Section 7: As God Now Is, Man May Become

As God Now Is, Man May Become

"Though we do not remember it," explains Lee, "we existed as spirits before this life." According to this LDS belief of eternal progression, by strict obedience a man may become a god- a creator like God: "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens," stated Joseph Smith. "You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves,...the same as all Gods have done before you." Mormon prophet Lorenzo Snow said: "As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become."

Is such a future presented in the pages of the Bible? The only offer of godhood ever recorded there was the empty promise by Satan the Devil in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:5)

The logical thing to do here is to investigate the language of Genesis 3:5, so let's do that now:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Satan didn't say "I will make you gods," he said "You will know good and evil, as gods do." True, there is no "offer of godhood" in the Bible, but it does present the concept of our godly potential in the following passages of scripture:

Psalms 82:6

I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

I.e., we are all the children of God, and therefore capable of becoming like him. Don't all children grow up to become like their parents?

John 10:34-36

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

In other words, if God said in the old scriptures that we are all gods, then what crime have I committed in saying that I am His Son? Since Christ was perfect, He would certainly not use a lie to support his claim, so, in using this as a defense, Jesus attests to it's truth!

Romans 8:16-17

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

The Holy Ghost testifies to us personally that we are God's children, and if we are God's children, then we can rightfully inherit all that He has, as children do, alongside Jesus Christ...but only if we "suffer with him," or repent of our sins, and live righteous lives. According to Webster's Universal College Dictionary, an heir is: "a person who inherits or is entitled to the rank, title, or position of another."1

The Bible shows that God created Adam and Eve to live on earth and instructed them to produce a human family that would live here in happiness eternally. (Genesis 1:28; 3:22; Psalm 37:29; Isaiah 65:21-25)

Adam's willful disobedience brought sin and death into the world.- Romans 5:12

Once again, let's explore these scriptures and find out what they actually say:

Gen. 1:28

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Okay, I see the part where God tells them to have children…

Gen. 3:22

And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

I don't see where this relates to the argument at hand. Mormon understanding of this event is that Adam transgressed a law and God didn't want him to live forever without a chance to repent, so he blocked him from the tree of life (which would have made him live forever in his sinful state) and sent him out to a probationary period in a less-than-perfect world, where he could repent and have his sins forgiven and paid for by the Saviour, who was "foreordained before the foundation of the world."2 If God wanted "a human family that would live here in happiness eternally," why did He already have a plan to send a Saviour? What do you save an eternally good, eternally happy family from? If He didn't expect sin to be committed, why did He allow Satan to be there? Why on earth did He put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden in the first place if no one was supposed to eat from it? The only way this makes any sense is if things happened just the way God intended them to, and that's what Mormons believe.

As a side note, isn't it interesting that God here validates what Satan told Adam and Eve about becoming like gods and knowing good and evil? Let's look at Genesis 3:2-4, at the verses that precede the one referenced above:

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

But what happens when Adam and Eve partake? First, they are separated from the presence of God (referred to as spiritual death), and second, they inherit physical death. The only lie Satan told them was that they would "not surely die."

Psalm 37:29

The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever.

Although this statement is true, it was spoken by Daniel nearly 3500 years after Adam and Eve. Finally, we go to Isaiah 65:21-25:

And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.

They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.

Since an attentive reading of this chapter in its entirety shows that Isaiah is prophesying about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, I REALLY don't see what this has to do with Adam and Eve. For the record, though, this is exactly what Mormons believe it will be like here on earth when Jesus returns.

Romans 5:12

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

This bring us to an interesting and important point: As mentioned above, Mormons believe that the death that comes by sin is not physical death, but a spiritual death, being separated from God forever unless one repents.

The Book of Mormon says that had the former spirits Adam and Eve remained sinless, they would have been childless and joyless, alone in Paradise. So its version of the sin of the first married couple involved sexual intercourse and childbearing.

Let's address the issues of Adam and Eve being "childless" and "joyless" separately. We'll discuss joylessness first. Both of these come from 2 Nephi 2:23, which says:

And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.

However, in order to understand this, you must have read the majority of the chapter preceding this verse. I hate to provide such a lengthy quotation, but it is imperative at this point.

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.

And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.

And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, and the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created, it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.

Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other3.

In all honestly, you should also read the other verses between what I've quoted and what the article quoted (verses 17-22), but I'll stop here. The point should be clear: How can there be joy if there is no unhappiness? We might assert that they were "happy" because they knew no unhappiness, but the very terms betray their dependence on each other! Did they know they were "happy?" How could they? What would they compare it to? Nothing exists without an opposite! Or, at least, they exist without meaning. A silly example might help: Do you appreciate having a head? Is there an emotion or experience that you can attach to "headedness?" What, though, if you had been previously decapitated? Would you then be more appreciative, with something to compare it to? We might even have a word for it, if we could have that experience (notice I had to invent one). The point is, you don't appreciate (or even think about) what you have if you haven't experienced the opposite or absence of it.

So, now, let's address the issue of childlessness. First of all, in Mormonism, the first transgression has nothing to do with "sexual intercourse." It is never even mentioned. I'm not even sure where this accusation comes from, but since this is about what Mormons really believe, I will leave it at that. Instead, we might tie this one in with the issue of joylessness: for there to be birth there must be death. Since the Genesis account makes it clear that there was no death until after the Fall, we can safely assume that there was not birth yet. We also know from the account that there were no children born to Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. Thankfully, Latter-day Saints have further testimony on this point, and are not forced to make assumptions based on the scriptural account:

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Eve. In the Garden of Eden, she and Adam were instructed not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, they were also reminded, “Thou mayest choose for thyself.” The choice was really between a continuation of their comfortable existence in Eden, where they would never progress, or a momentous exit into mortality with its opposites: pain, trials, and physical death in contrast to joy, growth, and the potential for eternal life. In contemplating this choice, we are told, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, … and a tree to be desired to make her wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and also gave unto her husband with her, and he did eat.” And thus began their earthly probation and parenthood.

After the choice was made, Adam voiced this grateful expression: “Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God.”

Eve made an even greater statement of visionary wisdom after leaving the Garden of Eden: “Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient.” If it hadn’t been for Eve, none of us would be here4.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that Adam and Eve knew what the consequences would be when they partook of the fruit, but they did it so that they, and all of us, could be tried in the fire, so to speak, and prove ourselves obedient in the face of adversity5. There is no victory without opposition. Isn't that what Jesus meant when He said we would receive a "reward in heaven" if we endure our earthly trials, such as persecution?6 A world where perfect people picked fruit and pet pandas all day would get old real fast– and what would be the point? What kind of reward would there have been if Adam had never transgressed and there were no sin in the world to overcome?

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:22, 23, 25) Spirits in heaven are thus said to await a chance to live on a sinful earth- a necessary step toward perfection and godhood.

Yes, that definitely is the plan! On "a sinful earth," out of our Father's perfect presence, we can face opposition and prove ourselves obedient. Many scriptures attest to this life as a time for being tested by God:

Judges 2:22

That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.

In this instance, God allowed some evil people to be around so that He could use them to test the obedience of Israel.

Job 23:10

[W]hen he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

The process of refining precious metals is a recurring analogy in the scriptures. In order to purify and strengthen metals, they go through a refining process, which requires repeated heating at extreme temperatures, followed by repeated dipping into a vat of water. Most metals crack under such conditions, but the purest and strongest metals pass the test, and go on to become treasured and valuable items.

Psalms 66:10

For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried.

Matthew 4:1

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Acts 14:22

[W]e must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 8:2

How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

The saints found joy in being obedient to God, even in the midst of tremendous persecution. Which brings up an excellent point: We don't appreciate the things we haven't worked for! If you walked to the playing field and the referee simply said "Go home, you are the winner," what victory is yours? And, more importantly, what have you gained? It is a hollow victory and benefits you nothing. There seems to be an assumption made that God had this great idea to create some people and put them on earth–with no apparent purpose–and Adam loused it all up. I don't buy it. If God knows everything, then certainly He knew what Adam and Eve would do, and He did what He did with intent.

"We know that there was a council... in which the plan of our Eternal Father was sustained. This plan included the Creation of the earth on which we now dwell (see Abr. 3:24). The plan provided that while here we would be tested according to the commandments God would give us, and we would have moral agency to choose (Moses 6:33; Moses 7:33). This plan presupposed that Adam and Eve would fall from the Garden of Eden, so it provided for the Savior (see Alma 34:9-10, 14-15), a mediator who would provide the means whereby we could succeed in this earth-life experience and return to our Father in Heaven prepared for the next phase of our development (see Alma 12:24)."6

Says the LDS magazine Ensign: "We look upon what Adam and Eve did with great appreciation rather than with disdain."

"This doctrine [that man existed in the spirit creation]," says Joseph Fielding Smith, great-nephew of Joseph Smith, "in the Bible is only discerned through a mist or fog...because many plain and precious things have been taken out of the Bible." Further he states: "This belief is based upon a revelation given to the Church, May 6, 1833." Therefore, while accepting the Bible's authority, in case of disagreement LDS doctrine necessarily assigns greater weight to the words of their prophets.

This is not without Biblical precedent: The members of Christ's New Testament church were seen as rebels, dissidents, blasphemers, because although they had the Old Testament before them, as all the other Jews, they followed the words of their living prophets–the Savior and His apostles. They proclaimed the Law of Moses fulfilled, and established a new set of rules: no more circumcision, no more Passover, no more "eye for an eye." So, "while accepting the Bible's authority, in case of disagreement, [the early church] necessarily assigned greater weight to the words of their prophets," too. This is, of course, assuming there is any disagreement between the Bible and modern prophets, which there is not. Any disagreements would be with traditions and interpretations, but, as stated earlier, it is the job of prophets and apostles to provide authoritative interpretations of scripture. As with the New Testament, later revelations can provide clarification for previous ones. No one understood how the Saviour would fulfill the Old Testament prophecies about him until it happened. The Jews don't believe in Christ, so they still have many questions about their promised Messiah. We who believe in the New Testament have more recent revelations that give us further insight. Even so with Latter-day scriptures.

Notes

  1. Webster's Universal College Dictionary. NY: Gramercy, 1997.
  2. 1 Peter 1:19-20
  3. 2 Nephi 2:11-16
  4. What it Means to be a Daughter of God, James E. Faust, Ensign, November 1999. (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/10/what-it-means-to-be-a-daughter-of-god?lang=eng)
  5. “In the Beginning”: A Latter-day Perspective, Robert J. Woodford, Ensign, Jan. 1998. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1998/01/in-the-beginning-a-latter-day-perspective?lang=eng)
  6. Matt. 5:12