My thoughts on “Becoming Like God”
Wednesday of last week, I went to a presentation that my former philosophy of religion teacher was presenting, and he said something that struck me: Mormons can be considered atheists! This point made me want to post something in my Facebook account, which I did the next night: “There is a sense in which Mormons can be considered atheists.” The post got so much more attention than I thought it would; some were supportive of the idea while others, perhaps most others, wholeheartedly disagreed. The latter people said that there was no way a Mormon could be considered atheist, even from the outside. Perhaps most of them thought that I had lost my faith and was about to become atheist or something, when in fact it was only for discussion purposes (most Mormons don’t seem to like the idea that their religion would have possibility of philosophical or theological discussion). The discussion got into the possibility of Mormons being polytheists.
One of the participants in particular told me that I had to go educate myself by reading the essay in this link (https://www.lds.org/topics/becoming-like-god?lang=eng) and to go pray about it. Later I heard that this essay, “Becoming Like God,” an essay that the LDS church released this month, sparked a lot of controversy, and I was curious about what was in it. I read it and found nothing particularly damning to the church. However, one thing I did find discomfort in was the fact that it states, “…few Latter-day Saints would identify with caricatures of having their own planet…”
This was strange because all of my life I have been taught that exalted beings will be able to create worlds and have their own children live on them. And then I found out about the Q&A (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormonism-101) that the church released last year (I know…I am very behind in church news) and did find some things damning to the church (it’s important to note that this article was written solely for the public and the media, in other words, people outside of the church):
1. Under the question of “Do Latter-day Saints believe they can become “gods”? the answer was that the idea of God being the Father and us being the children is everywhere in the Bible and in other Christian traditions, and that that is the way Latter-day Saints see themselves. They don’t go into the idea that we are literal offspring of God the Father, nor do they answer the question that yes they do see themselves as potential Gods and Goddesses. So do we not believe that anymore?
2. Under the question of “Do Latter-day Saints believe that they will ‘get their own planet’?” the answer was no, and that this was merely a misunderstanding on the part of the leaders and members of the church, and that that is not official Mormon doctrine nor is it found in Mormon scripture. This answer is even more damning to me than the answer to the first question. Some people have responded by saying that no, we don’t believe we will only get one planet, but that we would be able to make worlds. I think this defense is weak because of the fact that the answer on the website doesn’t clear it up by saying that, “However, Latter-day Saints do believe that as a result of exaltation and eternal progression, they will be able to make worlds, have children, and allow their children to live mortal lives upon those worlds” or anything like that. It only says that “This misunderstanding stems from speculative comments unreflective of scriptural doctrine” and “The Church does not and has never purported to fully understand the specifics of Christ’s statement that ‘in my Father’s house are many mansions.'” It doesn’t even include that the church has never purported to full understand the specifics to Lorenzo Snow’s claim that “As man is God once was, and as God is man may become.” It only says that the phrase ‘get their own planet’ is all a big understanding…a rumor, if you will. And this doesn’t sit right with me.
In high school, one of my favorite seminary teachers told me that the difference between a doctrine and a principle is that a doctrine is a teaching, or a fact, that can never be altered, and that a principle is a practice that is based on a fact, and it can be altered. One example is the doctrine that our body is a temple (a fact, though also a metaphor), and a principle that goes along with that fact is that we shouldn’t have tattoos. But now I am faced with the idea that the definition of a doctrine can change. Whereas it used to be a teaching that is unalterable, and now it is just a teaching. And now the doctrine (yes, it has been a Mormon doctrine for over a hundred years) that Mormons can be ‘gods’ with their own worlds is not immutable. In other words, the fact that Mormons can become gods can change. One day, it was true. Now over a hundred years later, it is no longer true. Perhaps God has just changed it so that it is now impossible for human beings to become gods.
However, the church’s statement says that this has never been a doctrine. But it has! It’s been a doctrine for a long time, one that I grew up with! And now I learn that this doctrine is wrong. If that is true, what other doctrines could be wrong? The doctrine that marriage is only between a man and a woman? The doctrine that only males may have the priesthood? Perhaps those will change someday…or perhaps those aren’t and never were doctrines. Sometimes religion, even the LDS church is confusing.