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Becoming Like God

By Jessawhy

My friend Amy recently remarked that her born-again Christian minister friend finds the Mormon doctrine of becoming like God to be extremely offensive.

Wow. Really? But, the more I thought about it, the more I can see that point of view.  Many people worship a God who is other, so much MORE than man could ever be (not to mention, incorporeal). The thought of us being like God someday is really, more than crazy, borderline offensive.

So, how does knowing that other people may feel this way affect the way that discuss this doctrine (if it is one) with non-members? Does it affect our incentive to get to heaven? My brother-in-law says that the incentive is just as great for him if he gets to dwell in the presence of God for eternity.

He makes a good point.

Perhaps, like he suggests, it’s more like the exact location of the New Jerusalem. Meh, it’s interesting to know, but not something that changes your behavior.

What do you think?

Feel free to explain your vote in the comments.

(Although this is a feminist blog, I’d like to keep the conversation away from the difference between men becoming like a male God and women becoming like . . . who? although that is a very good discussion in itself)


Jessawhy is a wife, mother, community volunteer, activist and student. She is currently working towards a Physician Assistant degree.

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29 Responses

  1. amyb says:

    The actual belief is that we will not just be like god, but we will become gods ourselves, no?

    If people believe in a completely transcendent god who is 100% other and out in space somewhere, and that god is a magical, unknowable entity, I can see how the LDS belief might not sit well. I’ve discarded most of my LDS beliefs, but I actually still kind of like that one. I’m also partial to the immanent god of more eastern traditions, one who is already in everything and everyone. We all already are god.

  2. Caroline says:

    I voted enlightened. Not that I can even wrap my mind around what it means to be a God someday. But I like the idea of removing some of the distance between God and human. Thinking that God is like me and that I am like God in some ways. That God’s divinity dwells in all of us. Like Amyb, I think these eastern ideas of God’s immanence are cool.

  3. Alisa says:

    I have an evangelical friend who also thinks this idea is offensive, so I’m more careful about this idea, even though to me it’s one of the coolest doctrines.

    It’s not so much an insentive as an understanding of who I am. I’m not sure how literally I take this anymore (and this certainly takes the Christian “child of God” theme to a literal level), but I think it’s a beautiful idea.

  4. Alisa says:

    Sorry, *incentive*. Yeesh.

  5. amelia says:

    this is probably my favorite mormon doctrine. and i think it has *everything* to do with changing our behavior, when we think it through to its logical outcome. if each of us has the capacity to be gods, then it should radically alter how we treat each individual we encounter. whether we’re talking about someone of obvious status or the lowest of lows, they are radically equal when it comes to the divinity already within and their divine potential in the future. to dismiss it as “meh…like knowing the exact location of the new jerusalem” is practically blasphemy for me.

    as for being incentive for the next life and heaven…i don’t much care about the next life and heaven. i care about this life. how i’m living here. whether i’m realizing (literally making real) the teachings of christ as i understand them in my own small sphere. i don’t really give a tinker’s damn about the next life. that also has everything to do with the fact that i interpret the “becoming gods” doctrine as commentary on who we are here and how we should interact with each other as radically equal–and with god as radically equal.

    one of the ways i have identified more and more with my quaker friends over the course of the last couple of years than with mainstream mormonism.

  6. Bones says:

    I have to say the important part, which considered thoroughly, is that we can become like God or gods, lower case. I don’t agree that we will be equal to God, in any sense. Perhaps it is our putting ourselves equal to God is what offends other religions–perhaps rightly so.

  7. Kelly Ann says:

    Amelia, I would be interested in knowing your other basic comparisons between Quakers and Mormons.

  8. Ziff says:

    There are some Mormon doctrines that rub me the wrong way, but I’m with amelia on this one–it’s one of my favorites. I like the idea that God is like us–it makes God seem more approachable. The idea that we will end up being like him is also a very satisfying answer to the question of why he would create us in the first place.

  9. Ziff says:

    Oh, also I served a mission in Texas, so I got to hear lots of comments about how offensive it was to Baptists, et al. that we dared to believe such a doctrine. I can see how it seems way far out from a mainstream Christian perspective. But as I said before, it’s such a neat answer to the question of why a perfect being would go to the trouble to create us imperfect troublesome beings that I really like it. I remember a few converts I met who expressed that this doctrine was one that had really attracted them.

    Actually, I remember that I often walked on eggshells with people about this doctrine, knowing that they might say it was really weird or blasphemous. Looking back, I kind of wish I had been more unapologetic and said, “Yeah, we believe we can become gods. Isn’t it great?”

  10. Clean Cut says:

    Most people who bring this up assume that we believe we will be gods just like God is God. I clarify that the goal is not to become God or replace Him, but be like Him–gods by grace–because God will make us so and because we belong to the family of god.

    But even this raises eyebrows because traditional/orthodox Christians believe in a two-category universe of the Creator and the created, and the created (us) will always be different from the Creator (God). Latter-day Saints, however, believe we are of the same kind, or species, as God, and that He is literally are Father–not just our Creator–and we are literally His children. So I explain that too. We will grow up to be like God, and perhaps even participate in in the true worship of imitation and creation to a degree, but that does not make God. Only he is eternally the one true source of light, worship or power in the universe. Whatever we do to pass the eternities, it will only be as an extension of His power, and we will always be dependent on God. I think traditional Christians assume that we believe that we’ll become independent of God, but I sure don’t believe that. The goal is to truly become ONE with Him, as Christ prayed in John 17, and that is possible because Christ’s grace can make us divine. They may say that’s blasphemy, but I say it’s a true testament to the grace of God. They may say that it diminishes God, but I say it does just the opposite.

    PS: The doctrine of deification was not invented by Joseph Smith. There’s quite a long list of early Christian “Fathers” with impeccable orthodox credentials that spoke out that God’s work is to make us like Him. (See the book “Are Mormon’s Christian” by Stephen E. Robinson).

  11. Clean Cut says:

    We need to emphasize that our goal is not to become equal to/with God, but to become ONE with Him. The first is offensive, the second is scriptural.

  12. breathingmoss says:

    This is one of the concepts I took with me when I left the “house” of institutional Mormonism and ventured into the wilderness of my own self-navigated spiritual journey.

    Like others who have already commented above, I find this concept/feeling/practice uplifting and enlightened. It affects how I perceive deity (Life) and how I perceive myself. It compels me to be better, to see God in my fellow beings, to understand God in a more tangible embodied way.

    The way this has translated for me? “God = the infinite goodness that is human potential. The infinite goodness that is human potential = God.” That’s something I was glad to take with me. It has the tenor of an expansiveness that is beyond what I may see when I view pettiness of humanity or marvel at the seeming separation between humanity and God.

  13. amelia says:

    kelly ann, i’m really not able to do that. i don’t have a very deep knowledge of quakerism. i’m drawn to it more because i feel like my personal values fit with its testimonies (simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and [sometimes] sustainability) than because i necessarily see parallels between mormon teachings/beliefs and quaker tenets (there aren’t really quaker tenets). jana could do a much better job of addressing this than i, though i suspect she might say there aren’t a lot of parallels…

  14. Zenaida says:

    Clean Cut, could you explain how gaining equality with God and the fullness of all the Father hath is not scriptural. I guess I do not understand the distinction. There’s also Lorenzo Snow’s statment: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.”

  15. Clean Cut says:

    Zanaida, I guess it depends how how one defines “equality”. If by being “equal to God”, you mean that you will be on par with the Godhead in every way and become a worshipped being yourself, then I don’t think you’re going to find any scriptures to back up that interpretation, and that can be construed as offensive or blasphemous.

    If by “gaining equality with God” you’re simply saying that we’ll share in “all the Father hath” or be “partakers of the divine nature” or be “joint heirs”, then that is fully scriptural, and I believe it. I think there is clearly a difference.

    Multiple interpretations also exist with Lorenzo Snow’s statement: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be”. I do not think that Joseph Smith, whether in the King Follet discourse, or Lorenzo Snow with this couplet, intend to contradict scripture–especially scriptures that clearly state that God is eternal or “one eternal God”. In fact, when Joseph taught this, he said he would prove it from the Bible. Therefore, I do not interpret Lorenzo Snow to be saying that God was once MERELY a man, or necessarily fallen, mortal man as are we. Rather, I interpret both Lorenzo Snow and Joseph Smith to be teaching that God once had a mortal experience (of which we know nothing), as did Jesus who dwelt on the earth as a man, but was still a God.

    And although Christ/God became a man (“the Word was made flesh”) and intends to make us what He is, clearly there is a difference in our mortal experience and that of Christ’s, not the least of which was having 23 chromosomes from a mortal mother and 23 chromosomes from an immortal Father.

    So no, I do not subscribe to the idea that God was once a man “just like us” and somehow grew into his present role. There is nothing in our cannon that says that. But I do believe that He still intends to make us divine beings through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ. I rejoice in this doctrine of deification, and believe it to be a marvelous witness of God’s grace. But I don’t believe that it means that we’ll become “God himself” someday, as some evangelicals assume all Mormons believe. Rather, I believe that we will be gods by grace, dependent on and sharing in His attributes and power, never independent of Him.

  16. Jessawhy says:

    Thank you all for your comments. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to this thread, and I’m glad to see it’s taken such good shape despite my short and hasty post.

    amyb, you bring up an excellent point, one that Clean Cut discusses in more detail in comment 15. I really like what you said here: “We all already are god.” I have a close friend who believes this as well, that we are here to prove to our already exalted selves (because time is only a mortal limitation) that we are really gods.

    “Narrowing the distance between God and humans.” Well said. It’s easier for me to do this when I imagine God as more like me, in the way that my toddler is like me, but so far from being an adult. But there the analogy gets fuzzy, because exactly how much like God can we become?

    Good point on incentives, some people don’t work that way, and I’m not really sure I think God does either.
    I’m actually glad to understand that this doctrine can be offensive to some, it makes me more cautious about how I discuss it with friends.

  17. Jessawhy says:

    I’m struggling to understand how this is your favorite doctrine and yet you don’t care about the next life. That’s an interesting paradox of sorts (I’m sorry if I’m misunderstanding). I think you’re saying that the doctrine is only as good as it changes our relationships into godly ones. I really like that idea.

    Yes, the crux of this issue is whether as Mormons we believe we can someday (perhaps an eternity from now) become God (to another Earth perhaps?) or that we can partake of the fullness of God and become little ‘g’ gods.
    I surely don’t know the answer, but the distinction appears to be very important and is part of the offensiveness of this issue.
    Thanks for your comment.

    Ziff said, “The idea that we will end up being like him is also a very satisfying answer to the question of why he would create us in the first place.”
    Brilliant. Watching my children is one way I think I have a window into God’s eyes. Right now I’m reading The Shack, where the trinity appears to a grief-stricken man and explain why there is pain in the world. One point the author makes is that we choose to limit ourselves, like God can limit Himself, or like we limit ourselves when we play with children, for their good. It’s an interesting idea.

  18. Jessawhy says:

    Clean Cut,
    Thanks for your explanation regarding the division between becoming like God (partaking of his fullness) and replacing him or being separate Gods.
    Because I’m not an expert in church doctrine or history, I’m interested to know where these doctrines come from and how they have changed over time.
    While I’m inclined to agree with you, I do think some members of our church have a more literal take on the becoming like God doctrine. I’ll have to check my Gospel Principles manual to see what is the correlated version of this doctrine.
    I do think that Lorenzo Snow’s couplet gets thrown around a lot without too much serious consideration of it’s meaning and implications.

    Thanks for your comments. I’m glad that you find this doctrine one that you can take with you on your spiritual journey. Like you and amelia, I do think it has potential power to change our daily interactions with people for the better. If for no other reason, we should hold on to it.

    Everyone, thanks again for your comments. This thread has been eye opening and educational for me.

  19. Zenaida says:

    Jessawhy, you inspired me to check the Gospel Doctrine manual, and Clean Cut, I just don’t think I can agree.

    Ch. 7, pg.17
    “God Himself is an exalted man, perfected, enthroned, and supreme.”
    “Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of an earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages and aeons, of evolving into a God.”

    I have heard this “folk” doctrine, if that’s what it is repeated in Sunday Schools classes. The idea that we will go on to create our own worlds and have endless posterity of spirit children is an idea that I have heard on multiple occasions.

    I do think that our endeavors are inextricably tied to God, but I have also heard that God is our Father, and he had a Father, and he had a Father, and so on. Our efforts will bring glory to the Father eternally, but that does not mean that we will not become God.

    I have wondered about the role of Christ in this chain. He is automatically above us by virtue of His divinity. Would we have to serve in similar positions before attaining Godhood? But, that doesn’t make sense either, and sounds dangerously like reincarnation. 🙂

  20. Clean Cut says:

    So if I repeat my interpretation often enough on multiple occasions, will that make it true? Zanaida, I’m curious how you’ve been able to reconcile your interpretation with what’s actually in the Standard Works…

  21. Clean Cut says:

    One helpful clarification about the idea that we can become like God was given by the Church in response to an interview by Fox News:

    “We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.”


  22. Thomas Parkin says:

    Clean Cut,

    Maybe – and I don’t mean this a snark – you’ve been spending too much time appeasing Evangelicals, and worrying about what offends them. Really, I respect you very much, you seem to be a fine gent, but I think you’ve gone wrong here. I doubt if this blog is the place to take it up, but I’d be more than happy to take it up in private e-mail. stalbatross at gmail dot com. Cool ~

  23. Clean Cut says:

    If I am wrong, than I will humbly admit it. (Although I was never trying to come across as arrogant or rude in the first place). To my knowledge, there isn’t one “right” way of interpreting this. Although one helpful clarification was made by the Church concerning the idea that we can become like God during an interview with Fox News:

    “We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.”

    Note, “the goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them.” This is why I said what I did in the above comments. Anything beyond “becoming LIKE God” and receiving exaltation is speculation. And that is skating on thin ice.

  24. Clean Cut says:

    By the way, the link to the Church’s statement is from “21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith” on Fox News at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,317272,00.html

  25. Zenaida says:

    Clean Cut, I apologize if I came across as overbearing, or defensive. I do not think you were rude, or excessively arrogant. 😉 I would very much like to understand where you are coming from, since I just don’t see it in the “mainstream” church. I could be the one that’s wrong.

    And, Thomas, I think the blog is an excellent place to have this discussion, and I would be disappointed to miss out on the resulting discussion.

  26. Zenaida says:

    I’m curious to know why that clarification was made to Fox News, and not to the general church membership. I am really not sure how I’ve spent so many years in the church and not encountered that idea before. Are there other references in something like general conference?

  27. Zenaida says:

    And when I say so many years, I mean not all that many, because I am young, but that has been something I’ve thought all my life. It’s unsettling to hear it overturned.

  28. Clean Cut says:

    Can’t believe it’s been two years since we had this discussion. For what its worth, Thomas and I did end up having this discussion/debate on my post: “My Take On Joseph Smith’s King Follet Sermon”.

    After reading over the comments here, I have to say that I wouldn’t change much. I would drop the use of the word “literal” in describing how we’re children of God (because it implies spirit birth which I think is silly), and instead just say that we’re truly, honestly, really children of God.

    Also, some of the passages in the Gospel Principles manual quoted above were not supportable and have since been changed.

    Other than that, it was fun coming back and having a look back in time. I appreciate having been welcomed here.

  29. Angel427 says:

    These posts are all valid parts of a big picture.
    You’ve stepped out of the box of religion as far as your comfort zone will allow you.

    Imagine for a moment stepping completely out of the restraints of “rules” and “commitments”~ religious, personal, national, global
    all of
    them for a moment.
    A card descends from above that is a “Let go of everything for 5 minutes and just be” card.

    No more limits. No more walls. No more restrictions.

    Then it is easier to understand what Might Be or Is or Can Be or Will Be.

    We put God in those tiny boxes labeled “Baptist” or “Catholic” or “Mormon” for our convenience, to support personal preferences, or maybe to set forth our definitions of what God is NOT,
    Humans are big on the “not” rules. They create the illusion that we are “better than” if we follow our rules and others do not.
    Or worse, convince us we have the right to control someone else in God’s name.

    Do we really believe God cares if we sprinkle or immerse to dedicate ourselves to Him, or whether we genuflect before an icon of our own making, or if women wear clothes to hide their heads or faces or layers of clothes or long skirts to remove “temptation” (from men of God or Allah or Jehovah, no less)
    or any other such nonsense?

    Yet such restrictive minutiae are often adjudged by religious and societal leaders as “important” underpinnings of man’s various cultures and religions.

    We love our “rules” and laws that control others, make us feel powerful.
    If we can figure out a way for these rules and laws to ride on God’s (or Allah’s or Jehovah’s) coattails, even better.

    For too long we have used God as a tool to make our religions and laws into stronger barriers between His children, to intimidate others into submission. To frighten one another.
    To damage, to threaten, to hurt.

    After typing the above text, I quietly sat here reading it, editing where I didn’t seem to have gotten it quite right, feeling at the same time I wasn’t sure I wrote it.

    Interesting thoughts.

    But back to what I started to type.

    When I was 13 I read the Bible cover to cover. Read the Old Testament. Closed the book. Thought, “Odd. That “God” is a brat. If he doesn’t get his way, he pitches a fit or destroys something.”

    I didn’t like that God much, thought him cruel, vindictive, manipulative, arrogant.
    Ultimately, I realized that that “God” was a mirroring of our civilization at the time the OT was written. We weren’t very civilized as a group, treated each other badly.
    Very much as we conduct ourselves now.
    Still, curious, I started reading the New Testament. All of a sudden Jesus was telling us that God was our Father, we were his beloved children, He loved us, even going so far as to refer to us as gods ourselves.
    Jesus quoting Psalms 82:6: “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High”.
    Jesus began to extol a very different God, a loving God who was no longer in conflict or angry with his children, One who even sent us an example to guide us, a template – Jesus himself, whom God declared to be his Son.
    A new and evolved version of God was being introduced to us. Jesus tells us we are God’s children, that we are, then, Jesus’s own spiritual sisters and brothers.
    The God of Christ is a mature God. He has created us. We are His children. We are Family.

    After I closed that book, it seemed clear that Christ was my elder brother, and He was sent to show us the ropes, how to mature into becoming One with the Living God, a part of. yet a God in our own right, as Jesus was and is.

    Over the years other things simply became a part of my knowing.

    I am a part of God, but I’m on a learning mission to become AS God, at which time I WILL become sort of an offshoot of God, like a branch grows on a tree, creating as God created, expanding His world as I learn to create. Not competing, but a part of ALL creation.

    I see pictures in my head of something like a cluster of asteroids, a green shoot sprouting from the earth, swirling, sparkling ectoplasm that is me extending from That Which IS God, existing in the center of a trailing tiny point of light in the Universe, but always connected. And from that point of light, I begin my Life as God’s extension yet entire of myself, creating, expanding, teaching, loving.

    Other truths that evolved within me become firmer:
    Christ says that as much as we think we love our children God loves us more. I cannot believe that any parent would throw His child into a literal Hell, for any reason. Would any of you?
    And do you not want your children to Be All you are and more?
    Hell is real, but not as we have been told. I will explain a little later on.
    There’s no way a person can learn the ropes in one lifetime. In order to fully understand an action one must experience all its manifestations, all of its facets, all the resulting changes that any action causes. Who can know that without experiencing it firsthand? Who can do that in one lifetime?

    I believe Jesus had many lives before He became a part of the Trinity, that they were many opportunities for learning to know as God knows, understanding and making choices, ultimately discovering the power of love is far stronger than any other emotion.
    His struggles as recorded in the Bible, His battle with Satan, for example, are accounts of His experiences in learning how to be victorious over that side of Himself that is NOT love. To choose wrongly is to be in hell until we realize we have somehow developed a bad connection with God. That hell disappears when we make the right choices to reconnect with God’s flow of love.

    Every day in this life we create our worlds. We come to grips with situations that tempt us to act out of “not love” (anger, abuse, rejection of others, lack of compassion) and if we choose wrongly we find ourselves in the hell of not reflecting God’s love. We suffer when we make the wrong choice. Fear in itself is a kind of hell, failing to believe that we are cherished and protected and that WE have the power to protect ourselves by choosing love.

    Each day, each action, each life, we learn how to Be As God, to Be as God is, to BE GOD by choosing to be. TO live in a state of Love. To be Good. To be God.

    We have many lifetimes, in many mansions, to experience this learning process, until one finds there is no longer any kind of separation between God and one’s Soul, being a flawless reflection, ultimately to venture forth in the Universe to create WITH God.

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