As the second part of my discussion of chapter 12 in the second volume of Blake Ostler’s series of books on Mormon Theology I will deal with the second of two controversial positions Blake takes when reading Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse (KFD) and Sermon in the Grove (SitG). That second position was:
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.
To defend his position Blake refers mostly to the sermon Joseph Smith gave in June of 1844, two months after the King Follett Discourse, and which is sometimes referred to as The Sermon in the Grove. Blake writes:
In the Sermon in the Grove, Joseph Smith gave an interpretive discourse on Revelation 1:6: “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.” (442)
Blake comments on the various sections of the Sermon in the Grove. He makes a solid case that in the second section of this sermon that Joseph teaches that there is indeed a Head God over all other Gods.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”… It read first, “In the beginning the head of the Gods brought forth the Gods,” or, as others have translated it, “The head of the Gods called the Gods together.” … The head God organized the heavens and the earth. I defy all the world to refute me. In the beginning the heads of the Gods organized the heavens and the earth… (TPJS 371-372)
The trouble Blake gets himself into in my opinion is his insistence that the Father of Jesus Christ is the Supreme Monarch who has no father of his own. This reading is explicitly preached against by Joseph in the Sermon in the Grove:
The Apostles have discovered that there were Gods above, for John says God was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. My object was to preach the scriptures, and preach the doctrine they contain, there being a God above, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. … If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.
(TPJS 370, 373)
The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take [that] view of the subject, its sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfection of the Gods.
the apost[les] have disc[overe]d. that there were Gods above-God was the Far. of our Ld. J.C. -my object was to preach the Scrip-& preach the doctrine there being a God above the Far. of our Ld. J.C.- … if Abra. reasoned thus-if J.C was the Son of God & John discd. that god the Far. of J.C had a far. you may suppose that he had a Far. also-where was ther ever a Son witht. a Far. … .-where ever did tree or any thing spring into existence witht. a progenitor-& every thing comes in this way-Paul says that which is Earthyly is in likeness of that which is Heavenly 26- hence if J. had a Far. can we not believe that he had a Far. also … Gods-the heads of the Gods appointed one God for us 18-& when you take a view of the subject it sets one free to see all the beauty holiness & perfection of the God
So there it is as plain as day. God, the Father of Jesus Christ, had a Father also. This does not fit into Blake’s theology though so he offers up this interpretation of these clear statements from Joseph:
When the Father condescended from a fullness of his divine state to become mortal, he was born into a world and had a father as a mortal … Joseph Smith seems to be asserting that the Father also left his divine state to become begotten of a father at a time when he became mortal. (444, 445)
So he is apparently saying here that unlike Jesus, the Father had a mortal father. But he contradicts this notion on the next page when he says:
Joseph doesn’t give us any information as to who this father of the Father’s earthly body might be. However, if the Father’s generation was like the Son’s, then His earthly mother was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost in a similar way and his generation was also by divine means. That can certainly be true without positing that the father of God the Father’s earthly body was a god above the Father, for there is no such god. (445)
Errrr… So first God the Father only had a mortal father… But then he had no mortal father… ? The contradiction is obvious, of course. Blake dug himself a deep hole here and it surprisingly made its way past his editors in this otherwise good book.
Blake has also seemingly contradicts himself about the question of whether God the Father acted in the role of atoning Savior and Redeemer in a mortal probation. He quote the evidence from Joseph in the SitG that the Father did atone for a world:
I want you to pay particular attention to what I am saying. Jesus said that the Father wrought precisely in the same way as His Father had done before Him. As the Father had done before? He laid down His life, and took it up the same as His Father had done before. He did as He was sent, to lay down His life and take it up again; and then was committed unto Him the keys. I know it is good reasoning. (TPJS 373)
I want you all to pay particr. attent. J. sd. as the Far. wrought precisely in the same way as his Far. had done bef -as the Far. had done bef.-he laid down his life & took it up same as his Far. had done bef-he did as he was sent to lay down his life & take it up again & was then committed unto him the keys &c I know it is good reasoning
But the holy ghost is yet a Spiritual body and waiting to take to himself a body. as the Savior did or as god did or the gods before them took bodies for the Saviour Says the work that my father did do i also & those are the works he took himself a a body & then laid down his life that he might take it up again & the Scripture Say those who will obey the commandments shall be heirs of god & Joint heirs with of Jesus Christ we then also took bodys to lay them down, to take them up again
(George Laub Journal; italics mine)
Jesus said that all things that He saw the father do he did (McIntire Minute Book)
This in addition to the same concept Joseph taught in the KFD:
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 came 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. It is plain beyond disputation, and you thus learn some of the first principles of the Gospel, about which so much hath been said. (TPJS 346-347)
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. Till they are able to dwell in everlasting burning8 & everlasting power.-
(Willard Richards Diary)
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 do you believe it, if not, dont believe the bible. I defy all Hell and earth to refute it. And you have got to learn how to make yourselves God, king and priest, by going from a small capacity to a great capacity to the resurrection of the dead to dwelling in everlasting burnings, … What did Jesus Christ do, the same thing as I se the Father do, see the father do what, work out a kingdom, when I do so to I will give to the father which will add to his glory, he will take a Higher exhaltation & I will take his place and am also exhalted.
(Wolford Woodruff Diary; italics mine)
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 … J. Sd. as the Far. hath power in himself even so hath the Son power to do what64 the Far. did that ansr. is obvious in a manner to lay down his body & take it up-J-did as my Far. laid down his body & take it up agn. … all Earthly taber shall be dissolved that they shall be heirs of God & jt. hrs of J. C.66 to inherit the same power exaltn. until you ascd. the throne of Etl. power same as those who are gone bef. what J. did I do the things I saw my Far. Do67 before worlds came rolld. into existence I saw my Far. work out his K with fear & trembling68 & I must do the same when I shall give my K to the Far. so that he obtns K rollg. upon K. so that J treads in his tracks as he had gone before.
What did Jesus say-as the father hath power in himself even so hath the son power100 to do what why what the father did, to lay down his body and took it up again. Jesus what are you going to do-to lay down my life as my father did that I might take it up again. … What did Jesus do. Why I do the things that I saw the father do when worlds came into existence. I saw the father work out a kingdom with fear & trembling & I can do the same & when I get my Kingdom worked out I will present to the father & it will exalt his glory and Jesus steps into his tracks to inherit what God did before. (Clayton Report)
What Joseph is teaching could hardly be clearer: Jesus was a savior of the world in precisely the same way that the Father had been the savior of another previous world (and that was precisely the way his Father had done before him).
Blake even seems to buy this in the book when he says:
The Son as a mortal does “precisely” what the Father did before him. (443)
But when pressed on the issue of the Father atoning for his world Blake stated here at another thread:
I don’t believe that the Father atoned. JS was very clear in the poetic rendition of the Vision in 1842 that the Son atoned for all worlds.
So despite these teachings from Joseph in 1844, Blake prefers to let a poem written two years earlier by Joseph trump both the KFD and the SitG. That is problematic.
The section in the SitG that Blake calls “the clincher” is here:
I will refer to another Scripture. “Now,” says God, when He visited Moses in the bush, (Moses was a stammering sort of a boy like me) God said, “Thou shalt be a God unto the children of Israel.” God said, “Thou shalt be a God unto Aaron, and he shall be thy spokesman.” I believe those Gods that God reveals as Gods to be sons of God, and all can cry, “Abba, Father!” Sons of God who exalt themselves to be Gods, even from before the foundation of the world, and are the only Gods I have a reverence for. (TPJS 375)
I have an[othe]r. Scrip-now says God when visited Moses in the Bush-moses was a stutt[er]ing sort of a boy like me-God said thou shalt be a God unto the children of Israel-God said thou shalt be a God unto Aaron & he shall be thy spokes. 41 I bel. in these Gods that God reveals as Gods-to be Sons of God 42 & all can cry Abba Father 43-Sons of God who exalt themselves to be Gods even from bef. the foundatn. of the world & are all the only Gods I have a reverence for (Bullock Report)
This is excellent evidence that we (all humankind) can be included in the terms “the gods” when they are spoken of in the scriptures. We are the same kind and species as all the gods who went before us after all. According to Joseph, we can become Gods just like all other Gods before us did:
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. (TPJS 346)
you have got to learn how to make yourselves God, Kings, Priests, &c.7-by going from a small to great capacity. Till they are able to dwell in everlasting burning8 & everlasting power.- (Richards Diary)
here then is Etl. life to know the only wise and true God you have got to learn how to be a God yourself & be a K. & God Priest to God same as all have done by going from a small capy to anr. from grace to grace until the resn. of & sit in everlasting power as they who have gone before & God in the L D. while certn. indivals are proclaimg. his name is not trifling with us (Bullock report)
You have got to learn how to be a god yourself in order to save yourself-to be priests & kings101 as all Gods has done-by going from a small degree to another-from exaltation to ex-till they are able to sit in glory as with those who sit enthroned. I want you to know while God is being proclaimed that he is not trifling with you nor me. (Clayton Report)
And you have got to learn how to make yourselves God, king and priest, by going from a small capacity to a great capacity to the resurrection of the dead to dwelling in everlasting burnings, (Woodruff Diary)
Blake seems to think that quote from the SitG somehow shows that the Father of Jesus is the Head God above all other Gods, but it doesn’t. It just shows that the chain of “gods” extends below the Father of Jesus as well as above him.
I have more to add but will save that for a follow up post. So, those of you who made it through this whole post – what do you think? Does the Father of Jesus have a Father or not? Did the Father act as an atoning savior on a previous world or not? What say ye? I think Joseph clearly answered “Yes” to both questions.
[Associated radio.blog song: U2 - In God's Country]