Dialogue with LDS Missionary on Whether God Became God or Not (October 27th-November 3rd, 2021)
Hey Rob! How's it going? Thanks for accepting my friend request! I'm Elder…, a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints! As a missionary, we represent Christ and spread his message of hope to the world! Would you be interested in hearing a message of hope?
[Rob Sivulka replied:] The only hope is Jesus, not the LDS Church, nor Joseph Smith. Would you be interested in learning how it can be proven that Smith was a false prophet?
Since I have Jesus, I have hope. In fact, I already have eternal life according to 1 John 5:10-13, so I have no need for Smith or his church.
[Elder replied:] Hmmm... I'm sure I've heard most [of] the things you've had to say, so I don't know that [I] have too much interest in that but could I ask you a question? Have you taken the time to read the Book of Mormon with a sincere heart and real intent, and knelt down in prayer to ask the Father if it truly was the word of God?
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Yes, and all the rest of the LDS scriptures. God told me they all were not of Him and that you're being deceived.
Joseph Smith failed every biblical test for being a prophet of God. The Bible has at least 3 of them. Do you know what they are?
[Elder replied:] Might I ask by what manner God answered you?
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Through the testimony he gave me both internally as well as externally in 1) His word, the Bible, and 2) His revelation in nature.
So since God told me what I have is true and I have eternal life already in Jesus, I have no need for a false prophet like Smith with false scriptures and a false god.
Have you honestly read all your scriptures including the Bible?
[Elder replied:] Interesting... I've had very different experiences with God answering my prayers. I am quite familiar with the Bible and try my best to avoid any interpretational biases that any one denomination including my own might have and look at it in its historical and cultural context. I love the Bible, depending on the day even more than the Book of Mormon, but as you know the Book of Mormon is important to us as it serves as evidence of Joseph Smith's prophetic calling
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Again, are you aware of the tests for being a prophet of God that the Bible gives?
[Elder replied:] I am familiar with them, again, believe it or not, you aren't the first anti I've run into and I've heard these same arguments in the past and I'm not too interested in engaging in that. I'd love to hear you tell me about your own beliefs rather than misrepresenting mine, maybe we can find some common ground!
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Well we both know our common ground is the Bible. So what tests does the Bible give for determining w[hether] someone is a prophet or not?
[Elder replied:] There are many scriptures in the Bible that talk about it, I'm assuming you're referring to the ones in [D]euteronomy. Again I'm not sure why you[‘]re so insistent on this.
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Because if you don't know what those tests are, then you won't know why people like myself believe Smith fails to be regarded as a prophet of the Lord.
There are 2 in Deuteronomy and 1 that Jesus talks about in Matthew 7.
The first is Deut. 13:1-5. It [i]s does he or she teach another god than what has already been revealed. This goes with Jesus' warning in Matt. 24:24 of false Christs and false prophets.
So do you see why as a traditional Christian I have a problem with Joseph Smith?
[Elder replied:] No.
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Because we think that the Bible teaches an infinitely more exalted God than the god of Smith.
Smith's god didn't create literally everything outside himself for starters.
The God of the Bible clearly did (Gen. 1:1, Ps. 96:4-5, Isa. 43:10, 44:6, 8, and 24, Jn. 1:1-3, and 14, 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:13-18).
Traditional Christians don't want a devalued god who really isn't in charge of everything else.
Only the God of all hope is in charge of literally everything outside Himself, so the LDS god can't give enough hope.
[Elder replied:] Keyword is *think, you seem to look at the biblical text through the lense of a traditional Christian living in the 21st century which is not who it was written for
[Rob Sivulka replied:] No Christian, no Jew for that matter, has looked at Scripture as teaching a limited god as Smith did. So for thousands of years, the God of the Bible has been seen as the one who creates everything outside Himself and sustains it all in existence. Yet, just over 200 years ago, Smith came along and got people to start giving up on that. So where in the Bible would I be able to find something in contradiction to those verses I just listed?
Did you look them up?
[Elder replied:] Interesting thoughts. Ancient Near Eastern/ biblical scholars wouldn't seem to agree on your stance, many of which would argue that creation ex nihilo is not biblical. My point not being that youre wrong, but that interpretation of the biblical texts isn't as straight forward/ black and white as you seem to think
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Then God really didn't create everything and you have a devalued God. Smith's Father didn't create matter nor intelligence, for example. Jesus didn't create Lucifer, or your spirit, or the heavenly grandfather's planet. That's certainly not what those scriptures teach. Take Col. 1 passage. It says that Jesus created everything in heaven or on earth and He holds it all together. So how could you assume there's something there, like His spirit crib or diapers, that He didn't create? Because some non-Christian scholar says otherwise? Just because you're a biblical scholar doesn't entail you're a Christian. There are atheist biblical scholars, you know?
So, again, I'll stick with a more powerful God that has already given me more hope than the much weaker god of Smith.
[Elder replied:] I'm well aware that there are atheist biblical scholars, they tend to be less bias about ancient Israelite beliefs and writings and provide better information. The whole "my God is more powerful than your God" argument holds no value as only one of those gods truly exists. Besides, there is far too much baggage associated with the idea of creatio ex nihilo that I could not support such a doctrine.
[Rob Sivulka replied:] So it is true that you believe in a God who didn't create all things and a Jesus who didn't create whatever was created in heaven, right? If so, this still doesn't explain how to make sense of 1) what Col. 1:13-18 says about Jesus being the creator and sustainer of everything in the heaven and the earth. And, 2) your view also doesn't explain how your god didn't even create everything on earth. Why? Because of Abraham 4-5 and the temple ceremony where you have 3 Gods who are working together to create things on the earth. Your god didn't create everything since other gods created things with him.
So regardless of the creatio ex nihilo debate (something I have no good reason to reject from scripture), you still seem to have a problem with what scripture teaches in Col. 1 and Ps. 96:4-5 and Isa. 44:4, 6, 8, and 24.
[Elder replied:] I don't have any problems as 1) I don't hold to sola Scriptura meaning I don't believe that scripture is infallible and I don't believe the Bible to the final authority, and 2) I reject your interpretation of the biblical texts for reasons already stated above😁
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Whether it's infallible or not, what did Jesus hold? Did He not claim that scriptures cannot be broken (Jn. 10:35)? Did He not teach that we are to be sanctified in the truth and that God's word is truth (Jn. 17:17)? Did He not quote the scripture authoritatively to the devil, the Sadducees, and others? Did He also not teach that His Spirit would bring back all things to the remembrance of His apostles of what He taught (Jn. 14:26)? Did He not teach that not one of the smallest Hebrew characters would ever be lost from the law until all these things be fulfilled (Mat. 5:18)? So if you don't hold to it like He held to it, then this is further indication that your authority is not Christ's authority. One doesn't have to hold to sola scriptura to hold to the authority that Jesus held to. If your authority (whatever that may be) contradicts what God has revealed, then so much the worse for your church. I'll stick with what Jesus held.
His disciples taught that He's the only one from above and only He has seen the Father (Jn. 1:1-3, 14-18; 3:13, 28-31; 6:38-46; and 8:23). You have not given me one good reason to buy your view. You've just simply given a possibility. But we don't believe on the basis of what is possible. We believe on the basis of what the evidence is. What evidence is there from the Bible that Jesus didn't create something in heaven? What evidence is there from the Bible that a team of Gods helped each other out in creating different things in this world or earth? Perhaps if you offered at least one verse we could actually evaluate it.
To misquote Jesus, "Revisionists you have with you always." 😉
[Elder replied:] I understand that certain documents allegedly written by certain people written decades after Jesus's life claimed that Jesus said certain stuff. I also do choose to believe this, but if you try to hold some sort of objective standpoint, it doesn't hold. I also understand that Jesus would have had several scriptural texts that he read or quoted, but he knew of no such thing as a Bible.
“The modern academic consensus.. operates with a distinct definition of monotheism, which it views as the rejection of the existence of other deities. Deutero-Isaiah is highlighted by many as that notion’s pioneering author. The following statements, among others are commonly marshaled in support of the conclusion: “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.’ (Isa 43:10); ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no God.” (Isa 44:6).
Since the mid-twentieth century, however, a number of scholars have expressed doubts about reading these statements as strict denials of the existence of other deities. This same rhetoric appears in various contexts unrelated to the gods. See, for instance, Isa 40:17: ‘All the nations are as nothing before him; they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.’ YHWH renders the princes as ‘nothing’ in Isa 40:23. In Isa 41:11 those who are angry with Israel will be “as nothing,” and in v. 12 those who war against Israel will be “nothing at all.” All who make idols in Isa 44:0 are “emptiness.” In Isa 47:8 and 10 the author as the personified Babylon imagine in her heart, “I am, and there is no other.” The author is unlikely to be portraying Babylon as imagining herself to be the only city in existence, rather the only city of relevance within her purview. She is all that matters for her constituents. Similarly, YHWH is made to assert his exclusive relationship with Israel. McDonald concludes, “[this passage] functions not as a claim of the non-existence of other deities, but that YHWY is the only God for Israel.” (MacDonald, Deuteronomy and the Meaning of Monotheism, 84).” (Daniel O. McClellan, Monotheism – Still a Misused Word in Jewish Studies?, 6-7, emphasis mine)
As for monotheism, there's lots of scriptures, but it takes ancient Near Eastern context to make sense of them, which leads many scholars to say things like "In antiquity, all monotheists were polytheists....No ancient monotheist was a modern monotheist. Divinity expressed itself along a gradient, and the High God—be he pagan, Jewish or Christian—hardly stood alone. Lesser divinities filled in the gap, cosmic and metaphysical, between humans and God. " Paula Fredriksen, "Gods and the One God" Bible Review (Feb 2003)
Analysis of the Hebrew text demonstrates that several of the most common phrases in the Hebrew Bible allegedly used for denying the existence of other gods (e.g., Deut 4:35,39; 32:12,39) appear in passages that affirm the existence of other gods (Deut 4, 32). The result is that these phrases express the incomparability of Yahweh among the other elohim, not that the biblical writer contradicts himself, or that he is in the process of discovering monotheism. The situation is the same in Isaiah 40-66. Isaiah 40:1-8 is familiar to scholars (via the plural imperatives in 40:1-2) as a divine council text (Cross, Seitz). Isaiah 40:22-26 affirms the ancient Israelite worldview that described heavenly beings with heavenly host terminology (Heiser, “Divine Council,” 114-118). That Isaiah’s “denial statements” should be understood as statements of incomparability, not as rejections of the existence of other gods, is made clear in Isaiah 47:8, 10, where Babylon boldly claims, “I am, and there is none else beside me.” The claim is not that Babylon is the only city in the world, but that she has no rival.
Some would argue that the descriptions of a divine council are merely metaphoric. Metaphoric language, however, is not based on what a writer’s view of reality excludes. Rather, the metaphor is a means of framing and categorizing something that is part of the writer’s worldview. When the biblical writer asserts, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods (‘elohim, ‘elim; Deut 10:17; Ex 15:11)?” these statements reflect a sincere belief and are neither dishonest nor hollow. Comparing Yahweh to the ancient equivalent of an imaginary or fictional character cheapens the praise. The Psalms contain many exclamations of the incomparability of Yahweh to the other gods (Ps 86:8, 95:3, 96:4, 135:5, 136:2). David (Ps 138:1) proclaims that he will sing the praise of the God of Israel “before the gods” (neged’elohim), a declaration that makes little sense if lesser ‘elohim did not exist.>>
<< As Kaufmann observed: “Monotheism need not inevitably [prohibit the worship of lower divine beings].… The One is not necessarily ‘jealous’ in a cultic sense. There is room in monotheism for the worship of lower divine beings—with the understanding that they belong to the suite of the One. Thus Christianity knows the worship of saints and intercessors, as does Islam. Nor did later Judaism shrink from conceiving the scapegoat as a propitiatory offering to Sammael.… [But] the bearers of biblical religion sensed that for the folk the cult is decisive: whatever is worshiped is divine. A plurality of worshiped objects is calculated to foster the erroneous notion of a plurality of divine realms; hence the monotheistic idea needed to be complemented by a monolatrous cult. Even if the cult of idols, satyrs, the dead, etc., did not intend to encroach on the domain of the One, such an outcome was virtually inevitable. The monotheistic idea could never be firmly established with the folk at large unless it were complemented by cultic exclusiveness” (Kaufmann, Religion, 137, 147).>>
- Tigay, J. H. (1996). Deuteronomy. The Jewish Publication Society Torah commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.
[Rob Sivulka replied:] The Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament is what the Jews used during Jesus' time and it's the same one we have today.
Further, as for the New Testament, according to Oxford classists A.N. Sherwin White not even 2 generations is enough time for legends to arise within a body of literature. The disciples wrote the New Testament all well within the 1st century and if there was something that wasn't right, it would have been disputed. However, the apostles were unified in their message. They held to an "only true God" (Jn. 17:3) in contrast to all the other gods of the people that are idols as Ps. 96:4-5 says.
So of course the Bible speaks of other gods, but they are always contrasted to the Creator of the heavens and the earth (also e.g., Isa. 44:24). According to Paul, the Galatians used to do service to those who were not gods by nature (Gal. 4:8). Other gods are made gods. They have to obtain to their divine status. That's always contrasted with the God who never had to, since He's "always been God from everlasting to everlasting" (Ps. 90:2). Not so for Smith's god, who needed all sorts of things before he could even become a god. He's too needy to be the God of the Bible.
BTW, I'm friends with Heiser, and he has my view here, not the LDS view. He has stated that LDS are confused with the biblical distinction between the Creator and the created. All other gods other than YHWH are consistently throughout scripture the latter and not the former.
Again, you have not demonstrated one verse where the Creator or the God of the Bible did not create something either in heaven or in earth. I have provided biblical evidence of the exact opposite.
So I think it's biblically clear that Smith failed the 1st test for being a prophet of God.
[Elder replied:] So 1) Joseph Smith never taught that God wasn't eternally God.
2)careful analysis of ancient Near Eastern culture and languages, and the laws of physics, show that creation accounts and other said scriptures don't refer to creation from nothing, but rather forming or organizing.
3) Again, regarding the gospels, from an objective standpoint, scholars aren't even sure who wrote the gospels. Tradition says Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but there is no evidence for that. On top of that, an account of something given decades after the fact is not historically reliable, especially when, despite what you seem to believe, they contradict each other.
[Rob Sivulka replied:] 1) You never read Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith? King Follett Discourse, pp. 345-6 specifically says God became a God just like we all must as well... reminiscent of Lorenzo Snow's early couplet. Furthermore, not even the leaders of your church agree with you. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/becoming-like-god?lang=eng and https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1982/02/i-have-a-question/is-president-snows-statement-as-man-now-is-god-once-was-as-god-now-is-man-may-be-accepted-as-official-doctrine?lang=eng.
2) That's your claim which you haven't established, and again, my argument hasn't required creatio ex nihilo. So you keep attacking something that doesn't address my argument.
3) No evidence? Church fathers' as historical authorities don't matter? That's external evidence. There's also internal evidence that may be cited for the writers on the basis of certain clues mentioned within the accounts.
Regardless of the accuracy of the traditional authorship, we do know that the author of Luke is the same author of Acts (see the intros of each) and that Acts was written before Paul died, the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and Nero's persecution of Christians (64 AD). We would expect these events to be mentioned in Acts if they had happened since it is the first book of Church history after all.
Given that this is the case, and Luke certainly isn't the first gospel (every scholar agrees with that), we have good reason to believe that the gospels were written probably in the 50s. It is not difficult to remember details from around 20 years prior.
And even if there are contradictions (at this point we haven't determined there were or not and perhaps they are simply apparent contradictions), that doesn't entail that we can't have an over all mere historical account of what happened. I would expect differences of viewpoints if collusion wasn't what produced the New Testament (NT). So it's a plus. I'd also think we'd have better confidence with the multiple authors of the NT that held the same basic consistent story rather than trusting simply one guy's recollection of events (e.g., what happened to Socrates or the different accounts of Smith's 1st Vision story). The Bible reminds us that every accusation must be established by multiple witnesses (e.g., 2 Cor. 13:1). That basic gospel message is what the writers were at least willing to die for, and instead of demonstrating how it was all bunk, the Christian religion instead flourished in very hostile areas and eventually transformed all of Western culture.
Speaking of variations of accounts, it's also important to keep in mind that we do have thousands of early manuscripts, Church fathers' citings, and early lectionaries (prayer worship books) that give us a consistent record of each individual account. That's not just for the NT, but for the OT as well. In fact, the Dead Sea Scrolls text of Isaiah is virtually identical to the scroll of Isaiah in the Masoretic text, which is about 1,000 years later. That gives evidence to Isa. 40:8: "The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of the Lord stands forever."
So we have no good reason to believe the JST contradictions to the Bible or this "plain and precious parts" business from 1 Ne. 13-14 and we have plenty of evidence against Smith and the BM here. That demonstrates that Smith is the one that cannot be trusted since he did exactly what Prov. 30:6 says: "Do not add to his word lest you be proven to be a liar." Any theology coming from this false prophet ought to be quickly discarded.
[Elder replied:] Lol yall are all the same. Do me a favor and stop trying to teach me about my Theology when you don't understand it. I never argued against the notion that we could become like god but even the same article you sent says this:...
Then some quotes from King follett sermon (which I'm quite familiar with)
"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. I wish I was in a suitable place to tell it, and that I had the trump of an archangel, so that I could tell the story in such a manner that persecution would cease forever. What did Jesus say? (Mark it, Elder Rigdon!) 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."
A[n]d you see here Joseph Smith clarifies his previous statement that God wasn't God from all eternity. This is a funeral sermon, so fittingly, the topic of the talk is the resurrection, meant to console those who are mo[u]rning. So he tells us how God came to receive a complete glory through receiving a body like us, and if you look closely he then says even as Christ. I'm sure you'll have no disagreements when I say Christ was God before he came to Earth as a man, and he was still God while he was on earth. Similarly, the father came to an earth took upon himself a body, lived life, and HAD POWER IN HIMSELF TO LAY DOWN HIS LIFE AND TAKE IT UP AGAIN. I don't know about you but I don't have that power, and i[f] I met someone who did, I'd probably say they were a God. So when Lorenzo Snow uses that couplet, he is referring to the fact that God came to an earth, got a body, laid his life down, and took his body back in a glorified state. We believe through his grace and mercy, he has provided a way for all of us to receive a glorified body and become like him as a loving father would do.
You can't read one paragraph from one talk and sep[a]rate it from all other teachings of a prophet and expect to really understand what he is saying.
It's easy to recall details after 20 yrs...😂LOL it's hard to remember details from 3 months ago, much less 20 years🙄…
[Rob Sivulka replied:] And right before that it clearly states that God was once as we are now. We'll we know we're not a God now. So we do know that Smith taught that God hasn't always been God. He was quite clear about that. He hasn't even been the Father either until he impregnated his wife. Jesus hasn't always been God (let alone the Son either) since he was born of heavenly parents, but was an eternal intelligence before that. Smith was still clear... "I'm going to tell you how God came to be God." Given that's the case, then you are incorrect to say that God was never not God or that God has always been God. You know Jesus was your elder bro in the pre-earth life and thus wasn't always God even if he became a God in a pre-earth life. Smith even taught that God the Father had a Father before Him.
I never said I remember all the details of 20 years ago, but I certainly remember some important ones and those detailed memories become even stronger when others corroborate them.
Well, Joseph Smith certainly corrupted the words of the Lord, but thank the Lord we have sources to document where Smith strayed and thus lied about what God actually said. For example, there is no prophecy of Smith in Gen. 50, God did put David's sin away from him in 2 Sam. 12:13, and Rom. 4:5 does say that God justifies the ungodly. Smith contradicted what we know God said. That should tell you that you're basing your theology on a liar.
[Elder replied:] Do me a favor. Instead of trying to impose your false dichotomies and misunderstandings of a theology that you clearly struggle to comprehend, how about you ask me questions about it. You don't know as much as you seem to think you do. We believe that the Father has eternally been an unchangeable God (D&C 20:17), and similarly that Jesus Christ is also the same yesterday, today, and forever, having always been God as well (Hebrews 13:8). We however, having been lesser intelligences than the Father, had need of him to give us an opportunity to progress and become like him through his grace. Our difference is one of kind, not of degree. So even though we have to progress to become like him, the Father and the Son have always been deity. I'm sorry you feel that way about Joseph Smith and his "translation" of the bible. I put it in quotations because it is not actually translation, but most of it is simply additional scripture meant to aid our study of the bible. I'm sure you understand that the KJV is still the official bible of the church, and to aid my studies even further, I do look at other translations, and intend to get and nrsv study bible in the near future. As to whether or not the prophecy of genesis 50 JST was in the original biblical texts or not, i dont know, and neither do you as the original texts to this day haven't been found, but even if it's not, that doesn't disqualify it as scripture because, like I said, the jst isn't actually a translation. Some of the minor changes he made, he didn't even claim came from revelation. Of course, the major ones he did and we would certainly hold that it was inspired.
sorry, difference of degree not of kind* (typo)
I appreciate that you care or the bible and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and am more than happy to discuss with you, but I get really frustrated at all the strawmans that people impose on our faith. I'd really appreciate a more civil conversation where we can ask each other what their stance is on something rather than impose a stance on them and try to fight that. Especially when I come from a theology and culture where there is a lot of freedom within the faith on what people do and don't believe, so the answers may vary greatly depending on the latter day saint that you talk to and how much study they've put into the gospel. I as well don't wish to misrepresent your beliefs so I apologize that I seem to have misunderstood your question in regards to the creation, as I assumed you were referring to creatio ex nihilo. perhaps, you can help me understand your stance on that?
[Rob Sivulka replied:] I'm glad you agree that there's never been a time when God was not God. However, our discussion is about testing Smith for being a prophet of God. It’s not simply understanding what you hold. As we each argue for and against Smith, we obviously find out what each other’s views are. My view of what Smith held is backed up by the evidence from his General Conference funeral address not long before he died. You obviously made your view clear, but the evidence you provided that Smith or any other LDS authority teaches that God has always been God and never needed to be exalted himself is not good.
Now I know you think that D&C 20:17 was sufficient, but that passage came out the same year that the BM came out (1830). The BM also states basically the same thing in Moroni 8:18. However, Smith's theology obviously evolved to what was preached in 1844. Here's just one example in which we see his theology evolved from 1830 to 1835: the Lectures on Faith in the first edition of the D&C. There in Section V, there are only 2 personages in the Godhead--the F and S--and the HS is the mind that is shared between them. The F is a personage of spirit and the S is a personage of tabernacle. That was later taken out and replaced by D&C 130:22. For general authorities (GAs), what remains in LDS scripture (Moroni 8:18 and D&C 20:17) is simply reinterpreted. For them, it does not show Smith's theology has evolved. Rather, GA's have stated that they affirm these passages as well as what Smith taught concerning God having to become a God and thus, wasn't always, literally speaking, God. So the language must reflect that to be consistent. I don't think it is consistent, and "evolve" is a proper term, but the point is that GAs don’t understand the D&C 20 passage the way you do.
The Gospel Topics essay "Becoming Like God" clearly states that the difference between God and his kids is not one of kind, but of degree. We are of the same kind. (You later acknowledge that.) It says, "Latter-day Saints see all people as children of God in a full and complete sense; they consider every person divine in origin, nature, and potential. Each has an eternal core and is 'a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.' Each possesses seeds of divinity and must choose whether to live in harmony or tension with that divinity. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people may 'progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny.' Just as a child can develop the attributes of his or her parents over time, the divine nature that humans inherit can be developed to become like their Heavenly Father’s."
But to treat God as a human in his kind is simply unbiblical (Ps. 96:4-5, Hosea 11:9, and Gal. 4:8) as well as devaluing by definition. God is the Creator who is infinite. Everything, including humans, depends on Him. However, as LDS philosopher David Paulsen said, God is technically "finite" even though LDS like to use the language of God being "infinite." He's finite because Paulsen recognizes that God's nature or kind is such that it depends on things to become God. He hasn't always been God. He's always been human, and he had an opportunity to become exalted and become God by using all sorts of things.
The Gospel Topics article goes on to say that their idea of becoming a God is just like Christian deification, but that just shows that LDS do not understand the difference between Christian deification and LDS deification. I've already made it clear that in Christian categories there is only 1 God in His kind and all other gods are of another inferior kind. The latter are always creations, whether angelic or human. For Smith and every other LDS GA, God is of our same kind. He's human who arrived at Godhood by exaltation and he expects his literal, physical human kids to grow up to be just like him. Like produces like after all. I know I'm human now. That's for sure. If I become a god, I'll still be a human god, since my nature is that which hangs with me throughout all my stages of development and no matter what office I may obtain. So this is why Smith said right before he died that we have to grow up "to become Gods the same as all other Gods have done." Again, Smith said, "I'm going to tell you how God came to be God." And that God the Father had a Father as well. Hinckley was right that LDS don't know much about it, but nonetheless, we know enough of what Smith taught and he definitely taught that God hasn't always been God. He clearly said, "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! …I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form--like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; ...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" (Smith, "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith," 345). I don't know how much clearer Smith could have been on this subject. So since he taught it, and you reject it, then you should reject Smith's view of God, and hold that he failed the 1st test for being a prophet of God.
As for the JST, he still added to the word of God to contradict what God has already said. I don't need the original texts when we know what the original said on the basis of early copies, church fathers' citings, and early lectionaries. They are all in agreement and Smith's contradictions, which show up to support his own validity and theology, are in not one of these early sources. He simply made it up. Whether he claimed inspiration or not, there is no good reason to buy what he came up with and there is every good reason to hold that he got it wrong.
The late LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie, who is still more authoritative than you and your opinion, stated the following concerning the JST: “In all cases where major changes were made, the student with spiritual insight can see the hand of the Lord manifest; the marvelous flood of light and knowledge revealed through the Inspired Version of the Bible is one of the great evidences of the divine mission of Joseph Smith.” McConkie also said, "The Joseph Smith Translation, or Inspired Version, is a thousand times over the best Bible now existing on earth. It contains all that the King James Version does, plus pages of additions and corrections and an occasional deletion. It was made by the spirit of revelation, and the changes and additions are the equivalent of the revealed word in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants." It was never said to be the JSP (paraphrase). It was known as the "Inspired Version."
I hold to creatio ex nihilo, but for sake of argument at the moment, I am simply arguing for something much less ambitious. If we (for the sake of argument, it's fine if you want to say "spirit-bodies") were created in heaven, the Bible is clear that anything that was created there was created by Jesus (Col. 1:13-18). Thus, He can't be your or Lucifer's elder brother in a pre-earth life. He's our creator. Secondly, I argued that if Mormonism is true, then their God didn't create everything even on earth. He created some things and other gods created other things. But Gen. 1:2, Ps. 96:4-5, and Isa. 44:24 make it clear that cannot be the case. Thus, we have more reason to reject the Mormon god and trust a God who created much more.
I appreciate your arguments since they reflect what you believe. You are valued and I am praying that God will give you eyes to see that Smith is a false prophet according to the Bible.
[Elder replied:] As far as God becoming God, this will be the last thing I'll say on the matter. When Joseph uses the term "exalted man", he is referring to having a resurrected, perfected body of flesh and bones. Just as christ was God before he came to Earth, he wasn't yet an exalted man until he laid his life down and took it back up in a fullness of glory. For example, in the sermon on the mount (before he dies of course) he says "be ye therefore perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect." However, in the same sermon but given to the Nephites (after his resurrection) he says "even as I or your father in heaven is perfect". Though they were both sinless and God before they took up a body, in our Theology, part of perfection is having a glorified, celestial body of flesh and bones.
As for the JST, some of the passages are claimed to be inspired, I didn't intend to throw out the entire JST, but I hope you understand that GAs are still human and many of them don't necessarily agree with each other on everything. Bruce is especially notorious for how vocal he was for his very unique views and opinions. He was still a very faithful servant of Christ, but he shared many views with his father in law Joseph Fielding Smith, who was also know for that, and even took it far that he had huge disputes with other apostles such as James Talmage, bh Robert's, John A Widtsoe, etc. They are still men and still have opinions. One of those unique opinions of Bruce and Joseph Fielding Smith, is they tended to have a very fundamentalist view of infallibility of scripture. These other apostles didn't hold to that said belief. (not for the Bible or the BoM or the D&C or the pearl of great price, none of them are perfect).
As for contradictions, I'm not to worried about it as the Bible tends to have many contradictions within itself. Again, the Bible is a collection of texts written by men (inspired men but still men) that was never meant to be one fluid book, so it doesn't bother me as much because I recognize that Paul can have a different opinion as Jeremiah. You don't have to hold to such a belief but I do choose to believe that prophets a d scripture can be very subject to cultural influence and personal belief. For example, scholars tend to indicate that the old testament displays a flat earth cosmology. Is it true that the earth is flat? No. Does that matter to me? No. It's what they believed back then.
As for the creation thing, there's a couple things I have to say about this. 1)again a scripture is not infallible, so if the Bible and the D&C contradict one another, which am I gonna believe? Neither. I follow a living prophet because that's what God has done through time to help the people know him. If the prophet ends up being wrong, he is still… called of God, but it's on him for me believing an incorrect principle. But I believe that he is right and what we are taught is right.
2) We have 4 creation accounts in our church: Genesis, Moses, Abraham, and as you seem to already know, the temple (I won't talk about much as I'm not supposed to, but I'm sure you[‘]re familiar with it anyway) . None of these creation accounts seem to be historical. Each of them have a different purpose for being written. Ancient Near Eastern scholars tend to show that Genesis 1-3 is some sort of Hebrew poetry rather than a historical document, Moses of course being the jst of that, and Abraham and the temple also being very symbolic. I don't know exactly what happened with the creation. I personally tend to lean towards the Abrahamic view, but again, none of those accounts are meant to be a documentary of how God created the earth.
3)Even if I did feel a need to reconcile it with the biblical texts, which I don't but for your sake will provide a possible explanation. If all these people did help with the creation, it would have been through God's power and Christ's grace, not through power that we had in ourselves. When we become "gods", our Heavenly Father will still be our God and our source of glory and light. We will always worship him, and any glory we might receive, we would direct to him. Without him we are nothing, especially when we look at the possibility of premortal people assisting in the earth's creation. They wouldn[‘]t have been able to help without God's power.
[Rob Sivulka replied:] Your explanation of the exalted man statement of Smith completely overlooks the other quotes that I gave you from him. He wasn’t simply saying how God the Father went through a process of exaltation just like Jesus did. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Smith plainly taught that God had to become a God, and that He wasn’t God from everlasting to everlasting. That’s the problem. So if we and God are all human by nature, and we know that we aren’t a God now, then our Heavenly Parents and siblings also went through the same process of exaltation into becoming Gods. “What father wouldn’t want his kids to have everything he has?” as LDS famously like to say. Well, that would include his experiences in also becoming God. If God didn’t do that, then we can’t have everything he has.
Just claiming that Jesus was God prior to coming to earth doesn’t entail that He’s literally always been God from all eternity. Again, Smith clearly claimed “You have got to learn how to be Gods the same as all Gods have done before you” and “I am going to tell you how God came to be God.” *Not* “I’m going to tell you how God went through an exaltation process even though He’s always been God from everlasting.” Smith went on to “refute” your idea that God has always been God from everlasting to everlasting.
Perhaps you disagree with the later Smith. In that case, if you still want to affirm the early Smith, you may want to become part of the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) branch of Mormonism. In any case, you were wrong when you said, “Joseph Smith never taught that God wasn't eternally God.” Can you at least admit that?
I’d love to continue the conversation, but until you demonstrate intellectual integrity here, there’s little point in going on. I think this is a fundamental point for everything else we talk about. Again, I brought this up since I thought it was important enough to prove how Smith failed the first biblical test for being a prophet of God. The Bible expressly affirms that God never had to become a God.
[Elder replied:] The idea that God became God before he took up a body, or that Jesus became God before he came to Earth is a theory you can hold to I guess, but it's not talked about at all during the sermon, so imposing that meaning is rather fallacious logic. He specifically says right after the whole "you have supposed..." (statement which to me just sounds like flashy words to grab attention as many preachers did back then), if you could see God, you would see a body of flesh and bones. Like christ he took up a mortal body, and, having power in himself to do it, laid down his life and took it up again. There is nothing there about how he became God before her took on himself a mortal body, so your theory wouldn't fit too well considering that he literally says he will tell us how God came to be God. If your theory is true, he must've forgot to tell us. What you are saying is that Joseph Smith literally contradicted himself within two paragraphs of a talk. This makes no sense considering such an interpretation is not necessary. Again, this is a funerary sermon meant to console those mourning over the loss of King Follett. The message he is trying to convey here is "Even God had a body and died once, but it's okay because he took his body back, and like him (and through him), we can do the same!", not "gOd hAsn'T aLwaYs bEen diViNe".
I'm well aware of the existence of the FLDS, RLDS, etc. If wanted to join them I would've. Though I tend to have a different train of thought as president Smith, I still recognize his prophetic calling. Like I said, I recognize prophets are still men, so when he taught something that's not officially accepted by the prophets and apostles that followed him, or even of his day, I can pretty well say that was probably just his opinion. I fully sustain him and all that have succeeded him as prophets of God 😁
[Rob Sivulka replied:] I still think you are fudging here. This was a funeral sermon at the General Conference, April 7, 1844. Gospel Principles clearly says that the inspired words of living prophets come through conferences (48). Wilford Woodruff’s journal said that Smith said at the conference the day prior that “[h]e was not a fallen prophet, & never in any nearer relationship with God than at the present time, & would show before the Conferen[ce] closed that God was with him” (Ehat, A. and Cook, L., eds. “The Words of Joseph Smith,” BYU, 1980:340). However, LDS Apostle William Law said this sermon was proof that Smith was a fallen prophet (Widmer, “Mormonism and the Nature of God,” McFarland & Co., 2000:121), and Law also said it was “some of the most blasphemous doctrines… ever heard of” (Bushman, R., “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling,” 2005:537).
Smith said in this conference address: “I calculate [intend] to edify you with the simple truths from heaven. …[I]f I am so fortunate as to be the man to comprehend God, and explain or convey the principles to your hearts, so that the Spirit seals them upon you, then let every man and woman henceforth sit in silence, put their hands on their mouths, and never lift their hands or voices, or say anything against the man of God or the servants of God again. …I will prove that the world is wrong, by showing what God is. …[I]f I am bringing you to a knowledge of Him, all persecutions against me ought to cease. You will then know that I am His servant; for I speak as one having authority.” (History of the Church, 6:303-5) Later, he said, “Oh, ye lawyers, ye doctors, and ye priests, who have persecuted me, I want to let you know that the Holy Ghost knows something as well as you do.” (Ibid., 307) So it’s obvious that Smith didn’t think this was simply some mere opinion which you can either take it or leave it.
Smith went on to clearly say what he was talking about: “[I]t 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.* …[T]hat 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. …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*… To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, *until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before you*” (Ibid., 305-6, emphasis added). So Smith is clear that 1) God came to be God and He wasn’t always God, 2) He even dwelt on an earth like Christ did, and 3) we are to become Gods like they became Gods. When precisely they became Gods is secondary and non-contradictory to the fact that Smith taught they had to become Gods.
In 1892, Lorenzo Snow turned his famous couplet (“As man is now, God once was; as God is, man may be”) into the following poem:
“This royal path has long been trod
By righteous men, each now a God:
As Abra’m, Isaac, Jacob, too,
First babes, then men—to gods they grew.
As man now is, our God once was;
As now God is, so man may be,—
Which doth unfold man’s destiny.” (LeRoi C. Snow, “Devotion to Divine Inspiration” 660)
In “Search These Commandments: Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide” published by the Church in 1984, there’s a section called: “Our Father Advanced and Progressed Until He
Became God”. It states on p. 152: “• President Joseph Fielding Smith said: ‘Our Father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a Father, and since there has been a condition
of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father’ (Doctrines of Salvation 2:42).
• President Joseph F. Smith taught: ‘I know that God is a being with body, parts and passions. . . Man was born of woman; Christ, the Savior, was born of woman; and God, the Father was born of woman’ (Church News [Sept. 19, 1936] 2).”
In the 1992 “Achieving a Celestial Marriage: Student Manual,” p. 1 says: “In the relationships of husband and wife and parent and child we begin to approach the divine calling of godhood. Our Heavenly Father and mother live in an exalted state because they achieved a celestial marriage. As we achieve a like marriage we shall become as they are and begin the creation of worlds for our own spirit children.”
I feel like I’m wasting way too much time dealing with this. This teaching about God having to become God just as we are trying to do is officially taught by the Church. You haven’t even demonstrated a quote from one of your GA’s to the contrary. But even if it’s not officially taught, according to Deut. 13, Smith would still have to be counted as a false prophet for such a blasphemous opinion of God. This isn’t a matter of whether some prophet has a mere opinion on whether there are inhabitants of the moon or not, for example. In the end, it’s irrelevant whether the Church sanctions Smith or not regarding the issue of God’s progressing into becoming a God like we are trying to do. Smith is still responsible for teaching this, and teachers are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). This should be clearly indicative that Smith didn’t know God and thus, couldn’t be His prophet. I want nothing to do with following a prophet of that sort, nor a church that would let him off the hook on such blasphemous matters. If you refuse to acknowledge the basic fact that Smith, as well as your church, clearly teach that God became a God just as we are trying to become Gods, then there is really little point continuing to waste my time dialoguing with you.
[Elder replied:] You're right, I don't think there is a point in continuing. Literally the only two quotes you're using to "prove" your side, when understood in context, are the same quotes that I got my understanding of an Eternal God from. You continuously rip Joseph's quote out of the rest of the sermon, continuing to imply that he must've contradicted himself within two paragraphs, because the sermon wouldn't make sense otherwise. The other quote being Lorenzo Snows couplet. You struggle to understand this horribly so I'll break it down for you.
"as man is God once was"
As stated by prophets in the past, little is known about the meaning of this, but according to Joseph Smith in the KFS, it is likely referring to him taking a body, laying his life down, and picking it back up.
"as God is man may be"
We believe in this, but are current states of not being deity, our sinful and fallen nature, does not mean that God was in this same situation. The… way I see it, in order for someone to help us achieve the status of "god" they would've always needed to be God. I don't see how it could happen any other way logically.
Is it possible that God came to be God? I suppose it's not impossible, but such an assumption would be inconsistent with my understanding of all of the standard works and the teachings of Joseph Smith.
You can feel free to disagree with me, but my stance on this has come through much study and time in the same resources that you are trying to share with me to prove me wrong, so my stance is pretty firm on this. I[‘]d love to answer any questions you have about my faith as that's what I'm here for!
Just an FYI tho: similarly with how many Bible bash, arguing that somebody's interpretation is wrong is very unproductive and likely to lead nowhere. For future conversations with people, you should ask "how do you interpret this", and then accept their answer. That doesn't mean you have to believe the same way, but it makes for much better mutual understanding
[Rob Sivulka replied:] I understand what you believe. I don't need to ask. You made it clear. I'm more concern[ed] with what your church believes. You want to make this about you. You are the standard. I still think you are fudging the truth. Again, the… only contradiction is in your own mind with this KFS as well as all the other statements you want to ignore. It's clear to me that the Church teaches that God needed another God ad infinitum to become a God. The Father had a Father in order to become a God. Our God also needed a wife to become God and he even needed a wife prior to becoming the Father by Church definition. I reject that and I reject your rejection of that. Simple.