons could learn a lot from writings and verbiage of Process Theologians.  The concept that everything is in an eternal state of flux (and will continue to be for eternity) runs parallel with Mormon beliefs about eternal progression.
  • The question of whether Mormons are polytheists is not well answered.  The response deals with the relationship between Christ and God the Father, but not with the future status of God’s children.  And isn’t our eternal Mother also a god?
  • The posting is too defensive about the concept of “getting your own planet.”  This idea is pretty much discounted in the posting.  But in reality, couldn’t that be a possibility for some?  Who knows what “our creative potential will be in the eternities”?  The word “planet” becomes a euphemism for unlimited potential.
  • While the essay is critical of  non-Mormon caricatures like having your own planet,” it then takes a shot at other Christians: “a cloud and harp are hardly a satisfying image of eternal joy.”  It would have been better to take the high road here.

The following is a comment by Richard Bushman–LDS historian and author–taken from a write-up in sltrib.com:

[The posting] defines a boundary of what we truly believe and also tries to make it as appealing as possible.  It sort of puts the caricature of the Mormons owning their own planet in perspective.  In a way, it dismisses it, but it goes on to say this is a respect for the powers of God and creation, and suggests that we may have a part in it.

Note:  At the end of the LDS posting there is the following statement:

The Church acknowledges the contribution of scholars to the content presented in this article; their work is used with permission.

We need to know the names of these scholars.

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This entry was posted in Creation, mormonism, Religion, transhumanism. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “Becoming Like God”: Personal Comments

  1. dor deasy says:

    The notion of “becoming like God” is hugely important if we take Christianity seriously. What does it mean to become like God? If Jesus was the first fruits, we get a glimpse: fully human and fully spiritual, all of Scripture boiling down to love of God and neighbor, fully inclusive, non-violent and a clear heart that separated “factual” (dogma) from “true” (living authentically for God) .
    For me, as a non-Mormon, “becoming like God” has very little to do with the afterlife and everything to do with how we behave in the here and now to transfigure society toward peace and justice.
    When speaking of Godhood, it is extremely troubling to me to hear the use of the male pronoun for God. Is not God that “eternal core” of Spirit that leads us toward compassion, mercy and forgiveness? Because God resides in all humans, is not God the aspect of us that connects us regardless of religion, gender, politics, sexual orientation, social status, physical wholeness and other categories we use to divide and define? Is it possible to “become like God” and still seek to harm the “eternal core” by judging who or who is not “one of us”?

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Hi Dor, your points are well taken. Being the agnostic that I am, I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth. My post relates more to the Mormonism I grew up than it does to my current beliefs. Since the 1960s, Mormonism has been trying to convince the world that it is a conservative Christian religion (and to some extent it still is). This whole trend was very disconcerting for me. I’m happy that this trend is being somewhat reversed. I view the LDS Church post as a movement back toward the more radical religion that it once was.

      Having said that. When Mormonism shift to the right, I shifted to agnosticism. I’m not sure I believe in an afterlife. So I would agree with you wholeheartedly. I fully agree that the expression in question has “little to do with the afterlife and everything to do with how we behave in the here and now.”

      Assigning a gender to God doesn’t bother me that much. As long as we believe that His or Her partner is an equal. Someday churches will figure out how to work out a heavenly couple (and it doesn’t need to be male/female). Roger

    • Samuel says:

      I like your perspective on become like God. As a Mormon, I too believe that Jesus exemplifies everything that we must be to become like God. Too many in my church focus on the changes that will come in the resurrection and not enough on the changes that we must first make in this life.

      It is not at all troubling to me to refer to God as “Him” or “Father”, because God the Father is male. However, this is not an attribute necessary for divinity. I submit as my opinion, and not as doctrine of my church, that God is a state of being, one that God the Father wishes us to partake in. I see the word God much as I see the word nation. You can have one single nation that acts as a whole, and yet be composed of countless individuals. So are Mormons polytheist? We believe in one God, but our doctrine dodges question about the possibility of others, with the implication that the answer is not relevant to our salvation and spiritual journey in this life.

      As for judging of others, I agree with you. In order to become like God, we must adopt both his justice and his mercy, among many other attributes. We cannot tolerate sin, yet we must not only tolerate, but love sinners. We must see the divine potential within others and ourselves. The divisions that we succumb to so easily are not of God. When we come to see ourselves and others as God sees us, then we will be that much closer to becoming like Him.

      • shematwater says:

        Hey Samuel. I like what you say, and to a great extent it actually is doctrinal. The state of being is godhood. The word God (with the capital) is a title for the Godhead, and is thus not applied to anyone else.

  2. Susan says:

    As usual, Robert Kirby’s brilliance just about sums it up for me:

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/lifestyle/57602025-80/god-church-mormon-testament.html.csp

  3. Pingback: Sunday in Outer Blogness: No planet for you edition! » Main Street Plaza

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