The Mormons - The Plurality of Gods


THE PLURALITY OF GODS

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "God" means Elohim (the Father), whereas "Godhead" means a council of three distinct gods; Elohim, Jehovah (the Son, or Jesus), and the Holy Spirit.

The Father and Son have perfected, material bodies
The Father and Son have perfected, material bodies, while the Holy Spirit is a spirit and does not have a body.
This conception differs from the traditional Christian Trinity; in Mormonism, the three persons are considered to be physically separate beings, or personages, but united in will and purpose.
As such, the term "Godhead" differs from how it is used in traditional Christianity.
This description of God represents the orthodoxy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), established early in the 19th century. However, the Mormon concept of God has expanded since the faith's founding in the late 1820s. Joseph Smith said after his 'First Vision' that God and Jesus both have physical bodies.
Being non-trinitarian, the teachings of the LDS Church differ from other Christian churches' theologies as established, for example, in the First Council of Constantinople.
Mormon cosmology teaches the existence of other "gods" such as is exhibited in the concept of the Godhead being three, separate, distinct beings.

Early Theological Concepts of Divinity

Most early Latter Day Saints came from a Protestant background, believing in the doctrine of Trinity that had been developed during the early centuries of Christianity.

Doctrine and Covenants
Joseph Smith Jr.
Before about 1835, Mormon theological teachings were similar to that established view, however, Smith's teachings regarding the nature of the Godhead developed during his lifetime, becoming most fully elaborated in the few years prior to his murder in 1844.
Beginning as an un-elaborated description of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as being "One", Smith taught that the Father and the Son were distinct personal members of the Godhead as early as 1832 (See Doctrine and Covenants 76:12-24).
Smith's public teachings later described the Father and Son as possessing distinct physical bodies, being one together with the Holy Ghost, not in material substance, but instead united in spirit, glory, and purpose - a view sometimes called 'social trinitarianism'.


Teachings in the 1820s and Early 1830s

The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon describes God the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as being "one", with Jesus appearing with a body of spirit before his birth, and with a tangible body after his resurrection. The book describes the "Spirit of the Lord" as capable of appearing "in the form of a man" and speaking as a man would speak. (1 Ne. 11:11).
Prior to Jesus's birth, the book depicts Jesus as a spirit "without flesh and blood", although with a spirit "body" that looked the same as Jesus would appear during his physical life. (Ether 3).
Moreover, Jesus described himself as follows: "Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters." (Ether 3:14).
In another passage of The Book of Mormon, the prophet Abinadi stated,
"I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth." (Mosiah 15:1-4).
After Jesus' resurrection and ascension into heaven, The Book of Mormon states that he visited a small group of people in the Americas, who saw that he had a resurrected, tangible body.
During his visit, he was announced by the voice of God the Father, and those present felt the Holy Spirit, but only the Son was seen. Jesus is quoted,
"Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them. And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one." (3 Nephi 19:22-23).
The Book of Mormon states that Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit are "one" (See 3 Nephi 11:36).
The Mormon Church interprets this "oneness" as a metaphorical oneness in spirit, purpose, and glory, rather than a physical or bodily unity.


Teachings in the Mid-to-Late-1830s

In 1835, Joseph Smith, Jr. (with the involvement of Sidney Rigdon), publicly taught the idea that Jesus Christ and God the Father were two separate beings.
In the 'Lectures on Faith', which had been taught in 1834 to the 'School of the Prophets', the following doctrines were presented:
That the Godhead consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (5:1c);
That there are two "personages", the Father and the Son, that constitute the "supreme power over all things" (5:2a, Q&A section);
That the Father is a "personage of spirit, glory, and power" (5:2c);
That the Son is a "personage of tabernacle" (5:2d) who "possess[es] the same mind with the Father; which Mind is the Holy Spirit" (5:2j,k);
That the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute the "supreme power over all things" (5:2l);
That "[T]hese three constitute the Godhead and are one: the Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power, and fullness;" (5:2m);
That the Son is "filled with the fullness of the Mind of the Father, or in other words, the Spirit of the Father." (5:2o).
Though never part of the official Mormon canon, 'Lectures on Faith' were included as part of the 1835 'Doctrine and Covenants'.
In 1838, Smith published a narrative of his 'First Vision', in which he described seeing both God the Father and a separate Jesus Christ in a vision, both of them appearing identical.


Teachings in the 1840s

In public sermons later in Smith's life, he began to describe what he thought was the true nature of the Godhead in much greater detail.
In 1843, Smith provided his final public description of the Godhead before his death, in which he described God the Father as having a physical body, and the Holy Spirit, also, as a distinct personage: "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us."
During this period, Smith also introduced a theology that could support the existence of a 'Heavenly Mother'. The primary source for this theology is the sermon he delivered at the funeral of King Follett (commonly called the 'King Follett Discourse').
The Mormon Church believes that a 'Heavenly Mother' exists, but very little is acknowledged or known beyond Her existence.
Lorenzo Snow succinctly summarized another portion of the doctrine explained in the King Follett Discourse using a couplet:
'As man now is, God once was:
As God now is, man may be.'

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds Joseph Smith's explanation of the Godhead as official doctrine, which is to say that the Father and the Son have glorified physical bodies, while the Holy Ghost has only a body of spirit.
The differences between the Mormon doctrine of the Godhead and that of Trinitarianism have set Mormonism apart, with the result that some Christian denominations reject Mormonism as being a branch of the Christian Faith.
Leaders and scriptural texts of the Mormon Church actually affirm a belief in the Holy Trinity but use the word "Godhead" (a term used by the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20, and Colossians 2:9) as a means to set apart their belief that the unity of the three persons of the Trinity includes unity in all things, except a physical unity of beings.
The Latter-day Saints believe that "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us."
According to LDS teachings, this theology is consistent with Smith's 1838 and subsequent accounts of the 'First Vision'.
These accounts state that Smith saw a vision of "two personages" that included the Father and the Son.
The church also teaches that its theology is consistent with the Biblical account of the baptism of Jesus which referred to signs from the Father and the Holy Spirit, which the denomination interprets as an indication that these two persons have distinct substance from Jesus.
Smith taught that there is one Godhead and that humans can have a place, as joint-heirs with Christ, if they follow the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
This process of exaltation means literally that humans can become full, complete, joint-heirs with Jesus and can, if proven worthy, inherit all that he inherits.
In this way humanity has the ability to become 'gods' through the Atonement of Jesus.
Among the resurrected, the righteous souls receive great glory, being made perfect through the atonement of Christ.
LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley offered a declaration of belief wherein he reaffirmed the teachings of the LDS Church regarding the distinct individuality and perfect unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
He affirmed that God the Father is "the Father of the spirits of all men,".

Plurality of Gods

Latter-day Saints believe in an eternal cycle where God's children may progress to become "joint-heirs" (Romans 8:17) of Jesus Christ and thus become 'Gods'.
This is commonly called 'Exaltation' within the LDS church.
Previous prophets or leaders of the church have made statements about their personal beliefs about exaltation.
Joseph Smith taught, and the Bible also states, that all people are children of God.
Smith further stated in the King Follett Discourse that God was the son of a Father, and that the cycle continues for eternity.


Quotations on the Plurality of Gods


"I wish to declare I have always an in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.”

Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 6, p. 306

“In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and created a plan to create the world and people it.”

Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 6, pp. 307, 308

"Hence, the doctrine of a plurality of Gods is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. It is all over the face of the Bible . . . Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many . . . but to us there is but one God--that is pertaining to us; and he is in all and through all,"

Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 474).

“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.
These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple.
It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible” 

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp.345-346.

“If we should take a million of worlds like this and number their particles, we should find that there are more Gods than there are particles of matter in those worlds.”

Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, v. 2, p. 345, February 18, 1855

“Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters.... Each father and mother will be in a condition to multiply forever.
As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits... he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world... where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones.... The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited.”

Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, v. 1, p. 37

“Intelligent beings are organized to become Gods, to dwell in the presence of the Gods, and become associated with the highest intelligences that dwell in eternity.”

Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 160, September 2, 1860

"New light is occasionally burst into our minds, of the sacred scriptures, for which I am truly thankful.
We shall by and by learn that we were with God in another world, before the foundation of the world, and had our agency; that we came into this world and have our agency, in order that we may prepare ourselves for a kingdom of glory; become archangels, even the sons of God where the man is neither without the woman nor the woman without the man in the Lord: A consummation of glory, and happiness, and perfection so greatly to be wished, that I would not miss of it for the fame of ten worlds."

W.W. Phelps, Latter-day Saint Messenger and Advocate, v. 1, no. 9, p. 130, June 1835

"I will preach on the plurality of Gods.
"Eloheim is from the word Eloi, God, in the singular number; and by adding the word heim, it renders it Gods. It read first, "In the beginning the head of the Gods brought forth the Gods," or, as others have translated it, "The head of the Gods called the Gods together."
"The head God organized the heavens and the earth. In the beginning the heads of the Gods organized the heavens and the earth.
The head one of the Gods said, Let us make a man in our own image.
"In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation.
The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take that view of the subject, it sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfections of the Gods."

Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 370-372, June 16, 1844

"Women are queens and priestesses but not gods."

Rodney Turner, retired BYU religion professor, Sunstone Panel Discussion, September 7, 1991.

“We don't hear about Heavenly Mother because she is only one of many wives of god.”

Sister Maxine Hanks, Women and Authority, Ch.11, p.251







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