Was God once a man – or not?

January 2005

Dear Praying Friends,

Do Mormons really believe that God was once a man and that men can become gods?

An evangelical scholar was recently critical of those who say,

“Mormonism teachesthatGod was once a human being like us and we can become gods just like God now is.”

The evangelical scholar declared,

“Mormon leaders have specifically stated that such a teaching, while stated by past leaders, is something they don’t understand and has no functioning place in present day Mormon doctrine… this is not an official Mormon teaching, even though it can be found in non-canonical Mormon writings.”

If that is not official Mormon doctrine why is it taught in their current student manuals used in LDS Seminaries and Institutes of Religion? Many other books published by the LDS Church teach that doctrine and most active Mormons believe it. Why is that true if it is not an official doctrine? Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founder, gave his “King Follett Discourse” on April 7, 1844 in which he said,

“God Himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man and sits enthroned in yonder heavens…I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil so that you may see…he was once a man like us; yea God Himself, the Father of us all dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ Himself did…You have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you.”

That Discourse is the basis of the current LDS doctrine of God and it is essential to LDS “eternal progression.” It is so important that Deseret Book Co. (the official LDS publishers) has recently reprinted it as a booklet by itself as well as in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith and in The History of the Church and in many other books. It was also taught in a manual for all LDS adults to study in 1998 entitled Teachings of the Presidents of the Church – Brigham Young. It says,

“God the Father was once a man on another planet who passed through the ordeals we are now passing through” (p. 29).

That manual is still available. Mormonism not only has four “canonical” books of scripture, but it also has a living prophet who reveals God’s word according to their ninth Article of Faith which is in “canonized” LDS scripture. The LDS Prophet is the only one authorized to speak for the LDS Church and he authorized the last manual quoted above. Henry D. Moyle, who was in the LDS First Presidency said,

“The greatest of all scriptures which we have in all the world today is current scripture. What the mouthpiece of God (the prophet) says to His children is scripture.” – (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p.19; pub by the LDS Church and copyrighted by the LDS President).

Mormon “canonized scripture” also teaches that only the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors can speak for God (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5 and 43:3-4). It is important to understand this in order to know who is authorized to speak for the LDS Church about doctrine or anything else. Pray that God will make us effective in helping people discern truth from error.

Sincerely in Christ,

Marv & Jan Cowan

Categories: Mormons

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