Hey guys! So… YES. Latter-day Saints absolutely believe that through the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ, we mortals have the potential to one day after this life become like God. From the outside looking in, this idea might sound wildly arrogant, but please understand that we believe this concept (also known as deification or theosis) is only possible through the atonement and grace of Jesus Christ. It’s not possible any other way.
“Lorenzo Snow…coined a well-known couplet: ‘As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.’ Little has been revealed about the first half of this couplet, and consequently little is taught.” But the second half has become one of our most fundamental doctrines. And that’s what we’re going to talk about in this video.
This whole concept of theosis isn’t a new idea. For example, think about what these Bible verses mean in the context of becoming like God:
“…[Christ’s] divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Peter 1).
“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” (Romans 8). “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3).
As non-Latter-day Saint Normal Russell wrote, “It is becoming less necessary in the English-speaking world to apologize for the doctrine of deification. At one time it was regarded as highly esoteric [or mystical] if it was admitted to be Christian at all…In recent years a succession of works on deification in individual Fathers from Irenaeus to Maximus the Confessor has confirmed the patristic basis of the doctrine.” (Source: Norman Russell, The Doctrine of Deification in the Greek Patristic Tradition.)
From some of those early church fathers, we read: “God became man, so that man might become God.” “Our Lord Jesus Christ, through His transcendent love, became what we are, so that He might bring us to be even what He Himself is.” “What man is, Christ was willing to be—so that man may also be what Christ is.” “God made us so that we might become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ and sharers in His eternity, and so that we might come to be like Him through deification by grace.” “God…has created all things that man may be saved and deified.” And the quotes go on.
Now, that’s not to say that these early fathers all would agree with each other or us today about what exactly deification entails, but over time this general idea faded into the background. One reason would be that in the early church, ideas about the nature of God and his creations evolved, widening the gulf between our being and God’s being. In other words, people eventually thought this idea of theosis was like believing an apple could one day become an orange.
Latter-day Saints believe “The difference between man and God is significant, but it is one of degree, not kind. It is the difference between an acorn and an oak tree, a rosebud and a rose, a son and a father.”
We truly do believe that we are created in the likeness and image of God. Thus, we’d agree with the Gospel of Phillip in the Nag Hammadi scriptures: “A horse sires a horse, a man begets man, a god brings forth a god.” Maybe that’s why we read in Psalms, “Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” We believe each of us is born with a seed of divinity within us.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which…you would be strongly tempted to worship…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”
Now, naturally, people have some concerns about this teaching, for example, Tad Callister posed the question: “Is God impaired, degraded, lessened, [or] dethroned because he has given to others the capacity to become like Him?” His response: “One’s capacity to honor and worship is magnified with one’s intellectual, emotional, cultural, and spiritual enlightenment. Accordingly, the more we become like God, the greater our ability to pay him homage. In that process of lifting men heavenward, God simultaneously multiplies his own honor and thus is ‘honored more,’ not less.”
Some wonder if this doctrine of theosis implies that we want to replace God. And the answer to that is of course not. Just because a son grows to be a father does not mean he no longer has a father of his own. Others wonder if this belief makes Latter-day Saints polytheistic. If there are other gods somewhere in the cosmos in addition to our heavenly parents and Jesus Christ, they are of absolutely no concern to us. They don’t affect us in any way, and we have nothing to do with them.
We believe God wants us to learn the things He knows, and do the things He does. That’s what we think eternity is for. That’s going to sound like the height of blasphemy to some people. To others, it sounds like the height of worship. Is there a greater way to praise God than to follow in His footsteps? Is there anything more rewarding for God than raising us up to become like Him?
Now, there’s so much more we could say about this topic, but we’ll save it for another time. Check out the stuff in the description and on our website for more info, and have a great day!
- From the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/2M7cUuG
- From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3eFJAHY
- Relevant article from the Deseret News: https://bit.ly/3cofW8D
- Answers to common questions about theosis: https://bit.ly/2XOSlbQ
- More answers to common questions: https://bit.ly/2AtZZ3r
- Review by Jordan Vajda of book of deification: https://bit.ly/2XSL0I2
- From “LDS Truth Claims” (FF to last ⅓): https://bit.ly/2TZP88b
- Not the most authoritative source for additional info (this is just some guy’s blog), but I thought what he said about Latter-day Saints was funny: https://bit.ly/2AvoDjU