Did God “come to be God” or not?

May 24, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 9:50 am   Category: King Follett Discourse,Ostler Reading,Theology

The final chapter in Blake Ostler’s new book is titled “God the Eternal Father” and is his treatment of two seminal sermons by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the final months of his life; the King Follett Discourse given in April 1844 and the Sermon in the Grove given less than two weeks before his death in June of 1844. Since these sermons have been the topic of discussion here as of late I am skipping ahead to cover chapter 12 now. Blake’s interpretation of these sermons is quite unusual and controversial I think. His conclusions include the following:

1) God did not come to be a God but has been divine and in the Godhead forever. This applies to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost according to Blake.
2) While God, the Father of Jesus, did condescend to become a mortal on one of the innumerable previous inhabited planets, he is the ultimate Celestial Monarch and has no “Eternal Father” of his own. Further, Blake holds that the Father was not a Savior to the world to which he condescended.

I will address 2) in the next post and focus only on 1) here. Here are the arguments Blake uses to defend 1).

A.) Blake first points to several scriptures that indicate God has always been God. His assumption is that these scriptures apply to the persons in the Godhead for our world.

“from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Ps. 90: 2)

“The Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end” (D&C 20:28)

“And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?” (Moses 1:3-5)

“By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them” (D&C 20:17)

B.) Blake points to the evidence in the King Follett Discourse that the Father was divine prior to the mortal probation which Jesus’s mortal probation here mirrored. He quotes the following passages to show that Jesus did just what the Father did:

It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible… The Scriptures inform us that Jesus said, As the Father hath power in Himself, even so hath the Son power-to do what? Why, what the Father did. The answer is obvious-in a manner to lay down His body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again.

What did Jesus do? Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds come rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children.

Blake seems to believe that if the Father was divine prior to doing everything that Jesus did here on another planet that means there was never a time prior to his becoming God.

C.) Blake acknowledges that some passages of the KFD directly contradict his theory so he strains to overcome that hurdle. He quotes these passages from the amalgamated version (emphasis mine):

Here, then, is eternal life-to know the only wise and true God; and 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, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. … it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for 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.

First, Blake rejects the idea that God the Father was a non-divine person who became a God because he claims that such a notion “assumes the classical notion of perfection as an absolute upper limit beyond which it is impossible to progress.” I have no idea why Blake would conclude that just because a non-divine person could progress to the point of being divinity that it assumes that further progression from “one exaltation to another for all eternity” would not be possible. He asserts this but does not adequately explain or defend it in chapter 12.

Next, Blake attempts to discredit that troublesome quote from the amalgamated KFD which clearly refutes his position. To do so he claims that the amalgamated version must be wrong and that even though the Willard Richards and Wilford Woodruff diaries support the quote in the amalgamated version and the William Clayton supports it too though less clearly, the Thomas Bullock report has Joseph saying the opposite (though as you will see, that is debatable). Here are the quotes (emphasis mine):

“Is a man like one of yourselves.-should you see him to day. you would see a man in fashion and in form. Adam was formed in his likeness.5-refute the idea that God was God from all eternity-Jesus said as the father had power in himself even so hath the son power6 to do what the father did. Lay down his body. & take it up again.-you have got to learn how to make yourselves God, Kings, Priests, &c.7-by going from a small to great capacity”
(Willard Richards Diary)

“I want you to understand God and how he comes to be God. We suppose that God was God from eternity. I will refute that Idea, or I will do away or take away the veil so you may see. It is the first principle to know that we may converse with him and that he once was a man like us, and the Father was once on an earth like us”
(Wilford Woodruff Diary)

“1st God that sits enthroned is a man like one of yourselves. That is the great secret. If the veil was rent to day & the great God who holds this world in its sphere or its orbit-the planets-if you were to see him today you would see him in all the person image, very form of man, For Adam was created in the very fashion of God. Adam recieved instruction walked talked as one man with another. In order to understand the subject of the ded for the consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends necessary they should understand Going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined that God was God from all eternity-These are incomprehensible to some but are the first principle of the gospel-to know that we may converse with him as one man with another & that he was once as one of us and was on a planet as Jesus was in the flesh-If I have the privilege could tell the story in such a manner as persecution would cease forever. Said Jesus (mark it Br. Rigdon)”
(William Clayton Report)

“friend it is necy. to understand the char. & being of God for I am going to tell you what sort of a being of God. for he was God from the begin of all Eternity & if I do not refute it-truth is the touchstone they are the simple and first princ: of truth to know for a certainty the char. of God that we may conv[erse] with him same as a man & God himself the father of us all dwelt on a Earth same as Js. himself did & I will shew it from the Bible”
(Thomas Bullock Report)

So the Thomas Bullock report leaves open the slim possibility that Blake’s position is right. Of course the problem with that claim is that Joseph lived another 2 1/2 months after the KFD was given and from what I can tell, all of his closest friends and confidantes understood his actual position to match the report that we get from Wilford Woodruff. The notion that God came to be God is certainly the understanding that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Eliza R. Snow, Lorenzo Snow, and seemingly all of his companions in church leadership shared. For Blake’s position to be accepted, we have to accept that this was a colossal misunderstanding and that none of the top leaders of the church bothered to confirm what the prophet actually meant in the nearly three months after this astonishing sermon was given. If you can’t tell – I think the chances of that being true are essentially zero.

Now Blake does have a back-up argument:

Moreover, even if Joseph Smith did state that he intended to refute the idea that God had been God from all eternity… The assertion that the Father is not divine from all eternity entails only that there was a period of time during which he was not divine – it does not require that he was not divine before that period of time. (441)

So while it is quite a stretch, I guess Blake does have that to cling to. One problem he faces with this is trying to show that the Father did not serve as a savior when he was in mortality as Joseph very clearly seemed to teach. If he was a savior then it would be somewhat difficult to defend the idea that he was not divine in mortality as well. We’ll deal with that in the next post, though.

My take

I think that Blake’s A.) is his strongest point. It is an interesting challenge to explain how God could be God for all eternity while at the same time say he became a God. The solution is in the equivocal nature of the term “God”, though. The term “God” can refer to the individual divine persons that make up the Godhead, or it can refer to the entire Godhead as a cohesive unit. Simply because God, the father of Jesus, has a beginning as a God does not mean that God the unity of divine persons (however many there may be) that make up the One God must have a beginning. Blake tries to use this equivocal nature to show that the person who is the father of Jesus has no beginning as a God and that just does not work in light of the KFD and Sermon in the Grove. Therefore, his B.) has no real value in proving his point in my opinion. Every model of eternity I know of makes room for the idea that a person could grow to the point of becoming exalted and thus divine prior to a mortality in the role of Savior. We have discussed that here at length recently. Last, as I have already noted, Blake’s C.) is a massive stretch to say the least.

I have made it no secret that I think Blake is usually right in his theology. This is one instance when I think he is just plain wrong. It seems to me that he is trying to force the teachings in the KFD to fit into the theological mold he already has in mind. As I mentioned in the last post, I think the proper approach is to take a plain and intuitive reading the KFD and Sermon in the Grove and use that as the lens through which we read all previous revelations about God and all reality. Trying to fit the sublime teachings from the KFD into a theology based on a pre-KFD paradigm just doesn’t work.

So what do you think? Did God the Father progress to Godhood from a non-divine status or not?

[Associated radio.blog song: Madness – Yesterday’s Men. I love this song and it seemed to be a good fit considering the historical focus of this post.]

54 Comments »

  1. The notion that God cam to be God is certainly the understanding that Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Eliza R. Snow, Lorenzo Snow, and seemingly all of his companions in church leadership shared.

    You have to be careful as These church leaders and the just about everyone else important weren’t in Nauvoo during this time. They all took off on meetings and it is fairly well established that the KFD was new exposition. These leaders never heard the Sermon in the Grove (SitG) which was for Joseph, a clarification of the KFD.

    It is hard for me to see how you can assert that God the Father wasn’t a Redeemer of a world at some point, or am I missunderstanding your criticism.

    The SitG is really quite explicit in its theogony. There is the Geneology of the Gods qua Father then later he gives the Geneology of the gods qua King.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 24, 2006 @ 11:04 am

  2. Stapley: You have to be careful as These church leaders and the just about everyone else important weren’t in Nauvoo during this time.

    Good point. Certainly Wilford was there. I would be interested to find out which other top leaders were in attendance.

    It is hard for me to see how you can assert that God the Father wasn’t a Redeemer of a world at some point, or am I missunderstanding your criticism.

    You are… I agree with you that the Father was a Redeemer on a previous world and I think that conclusion is inevitable. Blake is the one who has claimed otherwise — based on a single poetic quote from Joseph in 1840 no less. I’ll deal with that in the next post though.

    The SitG is really quite explicit in its theogony. There is the Geneology of the Gods qua Father then later he gives the Geneology of the gods qua King.

    I’m glad you brought that up. I’ll respond to your two-track/ontological gap model in the next post too. While I think you are wrong I actually think your model is more defensible than Blake’s…

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 11:16 am

  3. Of course I think that equally important would be finding out which of the leaders spent time with Joseph in those last 2-3 months. If there were a misunderstanding Joseph wouldhave had ample time to realize it and correct it I think. Once he let the cat out of the bag it was not like he would have refused to discuss it in those following months or something.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 11:18 am

  4. Certainly Wilford was there. I would be interested to find out which other top leaders were in attendance.

    They were their for the KFD but not for the SitG (June 16th). They left at the begining of May. I’m away from my library, but I think all but a few of the minors left.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 24, 2006 @ 11:40 am

  5. Oh, good. Well that would have given all the major players a good month to spend with Joseph and get clarifications on these startling new revelations. I think that fact strengthens the position that God the Father came to be God tremendously.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 11:52 am

  6. Geoff, the BOAP has the Clayton account in agreement with the Woodruff account – you seem to have quoted the wrong section. Here it is:

    In order to understand the subject of the ded [dead] for the consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends necessary they should understand Going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined that God was God from all eternity– These are incomprehensible to some but are the first principle[s] of the gospel –
    (KFD, Clayton account)

    One other thing – I think we are mistaken to read any prophet as necessarily even internally consistent on a matter as subtle as this – too many problems with tradition, classical devotion and apologetics, paradoxes that have to be resolved, not to mention evidence of changing positions on some points in a matter of weeks. I do not view the KFD as strongly contradictory of Blake’s exposition at all. There are plenty of puzzles – that is why systematic theology is hard, and can almost never make everyone happy.

    I dare say that when the truth comes out, there are going to be a lot of disappointed people on one side or the other of a large number of questions. Gee, you mean we actually have to work for our salvation? That God isn’t Santa Claus? That grace is contingent? That God’s authority is a matter of common consent? That he cannot just unilaterally decide what is good and what is evil? And so on.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

  7. If I get a chance this evening, I’ll look up how much time Joseph spent with the twelve durring those four weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t alot and we should be aware that there was soooo much more going on that this wouldn’t have been the prime focus for anybody.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 24, 2006 @ 12:50 pm

  8. Mark – Thanks for the heads up. I added the rest of the appropriate parts from the Clayton report to the post.

    J. – I don’t think it would have taken much time to chat and get confirmation on what Joseph meant. It literally could have been as simple as a short conversation. It certainly would not have taken weeks or even a a day to chat about whether Joseph meant what everyone thought he said regarding God prgressing from being non-divinity to his present station. Therefore, I don’t think the question of how busy they were on other things would have much effect on this issue. (Although I certainly wouldn’t mind you shedding additional historical light on that subject for us.)

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 1:07 pm

  9. By the way, one of the reasons these discourses are not canonical is that Joseph Smith didn’t have the chance to reduce them to scripture – such as by mulling over and editing the text for five or six years. We should not hang our hats on single statements either way. It is interesting to note that in several places in both of these sermons Joseph Smith describes what he is doing as a process of inspired reasoning, not as an exposition of an explicit revelation on the subject. That is no doubt we he appears to be of two minds on some of the details.

    The SITG to me looks not so much as a clarification of the KFD, but a further defense of its most basic principles. As if he gave the Saints too much to digest at once and needed to back up and explain the scriptural basis for the fundamentals, not elaborate on the bleeding edge.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

  10. First, Geoff’s argument that all of the other leaders agreed with Joseph is very weak. Their own views are more nuanced than Geoff assures us here — I will get into that later if need be. So he misrepresents their views. BY believed what Geoff represents, the others did not.

    A timeline will show that they were not with Joseph but were preparing to leave on missions. Even if they had been present, they didn’t have the benefit of reading the KFD (merely hearing it once) nor did JS have the benefit of going over it to make sure he didn’t make any mistakes. Further, the various members of the Twelve were not present for the Sermon in the Grove, which Geoff ignores altogether (even tho his hermeneutic requires it to be given even greater weight than the KFD). In the Sermon in the Grove JS clarifies the discussion of the “Head God”.

    Now Geoff breaks this discussion of the Head God out, but that is a mistake because his contention here is not consistent with the view that the Father is the Head God which JS clearly affirms in the Sermon in the Grove. Indeed, the view of an eternity of gods that BY affirmed is not consistent with a Head God, a God of all other gods who is more intelligent than they all. I suspect he broke it out so that he could avoid this very fact and gain some rhetorical traction. Don’t take the bait. In fact, the notion of a Head God who calls forth the other gods into council shows that JS understood that there was not an infinite chain of gods (which Geoff’s view necessarily presupposes) and it is a point made in both the KFD and the SintGrove.

    Third, look carefully at the Woodruff report where it appears that JS is actually correcting a mistatement when he asserts he will refute that God had not always been God: ” will refute that idea, or I will do away or take away the veil so that you may see.” (Geoff actually mistates this quote by making it “and” raher than “or” and leaves out the clearly explanatory and corrective nature of the second phrase). The second phrase appears to be a correction. In fact, the simple fact that JS made a mistatement here shows why the various accounts differ — they didn’t know how to interpret his apparent mis-statement. Thus, it is omitted altogether in the William Clayton report and stated to the contrary in the Bullock report).

    Lok at the actual statements:

    it is necessary to understand the character & being of God for I am going to tell you what sort of a being of God. for he was God from the begin of all Eternity & if I do not refute it–truth is the touchstone they are the simple and first principle of truth to know for a certainty the character of God that we may converse with him same as a man & God himself the father of us all dwelt on a Earth same as Jesus himself did & I will shew it from the Bible. (Bullock Report)

    We suppose that God was God from eternity. I will refute that Idea, or I will do away or take away the veil so you may see. It is the first principle to know that we may converse with him and that he once was a man like us, and the Father was once on an earth like us, and I wish I was in a suitable place to tell it. The scriptures inform us, mark it, that Jesus Christ said, As the Father hath power in himself, so hath the son power in himself to do what the father did even to lay down my body & take it up again. (Woodruff Journal)

    We have imagined that God was God from all eternity– These are incomprehensible to some but are the first principle[s] of the gospel– to know that that we may converse with him as one man with another & that he was once as one of us and was on a planet as Jesus as Jesus was in the flesh. (Clayton Report)

    We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple and first principles of the gospel, to know for a certainty the character of God, that we may converse with him as one man with another, and that God himself; the Father of us all dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did. (Laub Report)

    It is clear from these statements that the first principle of the gospel is to know the character of God, and that he is in the form of a man and we can talk with himas one man talks to another. It is not that God was once not god. Further, it is clear that the Father had a mortality like Christ’s where he already had divine powers over life itself as a mortal.

    Fourth, Geoff misses that the Father, as a mortal, had a divine power already: the power to lay down his life and take it up again. That power is clearly stated. If the Father was not divine like Jesus before becoming mortal, this is not a power he could have. Further, Geoff virtually ignores the parallel between Christ’s having been divine, kenotically emptying his divinity to become mortal, and then taking up his divine status again — just as the Father did. JS affirms that the Father’s mortality was like Christ’s. Geoff pans that very significant point that is crystal clear in the KFD.

    Fifth, Geoff never justifies ignoring the scriptures. What kind of hermenuetic says: “in interpreting what JS meant in the KFD, ignore everything he said prior to that time and everything he said after that”? It is a ludicrous hermeneutic stance.

    Sixth, JS is not making the point that God is exactly like us. It is God who sustains the world in its orbit and created the world — we don’t. His point, rather, is that having once been mortal we would see God embodied in a body after whose image we were created. He is asserting that the Father was once mortal just as Jesus was — not that the Father became God after having never been divine.

    Comment by Blake — May 24, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

  11. We are all divine and have been. I hate to bring the abortion argument into it, but if you believe a fetus is a person, then why can’t I, as a God in embryo, be divine? I have not learned to embrace my divine nature, nor am I prepared for the consequences of that nature, but that does not preclude me from being divine, yet in the emryonic stage. God, therefore, could have always been divine, and yet progress to the role of deity.

    Comment by Gilgamesh — May 24, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

  12. The failing of that analogy Gilgamesh, is that an embryo does not have free will. It will become a person, unless someone stops it’s growth. You are not inevitably going to be divine.

    It in no way controverts what you assert that it does.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 24, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  13. …or in other words. You are not a God in embryo.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 24, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

  14. Blake,

    I’m glad you responded

    Geoff’s argument that all of the other leaders agreed with Joseph is very weak. Their own views are more nuanced than Geoff assures us here-I will get into that later if need be.

    The only question at hand is whether the leadership of the church believed that God came to be God or not. I think that after the KFD they were uniform in believing he did even if there were nuances in other aspects of their theology. Is there any evidence that the leaders of the church interpreted the KFD to mean the divine person who is the Father of Jesus has always been God? (I assumed you would have included it in chapter 12 if there was any such evidence…)

    Now Geoff breaks this discussion of the Head God out, but that is a mistake because his contention here is not consistent with the view that the Father is the Head God which JS clearly affirms in the Sermon in the Grove.

    I decided to discuss the Sermon in the Grove in the follow up post to keep this post from getting even longer.

    I don’t have any disagreement that the “Head God” is called “The Father”. My problem is that you insist on pinning the title “The Father” on only one divine person throughout all eternity — namely the father of Jesus Christ. I think this is completely inconsistent with the teachings of Joseph in these two sermons. I think a much more reasonable reading would be to assume that the person who is The Father for this world was The Son in his mortal probation referred to by Joseph. Further, Jesus will reportedly fill the role of “The Father” in the next inhabited world:

    What did Jesus do? Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds come rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children.

    Indeed, the view of an eternity of gods that BY affirmed is not consistent with a Head God, a God of all other gods who is more intelligent than they all.

    Again, you are hung up on individual divine persons here. Now I am open to the idea that there is a divine person who is this Head God. I just think it is not the Father of Jesus based on these two sermons. The other possibility is that this “Head God” is in fact the unified One God which is the combination of all exalted persons. This potentially makes sense because the unified One God is more intelligent than all the divine persons combined in the sense that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. But as I said I am open to either possibility.

    look carefully at the Woodruff report where it appears that JS is actually correcting a mistatement when he asserts he will refute that God had not always been God: “will refute that idea, or I will do away or take away the veil so that you may see.”

    I actually did include the WW original quote in the post. When I look closely at it it says just what the TPJS version says: That Joseph refuted the idea that God was God for all eternity. He was taking away the veil so we could learn this new truth. I find it flabbergasting that you are claiming it means the opposite…

    Geoff misses that the Father, as a mortal, had a divine power already: the power to lay down his life and take it up again. That power is clearly stated.

    I don’t miss this, I agree with it. God functioned as The Son, the Redeemer, the Savior on a planet and Jesus mirrored what he (and all saviors) did. They were both already exalted persons prior to filling the role of The Son in a mortal probation.

    What kind of hermenuetic says: “in interpreting what JS meant in the KFD, ignore everything he said prior to that time and everything he said after that”?

    Certainly not the hermeneutic I use. I suggested that the KFD gives us a new paradigm and set of goggles through which to view all prior revelations.

    Sixth, JS is not making the point that God is exactly like us. It is God who sustains the world in its orbit and created the world-we don’t.

    Here again you are confusing the person of the father of Jesus with the unified One God. This is the core of the weakness of your position in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 4:05 pm

  15. I still think the problem here is assuming divinity is some sort of natural property of a person. There is a classic debate over whether Jesus could sin, typically framed in terms of a division between divine and human nature within his person. Orthodoxy has considerable Docetist tendencies, the Docetists arguing that Jesus’ divine nature overwhelmed his human nature to the degree that it was *impossible* for him to sin.

    However, the whole problem with divinity as nature, is that it denies free will. From a basic consideration of free will, we have to conclude that it was possible for Jesus to sin now, and that it is possible (however unlikely) for him to sin now. Otherwise divinity is more a matter of mechanization than a matter of creative discretion from a foundation of principle. Christ himself spent so much of his ministry arguing against the mechanization of morality, that I have a hard time seeing him as the greatest fulfilment of it.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

  16. Geoff, a critical part of the portion of the KFD you just quoted is only in the Woodruff account. This phrase: “He will take a higher exaltation and I will take his place and am also exalted”.

    Now besides that, the idea of eternal progression by promotion to the *same* place (as opposed to the same rank) as one’s predecessor is that it is metaphysically impossible – promote to preside over what? The way God’s dominion expands is through the exaltation of his children – the At-one-ment – promotion to a higher kingdom is either a zero sum game or a game of musical chairs. Who cares? The business of salvation is extending the franchise beyond the outer reaches, to incipient nations as yet untouched by the blessings of the Gospel. The civilization of the whole universe in its highest form.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 4:33 pm

  17. Mark,

    You lost me on both of those comments. Re: #15, No one here (not even Blake) is claiming that divinity is a natural and irreducible property of God (though I suppose he veers near that idea by claiming the members of the Godhead are beginningless in that relationship). I don’t understand what your point is in #16.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

  18. Geoff, the natural property comment was in reaction to the ‘God in Embryo idea’. Its general relevance is to the question of what makes God God. We can argue all day about whether Jesus was eternally divine to no avail if we do not consider the proper semantics of the term.

    From a Protestant perspective *anything* that has potential for goodness is divine. It is called the doctrine of Total Depravity, and is affirmed even by the Arminian believers in free will. No good thing happens without divine intervention. The idea that it is *impossible* to know good from evil without the Light of Christ is an echo of the Methodist concept of prevenient grace – we use the same terms in much the same way, and it is a wonderful thing until we reduce it to an absolutism.

    When we consider the question of whether Christ was divine in is mortal tenure we have to reduce the question to something rather more precise. What is it that accounts for Christ’s moral superiority? It is something attributable to him or to his Father, or a combination of the two?

    If we are talking about moral responsibility, surely Christ is responsible for his own actions, rather than just being good because he was born that way, or God influenced him sufficiently one way or the other.

    If we are talking about spiritual power and glory, D&C 93 takes relatively Arian perspective on the question – namely that the glory of Jesus Christ was something that he *received* of the Father, and that grace for grace. All these accounts of *power in himself* contradict that principle. Christ had free will in and of himself, but the idea that either Christ or his Father could resurrect himself is practically a form of Divine Pelagianism.

    Without the Father, Christ could do nothing – not atone for a single sin, nor raise himself from the dead. The whole idea that any person is *divine* in and of themselves is contrary to the fundamental theme of the Gospel – that we are saved together, not of our own individual merits. It is the “if ye are not one, ye are not mine principle” – Divinity is contingent on unity – not coercive imposition, but common consent and collaboration on a grand scale – a Zion society, founded on a the gospel of work.

    Why work? Because there is no fount of grace, but a principle of service. That is why the Atonement is necessarily a suffering one. Salvation isn’t free, even for God. Grace is an expression of the contribution to our salvation by all others, manifested personally by the Father of our salvation, who the God *unto us*, but who himself could not save himself any more than we can.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 5:18 pm

  19. So I should say that orthodoxy is an approximation that reduces the gospel to a single personal relationship between a person and his Savior/Father but which is completely inadequate for describing a celestial society.

    Notice the constant ambiguity between Christ and his Father in terms of who does what for and in behalf of us – principles that we endlessly try to properly axiomatize, but always end in contradiction?

    The difficulties we have explaining aspects of the KFD in terms of orthodoxy are a symptom of that. My response is to take the principles of the KFD and re-examine the whole body of scripture in terms of radically distributed divine role subsitution. It is does a certain amount of violence to orthodoxy, but it eliminates the contradictions without losing any truly fundamental principles – where orthodoxy inevitably results in an appeal to human stupidity.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 5:57 pm

  20. I don’t have much time here, and I have not read every comment through, but Widtsoe in Rational Theology clearly describes God becoming God. This book is certainly not canon, but it was the MP lesson manual apparently.

    Comment by Eric — May 24, 2006 @ 6:01 pm

  21. Geoff: your argument that the Father could be anyone, not the same being, has no textual support. You use “Head God” as if it referred to anyone who had a certain position. The problem is that it is the supreme position and there is not another that is more chief, or More High God (the term is “Most High God”). I see this kind of shifrinf identity non-sense often in attempts to rationalize the Adam-God doctrine. Remember, Christ prayed to his “Father” and asked us to worship the Father. It isn’t up for grabs. When one sees the person of God, who [or what] is it that we see on your view, some role or title?

    Comment by Blake — May 24, 2006 @ 7:27 pm

  22. BTW Geoff, JS also discusses the Head God doctrine in the KFD at length.

    Comment by Blake — May 24, 2006 @ 7:30 pm

  23. Geoff: You completely ignored the arguments that: (1) the “Father” became mortal (and not merely someone holding a title or role); (2) at the time the Father became mortal he had power to lay down his life and take it up again and such a power is possessed only by a divine person; (3) the Son does what he saw the Father do in taking his life again after a mortality and their mortal probations were parallel in this respect; (4)the Head God is also the God of all other gods (D&C 121), is more intelligent than they all (that is, more intelligent than all other intelligences) and the Most High God who is supreme. These are strong arguments, and merely suggesting that the Father could be just anyone is non-sense that has no textual support at all.

    Comment by Blake — May 24, 2006 @ 7:44 pm

  24. Blake,

    I just want to ask a question so I can understand your position better. I understand your argument that the Father is the Most High God according to the sources you cited in the scriptures and KFD/SitG. My question has to do with how all of the other Gods (sons of God, or potentially us some day) fit into the picture. Is there a planet somewhere in which the inhabitants refer to one of the sons of God as “the Father”? If so, it seems that this whole argument about whether the Father is the Most High God can’t be crucial from a theological standpoing (although it might be true for this earth, and interesting from that standpoint). I’m wondering what makes this question important from your point of view.

    Comment by Jacob — May 24, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

  25. The gods are all sons/daughters of God. The question is crucial because the scriptures identifty a council of gods overseen by the Most High God and a single God who is the God that all others honor and worship. So one important consideration is scriptural fidelity. Second, practices of worship depend on who God is and what his relationship is to us. To know God is life eternal. It is the first principal of the gospel to know God and that we can see him and converse with him face to face as one man speaks to another. So who God is is essential to salvation and exaltation and the heart of the gospel. Finally, theologically whether God is such that he can demand our allegiance, our ultimate trust and whether there could be competing claims for our love and faithfulness among the gods are all crucial theological questions that turn on this issue. One of the deep theological problems with Geoff’s view is that our allegiances are divided and there are competing gods who can thwart each others’ plans. Thus, our faith is compromised very seriously. That is rather important, don’t you think?

    Comment by Blake — May 24, 2006 @ 9:29 pm

  26. Blake (#23), The odd thing about this laying down ones life and taking it up again thing is that Joseph Smith uses similar language in an immediately following parallel for ordinary persons as well – he calls it the “first principles of consolation” :

    1st principles of consolation how consoling to the mourner when called to part with husband, father, wife, child to know that those being shall rise in immortal glory to sorrow die nor suffering more. & not only that to contemplate–the saying they shall be heirs of God &c.–what is it–to inherit the same glory power & exaltation with those who are gone before. What did Jesus do. Why I do the things that I saw the father do when worlds came into existence. (KFD, Clayton account)

    Note how this section is juxtaposed between two accounts about what Jesus and the Father did – it is at the chiasmic apex of an argument for eternal exaltation – the first principle of consolation is that we too can “take up” our bodies in the same way and become like God.

    Now the difficulty here is explaining why this is a proper parallel. Joseph Smith never describes *how* or by what *principles* Jesus, his Father, nor the rest of us “take up” our bodies in the resurrection, that is just implicit. In fact the very existence of the tripartite parallel here is evidence against the idea that Jesus or his Father took up their bodies by their own power – it would seriously weaken Joseph’s argument.

    Here is Woodruff’s account of the same section:

    how consoling to the mourner when they part with a friend to know that though they lay down this body, it will rise & dwell with everlasting burnings to be an heir of God & joint heir with Jesus Christ enjoying the same rise, exaltation & glory until you arrive at the station of a God. What did Jesus Christ do? The same thing as I see the Father do. before worlds came rolled into existence

    And Bullock’s account:

    how consoling to the mourner when they are called to part with a wife, mother, father, dear relative to know that all Earthly tabernacle shall be dissolved that they shall be heirs of God & joint heirs of Jesus Christ to inherit the same power, exaltation until you ascend the throne of Eternal power same as those who are gone before what Jesus did I do the things I saw my Father do

    To me, by this very rapid juxtaposition, Joseph Smith is not displaying evidence of a frenzied mind, but rather is trying to say that we are true parallels with Christ and his Father (and possibly his Father before that) – that we rise and resurrect and inherit the same exaltation by the same principles.

    Indeed this is the very theme of his talk – the reason why it is a funeral discourse. How Christ is like the Father isn’t nearly as significant as how we are like both of them. That indeed deserves to be known as the “first principles of consolation”.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

  27. Blake (#25),

    I agree 100% that the scriptural account directly supports the existence and identity of a Most High God. There are other topological, “geographical”, and practical considerations that support that principle as well.

    And generally I would agree with you on capitalization. The difference is that I see God (Elohim) as a title for a plurality of gods, or an honorary title for the god who acts as an agent for that plurality, or divine concert, in much the same way we use “the Court” in legal contexts. The Judge speaks for or becomes “the Court” because he is the presiding officer.

    So I would say that the Most High is God because he speaks for the council or concert of all gods. That any Christ is God by the same principle – investiture of divine authority – the authority of not just one enlightened ruler, but the authority of the whole heavenly council – and in turn the hosts of heaven.

    So when Jesus Christ says he is the Father:

    And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me-that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world. (Ether 4:12)

    He means that he represents the Eternal Father unto us, that he is the path that we must follow – He does not mean that he personally is responsible for all the good in the world. The New Testament has him denying that proposition repeatedly. He even implies he is evil – that there is none good except God.

    So how to resolve the contradiction where Christ simulataneously exalts himself to the heavens and abases himself to the dust? Where he claims to *be* the Eternal Father of heaven and earth and all things that in them are, and then claims to be nothing more than a Son of God like all the rest of us? That he governs the universe but yet can do nothing without his Father?

    I suggest he is making a very careful distinction between his personal identity and capacity (which is nil) and his mantle as the plenipotentiary representative for not only his Father, but for the hosts of heaven, and the divine council.

    Now if we repeat the logic for Christ’s father we are left with a choice – a heavenly city without a throne, but just an altar pointing to another heavenly city ad infinitum, or some sort of representative system that gives heavenly meaning to the laws of common consent, persuasion, love, free will, and so on – the principle of exaltation described in D&C 121:

    Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

    Now if this is the principle by which we are exalted unto an everlasting righteous dominion, what reason have we to believe that the Most High’s dominion operates on any other principle?

    That is why I am skeptical that any unitary person has first class divine attributes (notably authority or power) in and of himself, but rather by divine investiture, not from a singularity or some sort of superman who deserves to rule because he guards the fount of divinity within his heart, but rather from a divine concert of exalted beings who rule by consent, with a Man of Holiness at the head. Where the fount of divinity, the living water, is not a physical source of power or energy, but rather a principle that if followed is sufficient to exalt all mankind. The Gospel – The Pearl of Great Price.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 10:40 pm

  28. If it is not obvious, I suppose I should add that I see the question of divided loyalties resolved in a manner very similar to what we have on this earth – representative government and the rule of persusasion where possible and law where necessary. A theological voluntarism of a sort, but that of the divine concert organized on family lines rather than the will of an enlightened dictator.

    I see this manifest to degrees in our whole doctrine of equality in a Zion society – we must be equal in earthy things, before heavenly things right? And what are heavenly things? What about the gospel of work – taught so eloquently by Brigham Young? Not to mention the law of common consent, the principle that consecration is supposed to be a matter of compromise, the principle that the Constitution is inspired and will still be used during the Millennial era, and so on.

    Frankly I cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven operating on a principle of fideistic feudalism where the will of one’s patriarchal superior is law unto all inferiors. That is just a distributed version of the Divine Command Theory, and societies that follow it tend to be unstable. What reason have we to believe that enlightenment will cure the instability of dictatorships, or more particularly that all questions of divine administration and culture are decidable from natural laws, instead of an expression of creativity and free will?

    Whenever a question is not decidable from right reason in the context of natural law – it makes ultimate sense to let the will of the people govern. Isn’t that a major factor in the legitimacy of any government, whether earthly or divine? Common consent not to do evil – but to creatively participate in the contingent aspects of economy, government and culture? A system reliable enough that it is invulnerable to the faults of any man, no matter how highly placed?

    The scriptures speak to all these issues, if we will but let them. On Earth as it is in Heaven, and vice versa.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 24, 2006 @ 11:06 pm

  29. Blake (#21-22),

    I think the KFD and the SitG support the idea that there is a position of Father and Son for each inhabited world. But the clear implication is that God the Father of this world was God the Son previously.

    You use “Head God” as if it referred to anyone who had a certain position.

    Actually, I conceded that there may indeed be a divine person within the extended Godhead who is the “Head God”; but Joseph made it clear that that person is not God our Father and the father of Jesus.

    I see this kind of shifrinf identity non-sense

    You stumped me, Wikipedia, and even Google with the word “shifrinf”…

    Remember, Christ prayed to his “Father” and asked us to worship the Father.

    Fine. And modern prophets have told us to refer to the Father as “Elohim” which is a plural word. The idea that the Father of Jesus has progenitors started with Joseph and has continued through every prophet since.

    When one sees the person of God, who [or what] is it that we see on your view, some role or title?

    They see God the Father of Jesus and our Father. That does not mean that our Father is Fatherless though and since he was in the role of The Son it seem clear to me (and apparently to all of Joseph Smith’s successors) that He had an Eternal Father as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 11:27 pm

  30. Blake (#23),

    I didn’t at all ignore those 4 points. In fact I basically agree with them. The Father of Jesus did all those things when he was The Son on a previous inhabited world. Jesus did here what he saw his Father do there. And I even could buy your (4). But it is clear that the Head God is not the person who is Father of Jesus.

    and merely suggesting that the Father could be just anyone is non-sense that has no textual support at all

    Did you read my entire comment #14? I never said the Father “could be just anyone” and I have no idea where you got that idea…

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 11:36 pm

  31. Blake (#25): One of the deep theological problems with Geoff’s view is that our allegiances are divided and there are competing gods who can thwart each others’ plans.

    No, that is not true at all. In my view (and the scriptures view) there is One God. All exalted persons who join the unity or extended Godhead become part of that loving unity that is the One God.

    So I have a question for you Blake. You have stated that the Godhead consists of only three persons now (and has eternally up until now). And you have further stated that upon exaltation people here will join in perfect loving unity with the Godhead. So presumably the extended Godhead will consist of many more than just three persons after the resurrection, correct?

    My question is what happened on those innumerable inhabited planets that preceded ours, including the one where the Father did everything Christ did here? Why did no one on those innumerable planets become exalted? Why is the Godhead still only three persons in your view?

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 11:47 pm

  32. Mark,

    Have you even answered my question in all of those comments? Here is the question again: “So what do you think? Did God the Father progress to Godhood from a non-divine status or not?”

    Comment by Geoff J — May 24, 2006 @ 11:57 pm

  33. This identity nonsense is not an attempt to rationalize the Adam-God theory – it was very explicity used by Brigham Young in his most detailed exposition of the subject, in October 1853 General conference. Unfortunately (for our purposes), that talk did not get included in the Journal of Discourses. Brigham Young said that he got the idea from Joseph Smith, by the way – the concept flows right out of the doctrine of sealings, and the Patriarchal Priesthood – Brigham Young was just trying to solve the trans-world boundary conditions. I don’t think his theory works, but that doesn’t (or shouldn’t) discredit the principle of name/title/mantle substitution – it is all over Hebrew culture for one thing. Joseph Smith refers to it in the KFD and the SITG several times, e.g. with Moses appointed to be a “God” *unto* Pharoah, unto Aaron, and unto the children of Israel (Exodus 4:16, 7:1, TPJS p. 375)

    Now Jesus often speaks in a rather peculiar manner as well:

    Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17)

    Now wouldn’t it be simple to just say “our Father” and “our God” – is Jesus just waxing poetic, or does he actually mean something here?

    I have mentioned the curiosity of the doctrine of the *name* of Christ before – note the last two verses of chapter twenty:

    And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

    Not life through Jesus Christ, but life through his *name*. Now his name is not magic – so what is life through his name if not life through role substitution – starting with kindness and Christian service and ending up in exaltation to the same station, by the same principles?

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 25, 2006 @ 12:23 am

  34. Geoff, Sorry I missed your question. If we are speaking of God the Father as an individual person, then yes. As the divine concert then yes as well, except as a society, rather than as a person. I believe we agree on most issues except two:

    1) I do not believe in infinite backward recursion of gods (IBR).
    2) I hold that the Atonement and even Heavenly Fatherhood is radically distributed across a large number of persons for any individual world, indeed largely in terms of people who actually lived on this world in the past.

    If we follow Joseph’s lead with regard to the proper translation of Eloheim in the Old Testament, we could just as well translate “Our Father who are in heaven” as “Our Fathers who art in heaven”. Or more conveniently use Father as a collective term whenever we are praying in public. i.e that each of us has one personal Father, but that when we get together we are addressing a group of Fathers.

    Now we may quibble on earth boundary conditions, but any scheme that takes exaltation seriously ends up with this ambiguity when spiritual cousins get together.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 25, 2006 @ 12:33 am

  35. More on the principle of personal inability to be divine in and of oneself. Here is Jesus Christ:

    The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do (John 5:19)

    For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son (John 5:21-22)

    Now something we ought to talk about is resurrection as an ordinance. Jesus Christ did not baptise himself – why would he resurrect himself? And why did Joseph Smith bother to correct the accounts of the post-resurrection angels to consistently have *two* angels, instead of one. Might they have been there for a reason?

    I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)

    He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. (John 6:56-57)

    Note the words “live by the Father”

    Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. (John 8:28)

    He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. (John 7:18)

    Shouldn’t this principle apply to the Most High as well? Or does the Gospel of John only apply to mortals?

    Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17-18)

    Now here is a scripture that, were it not for all the other evidence from his own mouth, could easily be interpreted to mean that Jesus had power in and of himself to resurrect himself. However, Jesus said that “I can of mine own self do nothing” – that is pretty explicit evidence for intrepreting this scripture as “I lay down my life voluntarily, and I have the power to take it up again, not of myself, but because of the Father who is within me”.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 25, 2006 @ 1:17 am

  36. First, let’s get clear about this trans-identity non-sense. (1) It is not mentioned or alluded to in the text of the KFD or the SintG. (2) It applies only in the context where one is speaking as agent for another — it comes from Hebrew saliah which means “one sent”. It doesn’t apply in the context of the KFD because no divine being appears as agent to speak for another (as Christ does as Son to speak for the Father in John). Rather, JS speaks about his views about God and the gods. So the notions of divine investiture and one agent representing a principal simply don’t apply in this context — thus, it is misapplied by Geoff and Mark.

    Next let’s get clear about whether the Father was divine before becoming mortal. Assume, contra-textually, that JS had Son/Father substitution in mind in the KFD but just didn’t dare to say so (little chance of that). It is still the case that the Son did what the Father did. It is still the case that the Father, as a mortal, had a power to lay down his life and take it up again as the Son did in this life. It is still the case that the Son was divine before this life. So whoever was the Father, that person was already divine as a mortal because he possessed a divine power as a mortal, i.e., power in Himself to resurrect or take up life again. So “the Father” was already divine prior to becoming mortal. [As an aside for Mike — the KFD says we have power to lay down our lives (which is obvious) but it never says that we already have power to take them up again — so it is a divine prerogative to take lives up again and not something we already possess as we are].

    Now this is extremely important – in the SintG, JS stated that the Holy Ghost will also one day do what both the Father and the Son have done, i.e., take upon himself a body. But it is extremely clear that the Holy Ghost is already a divine personage in JS’s thought and scripture, and will become mortal after having been already divine. It is clear in JS’s thought that the Son was divine before becoming mortal. When JS states in the SintGrove that the HG will do as both the Father and the Son have done by taking upon himself a body, he makes it explicit that already divine beings become mortal.
    Moreover, it is the same argument in the KFD to explain how we know tha the Father was once mortal — i.e., the Son did just what the Father already did by becoming mortal and laying down his life and having the divine power to take it up again. It couldn’t be much clearer that JS saw the Father as divine before becoming mortal.

    Next let’s go to the notion that we have power to be divine in and of ourselves. I agree and disagree with Mark, we realize our divinity only in relation to others; however, we have the divine nature already simply in virtue of having the nature we do [it logically could not be otherwise]. That is, we have a potential to realize our divinity by entering into relationship with others; however, we cannot realize our divinity unless we enter into relationship with others.

    To Geoff’s question about whether all persons who enter the Godhead are also equally divine. Of course they are equally divine — however, as Jesus taught it is having a relationship with the Father that is essential to divinity. Those who enter into loving relationships with us express a divine character of love; but they are not the source of divinity for others. Only a relationship with the Father mediated by Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost will empower us to realize our divine nature. So what is essential [as JS was emphatically teaching in the KFD] is that it is necessary to know God the Father, and to know that we can speak with him as one man speaks to another. That is why the non-sense that just anyone can take the Father’s place is so pernicious. It is a relationship with Jesus’s Father through Christ, the God of heaven and earth and all things, that is essential to salvation and exaltation. That is why allowing changing identities just won’t do.

    So the answer to Geoff’s question in #31 is the Chinesemu. It means, “un-ask the question because it assumes too much that isn’t true.” Those on other planets where the Father dwelt may well have been exalted by entering into an indwelling unity with the Godhead — but they are not the source of salvation for anyone else unlike the members of the Godhead. Now I am not denying that we cannot facilitate salvation and exalatation of others; but we do so by directing them to the Father through the Son by the power of the Holy Ghost. So we can be Saviors on Mount Zion in the sense that we are messengers; but not in the sense that we are the source of life, light and truth.

    Finally, I would really like to see Geoff make any coherent sense of the scriptural statements I quote in ch. 12 and the statements by JS in Nauvoo that expressly state that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one eternal God without beginning or end, the same unchangeable being, that God is eternal without beginning or end — I would like to see how these statements don’t just flat out contradict his view. So I see his reading not as re-interpreting prior scriptures in light of the KFD, but of disembowling the scriptures and ignoring them altogether.

    Comment by Blake — May 25, 2006 @ 7:26 am

  37. Blake: divine beings become mortal.

    You keep hammering on this point as if someone here disagrees… As far as I can tell we are all in agreement on this point. What I don’t understand is what you think this point buys you in this discussion.

    That is why the non-sense that just anyone can take the Father’s place is so pernicious.

    You either don’t understand what my position is or you are mischaracterizing it with this statement. Assuming there is a divine person who is the Head God of all God’s, I have never implied that anyone takes that person’s place in this discussion. I have said that the divine person we call Father is a descendant of the Ultimate Divine Monarch. I have further said that when we speak to one person in the extended Godhead we speak to all because of their indwelling Oneness. When we have a personal relationship with One of them we have a person relationship with all of them. So when we pray to our Father, we are also communicating at the same time with Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the Father’s Father, and however many other divine persons make up the extended Godhead (including of course the Supreme Monarch).

    The fundamental issue here is the question of how big the Godhead really is. We all agree that for this planet we focus on three divine persons. But Joseph taught that there is a succession of presidencies for planets in these two sermons (at least I see that in them) and since there were innumerable inhabited planets, the extended Godhead is much larger than just three persons.

    Those on other planets where the Father dwelt may well have been exalted by entering into an indwelling unity with the Godhead-but they are not the source of salvation for anyone else unlike the members of the Godhead.

    Ohhhhhh… Now we are getting somewhere! So your scheme is more like Stapley’s than I realized. He calls such persons “King an Queens, Priests and Priestesses” and doesn’t pretend that they are Gods in the same sense that the three in the Godhead are Gods. You apparently have the same basic opinion but have been using language that obscures that fact.

    So we can be Saviors on Mount Zion in the sense that we are messengers; but not in the sense that we are the source of life, light and truth.

    Hehe… ok… Sort of unseen junior partners, eh? This really is enlightening. I thought that when you said we can enter as members of the Godhead you really meant it. So what is the difference between these “exalted” persons in your model and ministering angels again…?

    Finally, I would really like to see Geoff make any coherent sense of the scriptural statements I quote in ch. 12

    Ok, since I’m skewering your chapter 12 turnabout is fair play. I’ll post an alternative reconciliation of those scriptures with the late teachings of Joseph soon.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2006 @ 8:52 am

  38. Mark: Or more conveniently use Father as a collective term whenever we are praying in public. i.e that each of us has one personal Father, but that when we get together we are addressing a group of Fathers.

    Wow. I guess I haven’t been paying close enough attention to your “unorthodox” model you keep hinting at. This is unorthodox indeed. So could you back up and try to spell out the basics in clear and plain terms in say, three paragraphs or less? (Brevity is a virtue ya know ;-) ) Specifically, are you saying that for every person here, there is a separate divine person that is (or acts in the role of) their father? What does this have to do with a “distributed atonement” you keep mentioning?

    If you would prefer to email these answers to me that would be fine. I wouldn’t mind getting a separate post up on it either…

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2006 @ 9:03 am

  39. Blake

    From your ansewr in #25 can I conclude you answer “no” to this question from #24 Is there a planet somewhere in which the inhabitants refer to one of the sons of God as “the Father”?

    Comment by Jacob — May 25, 2006 @ 9:10 am

  40. Yes, it looks, mechanically, that Blake’s model is very close to what I propose, but with diferent semantics. Thank you for the explication.

    Comment by J. Stapley — May 25, 2006 @ 9:31 am

  41. Geoff: divine beings become mortal. You keep hammering on this point as if someone here disagrees… As far as I can tell we are all in agreement on this point. What I don’t understand is what you think this point buys you in this discussion.

    It appears to me that you are not being up-front. Let’s see if I am grasping what you ar saying. You appear to assert that there was a God who was divine from all eternity, the Head God or Most High God, but the Father of Jesus Christ and our Father was not divine from all eternity. Rather, the Father of Christ came to an earth as a less-than-god and learned how to be a god. However, you also appear to assert that you accept that already divine beings become mortal — indeed, you accuse me of not getting that you in fact accept that point. If you are accepting my argument that the Father was already divine when he came to an earth, then we have agreement on that point. Do we? It seems to me that you assert a contradictory position.

    You assert that the issue is how big the Godhead is. The issue is not how big the Godhead is. All divine persons are fully divine. To be fully divine is to participate fully in the knowledge, power and indwelling presence of the Godhead. However, the Father is pre-eminent and supreme. It is a relationship with the Father that is the source of this fulness. Further, I would really like to see anything to support your assertion that JS taught that “there is a succession of presidencies for planets in these two sermons (at least I see that in them) and since there were innumerable inhabited planets, the extended Godhead is much larger than just three persons.” He didn’t assert any such thing. These are your notions and nothing of the sort is taught in these sermons (neither the word nor the notion of presidencies appears in either sermon).

    Thus, it doesn’t follow, as you seem to think it does, that we are not fully divine or one with the members of the Godhead if we are not the ultimate source of light and salvation along with all other gods [which of course entail that there is no ultimate source]. So we are gods in the same sense as the three members of the Godhead in that we possess all essential attributes of deity; however, the Father is not the Son. We need not have all properties that each other has or we would be identical and there would only be one person or entity and not a plurality. So you need to state what you take to be essential to be divine and how those in the Godhead as I view it are not essentially divine.

    I agree with you that Mark’s notion of multiple fathers make little sense scripturally or logically.

    Comment by Blake — May 25, 2006 @ 9:35 am

  42. Jacob: there is only Father — the Most High God who is the Head God in the council of gods who is more intelligent than all others and who is the God of all other gods. I don’t have a clue how other people on other planets refer to their gods.

    Comment by Blake — May 25, 2006 @ 9:37 am

  43. Look – saying that my model makes no sense, without a contrary argument is just bluster. I readily admit it is heterodox, but I have made several relevant arguments for critical aspects of my position, or summaries of such arguments in this very thread. It is not just idle speculation – rather my theory is the only way I have been able to make sense of the scriptures, the Book of Mormon in particular, at all.

    Beyond that I do not see it as a particularly radical departure from the concepts of exaltation and presidency regularly discussed during the mid part of the nineteenth century, rather I see its offense as not fitting nicely with 20th century neo-orthodoxy, a doctrinal change that largely consists of the re-importation of conventional Christian and Jewish thought about God. These ‘conventional’ ideas have a long history and indeed manifest themselves in the Old and New Testaments – some of the very best scriptural support for Calvinism comes from the Old Testament. Augustine isn’t solely responsible for Original Sin either – it is one of all sorts of strange concepts floating around in Near Eastern culture. Most of Genesis 2 and 3 is probably an apolegetic fairy tale from a Yahwist scribe. As theology it does more harm than good.

    Now I can state some of my more notable conclusions, but the arguments for them are not simple, but rather aspects of a rather comprehensive systematic theology. The best I can easily do is maintain their coherence.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 25, 2006 @ 10:30 am

  44. Including coherence with a plausible, if not conventional interpretation of scripture, I should add.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 25, 2006 @ 10:32 am

  45. Blake: It appears to me that you are not being up-front.

    Hehe. I am certainly trying to be upfront about my views. It does appear that we are having a disconnect here though. I’ll try to back up and see if we can slow things down to be sure we are on the same page.

    Let’s see if I am grasping what you are saying. You appear to assert that there was a God who was divine from all eternity, the Head God or Most High God

    Yes, I am open to that idea. I am not asserting that is the only possibility, but since you are in that camp I can buy the idea that there is a single divine person who has always been the most intelligent from all eternity.

    but the Father of Jesus Christ and our Father was not divine from all eternity.

    That’s right — Exactly as Joseph taught.

    Rather, the Father of Christ came to an earth as a less-than-god and learned how to be a god. However, you also appear to assert that you accept that already divine beings become mortal

    There are two options here.

    a) If one prefers the My Turn on Earth model of eternity then one would have to conclude that the Father was divine prior to his single mortal probation just like Jesus was because Joseph taught that Jesus did only the things that his father did before him. So that means the Father condescended in the role of a savior and atoned for the sins of the world upon which he was mortal too (else the Son did not do only what he saw his Father do.) In this model the assumption is that Jesus progressed to the point of Godhood in premortality and presumably the Father did the same thing. Further, in this model the Father did not come to an earth as a less-than-god and learn how to be a god because he learned how to be a God prior to his single mortality.

    b) If one prefers the multiple mortal probations model then the Father had multiple mortal probations in his progression toward exaltation. In this model he did come to earth(s) as a less-than-god and learned how to be a god. After he became exalted he condescended to one more mortality the role of savior as well.

    Either model allows for the Father progressing to exaltation before mortality though.

    It seems to me that you assert a contradictory position.

    I hope you can see now that I am not.

    Thus, it doesn’t follow, as you seem to think it does, that we are not fully divine or one with the members of the Godhead if we are not the ultimate source of light and salvation along with all other gods

    Ummm, you say we can join the Godhead but then you say that the Godhead will still consist of only three persons. Which is it? Are we in or not? What you describe is not what I would consider “joining the Godhead” — sounds more like becoming ministering angels to the Godhead to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2006 @ 12:12 pm

  46. Mark: Look – saying that my model makes no sense, without a contrary argument is just bluster.

    I completely agree. Let me point out that I didn’t dismiss your model — I simply asked for a concise few paragraphs explaining it. (See #38)

    Comment by Geoff J — May 25, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

  47. Geoff, here is a summary of the leading points of my theory

    1) No divine *person* is dramatically unique in terms of capacities they possess in and of themselves or by virtue of association with a small integral number of persons. The authority and power of God are derived by virtue of the mantle of representation for a much larger body of persons, in a manner not to dissimilar from the authority of a righteous judge except with a much more dominant spiritual aspect.

    2) That the terms “Heavenly Father”, “Messiah”, “Christ” and so on are used in three senses in the scriptures: first, as proper names for one particular person or another, second as augmented titles for a person invested with heavenly power and authority in some context, and third as universal titles for all such persons throughout eternity.

    3) That grace, light, knowledge, truth do not in *large part* emanate from the mind, heart, or body of any particular divine person, or small integral number of such persons, but are a consequence of the collective effort and unity of the whole hosts of heaven, much as a small number of sparks may be aggregated into a burning fire.

    4) That our personal Savior or Heavenly Father manifests these characteristics, and indeed identifies them as his own by divine investiture, not merely of a small number of direct line authorities, but legimate authorization to act in behalf of the divine concert of all within some context, much as a righteous priesthood leader exercises keys within some jurisdiction.

    5) That heavenly father and motherhood do not involve natal procreation of a very large number of new spirits, but rather priesthood presidency over their lineal and adopted descendants, and that is the proper interpretation of “continuation of seeds” with regard to the Abrahamic Covenant.

    6) That the authority of heavenly father/motherhood is generally administered on a patrilineal, not matrilineal basis, such that if one is a member of the tribe of Ephraim: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Ephraim (and their wives from whom you descend) may all have some role in presiding over you, but not likely the father or mother of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Asenath and so on.

    7) That at any given time, there is one father, generally a patrineal ancestor, but others on a pro tem basis or by adoption, that presides over you and to whom your prayers are addressed, and is directly responsible for your spiritual well being.

    8) That Jesus Christ, nor his personal Heavenly Father does not directly participate in this process – rather when we pray we take upon ourselves the name and role of Jesus Christ, speaking to our Father, as he did.

    9) That the doctrine of sealings and the law of adoption is a precursor for establishing who will be our permanent heavenly father and mother, and that in general if they qualify, in due time our earthly father and mother will come to preside over us as our heavenly father and mother.

    10) That the role of the Holy Ghost is similarly distributed, and is most likely filled by spirits yet unborn into the same line, to the degree that type of planning works under the constraints of free agency.

    11) That the kingdom of heaven is organized more like a republic than a enlightened despotism. That the authority of the Most High is subject to common consent, and that he could in principle be removed out of his place for sufficiently high crimes and misdemeanors.

    12) That celestial administration instead of being divided primarily geographically, and secondly patrilineally, is primarily patrilineal, and secondly geographic.

    13) That the work and glory of any heavenly father or mother is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of his or her children.

    14) That the suffering of the Atonement is radically distributed among aspiring and actual heavenly fathers (and mothers) – first the physical sacrifice (symbolized by bread) of fathers and mothers in this earthly life, and second the spiritual sacrifice (symbolized by water) made in behalf of their lineal and adopted descendants in the next life.

    15) That all fathers, mothers, and others are truly and properly Saviors (upon mount Zion) to the degree that they take upon themselves this role, joint heirs with Christ, anointed sons and daughters unto God, and spiritual fathers and mothers (by degrees) unto those whom they serve, an relational identity that will be made permanent in the next life for those who are worthy, according (as always) to the principle of common consent.

    16) That we are finite number of patrilineal generations removed from the first person to ever hold a physical body, whether on this earth or some other earth. That we are also a finite number of patriarchal priesthood “hops” removed from the Most High.

    17) That the human body, whether physical or spiritual, was in some sense designed (or evolution influenced) such that it was an actual decision on the part of some architect or author, for us to have two eyes and ten fingers. In other words, the doctrine of Creation involves actual discretion and not just a metaphysical accident.

    18) That at some point in the sufficiently far distant past, we were almost certainly unembodied, but personal intelligences, as B.H. Roberts has described, and that though some were more intelligent than others, there were not a small handful who were orders of magnitude more advanced than their immediate peers. Or rather that prior to this earth life Jesus, Michael, Abraham, Moses, …, and the Most High were peers comparable to the way the members of the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency are peers.

    19) That the D&C 107 and 28 principles of priesthood administration are applicable in heaven as well as on earth.

    Now I can give scriptural arguments for all of these points, of various degrees of complexity, but to some degree I have to defend it as a systematic whole, in terms of being more plausible than more conventional views.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 25, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

  48. Geoff: I didn’t get that you were going down two tracks at the same time and considering alternative readings. That explains why you have a contradiction — you are entertaining two mutually exclusive ways of thinking about it. As for the identity of the Father, I believe that JS was fairly clear that the Father just is the Most High or Head God who is the God of all other gods. When JS uses the word “God” without further clarification, he is always referring to the Father. Consider the Bullock report of SertG:

    the plurality of Gods–I have selected this text I wish to declare I have always–& in all congregations when I have preached it has been the plurality of Gods it has been preached 15 years–I have always declared God to be a distinct personage—Jesus Christ a separate & distinct person from God the Father. the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage & or Spirit & these 3 constitute 3 distinct personages & 3 Gods—if this is in accordance with the New Testament–lo & behold we have 3 Gods anyhow & they are plural anyhow
    (Bullock Report)

    I believe in these Gods that God reveals as Gods—to be Sons of God & all can cry Abba Father–Sons of God who exalt themselves to be Gods even from before the foundation of the world & are all the only Gods I have a reverence for– John said he was a King. Jesus Christ who hath by his own blood made us Kings & Priest to God. Oh thou God who are Kings of Kings & Lord of Lords
    (Bullock Report)

    In any event, the God that JS taught that we must know to have eternal life in the KFD is clearly the Father of Jesus. It is this God, the Head God, that Jesus patterned his life after. Further, it is this God, the Father of Christ, that is the King of kings and Lord of Lords. So I’m pretty sure that your God above the Father is a misunderstanding of the text.

    Mark: I obviously will have a hard time accepting your musical chairs view of God and gods, atonement, etc. It seems to me to have scant scriptural support and to contradict the scriptures on many levels. I acknowledge that it is something like what BY thought. I personally believe that his theology was a disaster for the most part — tho I like his emphasis on God as a person and not merely a title or essence as the basis of our worship.

    Comment by Blake — May 25, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

  49. To take this back a bit without reading the other posts.

    (#13) …or in other words. You are not a God in embryo.

    J. Stapley,

    Agreed I may not be a god in embryo,depending on my eternal progression, but if I do make it to the celestial kingdom and become a god, then I am a god in embryo, therefore, as such, I could claim I have the seeds of divinity within me. Therefore, as an eternal inteligence, one that “was also in the beginning with God” I feel that to claim that I have always been “divine” would be truth, because that seed was always there.

    Comment by gilgamesh — May 25, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

  50. Blake, I feel that Brigham Young’s theology failed largely because it was an unnatural hybrid of classical Christian orthodoxy, the Mormon concept of exaltation, and a natalist concept of spiritual parenthood. Neo-orthodox LDS theology today is even less plausible – trying to fit together two schemes that just won’t match, and appealing to mystery a la Luther to explain the discrepancies.

    The guiding principle behind my theology is to discard unnecessary assumptions of Christian orthodoxy in favor of a truly personal and relational concept of divinity – using the distribution principle to get away from the paradox of God as a metaphysical singularity. A God who if he wiggled a finger improperly could wipe out whole civilizations by accident, who if he overslept could cause electrons to cease going around in their orbits – indeed a God who can hardly have a personality at all. The Greek statue conception of God. We tone it down in contemporary LDS theology, but the paradox remains.

    I think of the Most High as a Man of Righteousness presiding over the hosts of heaven in great glory, one with a sense of humor, perhaps slightly absent minded from time to time, but dead serious when the occasion requires. I cannot comprehend all truth, all light, and all law proceeding from within his person to ground all the order in the universe. If I had that responsibility I would see if I could rip the heart out and place it on a pedestal. A moments neglect could be fatal for billions. That is why natural law grounded in personality makes no sense. The Atonement grounded in a single individual has comparable problems – the energy density alone would melt the earth. Fortunately, LDS theology provides ample precedent for natural law independent of God, if not for a proper conception of a distributed Atonement.

    One last thing – I do not see my theology as a matter of musical chairs – it is more a matter of relationships where fathers only substitute where necessary – patrilineal government at its finest. You know that recommend using place provides ample support for this idea, including the Atonement part.

    Comment by Mark Butler — May 25, 2006 @ 9:38 pm

  51. I think I’m a God in embryo. If I wanted to be.

    Comment by annegb — May 26, 2006 @ 9:58 am

  52. I was sad to see this one end so early. Did Mark Butler ever fully elucidate his theories here? I’ll move on to the post approaching point number 2 now and see what I drum up there. It has a much longer comment section than this.

    Comment by BHodges — December 26, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

  53. BHodges,

    Yeah that next discussion on God the Father having a Father gets us much more deeply into this subject. Things got pretty heated in that discussion if I remember correctly.

    Looking back now, I was very skeptical of Mark’s ideas when we had this discussion but I actually am much more open to variations of them now. I think he stated thing well in #50 when he said:

    I feel that Brigham Young’s theology failed largely because it was an unnatural hybrid of classical Christian orthodoxy, the Mormon concept of exaltation, and a natalist concept of spiritual parenthood. Neo-orthodox LDS theology today is even less plausible – trying to fit together two schemes that just won’t match, and appealing to mystery a la Luther to explain the discrepancies.

    BTW — Mark still comments here under the handle “Mark D”

    Comment by Geoff J — December 26, 2008 @ 4:57 pm

  54. Ah, thanks for the clarification.

    Comment by BHodges — December 29, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

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