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Posted by: James Beverley ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:42PM

Hi everyone,

I am Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto and Associate Director, Institute for the Study of American Religion in Beaumont, Texas. I am finishing up a book on Mormonism.

I have studied LDS stuff for a long time and then with enormous focus in the last 10 months because of my book.

There is one issue that I find the most puzzling and it has to do with to what degree the LDS position is really changing on some key doctrinal issues. As well, there are a couple of ideas where I am not sure how strongly they were held in the past. So, I would love input on the following...

1. Is the LDS Church moving away from the idea that God used to be a man?
2. Is the LDS Church moving away from the idea that males can become Gods?
3. To what degree did the LDS faithful get taught that Elohim is the father of the incarnate Jesus through sexual contact with Mary?

I would love comments of a general nature about how the LDS Church is or is not changing.

With appreciation,


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Posted by: ladell ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:49PM

In summary 1) yes 2) yes 3) yes they got busy just like heavenly father and his quadrillion wives. Now trying to pin down a mormon on "official" doctrine is quite another matter, quantum mechanics are somehow involved, just when you think you have it pinned down "poof" it has moved

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Posted by: bona dea ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:50PM

My understanding is that the church is not necessarily rejecting those things. However, they do not want to appear weird so they don't talk about it much. They would prefer that outsiders not be aware of such doctrine.

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Posted by: flanders ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:56PM

+1 What Bona Dea said...

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Posted by: jacob ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:58PM

Bona is right, if it weren't considered weird they would still openly preach it. Since it is batshit crazy they distance themselves.

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Posted by: ladell ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:59PM

Hinckley did the distancing

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Posted by: bona dea ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:06AM

He said that on Larry King, but at conference he implied that it was still true.

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Posted by: ladell ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:10AM

I bave not read his walk- back at GC, either way his comments to Larry received far more publicity.

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Posted by: sistersalamander ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:54PM

You can find statements on all of these doctrinal issues by past LDS prophets and leaders.

The shift away from all three teachings you mentioned has only happened recently, probably since the year 2000. I remember all three being explicitly taught at General Conference and at local meetings up through about 2003.

Re: males becoming gods. They also taught that females would become goddesses alongside their husbands who became gods.

Now, those teachings are labeled as "folklore," "speculation," or doctrinal misunderstanding by members.

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Posted by: mysid ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:45PM

"They also taught that females would become goddesses alongside their husbands who became gods."

Not even close to being the same thing. Men have the potential to become all-powerful creators of worlds, who will be sexually serviced by a multitude of wives and worshiped by their created children. Women will be eternal incubators, forgotten and unmentionable "Heavenly Mothers".

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Posted by: Dave the Atheist ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:57PM

I don't think there is any mormon doctrine. It's jello nailed to the wall. The whims of the mormon corporate bigwigs are always changing.

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Posted by: zulu1 ( )
Date: February 17, 2013 11:59PM

Number 1 and 2 haven't been repudiated. However, they are less emphasized and even denied in certain settings. Gordon Hinckley's famous denial ('I don't know that we teach that...') on 60 Minutes surprised a lot of faithful Mormons (including me at the time). He then went before church membership at the next General Conference and addressed the topic by saying that we 'don't throw pearls before swine' or something to that effect (in essence, he assured us all that he did indeed know the doctrine, but that enemies of the the church would misuse and sensationalize the material to damage us all).

Finally, number 3. I was taught this as a teenager back in the 70's and it was repeated to me by religion professors at BYU (mid 1980's).

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Posted by: dagny ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:04AM

The Mormons church is no different from other religions that dump goofy teachings over time. It's just that we are seeing it in real time because it is such a young church by comparison.

My father's generation freely talked about all three items you listed as if they were fact.

My generation (born in 1950s) knew about the teachings but they were getting less emphasis.

Now, only the members who bother to study old teachings from will know about them, or if discussed it would only be to insiders. You will not hear about these things at, say, general conference, where outsiders may be listening. I suspect most converts would not have any idea about these past teachings.

Members would consider teachings like that now to be explained by:

"That was just the opinion of the prophet then. We don't really know. He was speaking as a man."

"We have more truth than other religions, but telling others these things would be like putting pearls before swine."

"The current prophet has current revelation to clarify teachings. Past prophets taught what God wanted the people to know at the time."

You get the idea.

They can explain anything, even changes that are obvious "down the memory hole" Orwellian attempts at pretending they never existed.

It is changing for sure. It must adapt to remain relevant. Mormons aren't as isolated now like they were 100 years ago.

Really, it isn't doing anything different from other churches that (for example) go from teaching something ridiculous from the Bible was literal to being symbolic. Or consider Catholics changing how they present the concept of hell.

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Posted by: SusieQ#1 ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:31PM

I agree with dagny - I have lived through the changes in emphasis in what is talked about and what is not and how the church policies bring about changes.

The main doctrines do not change. Those are the: First principles of the Gospel, The Plan of Salvation, and a few other doctrines.

The policies and methods used do change.

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Posted by: SusieQ#1 ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:06AM

My suggestion is to direct your questions to one of the apostles of the LDS Church and ask for their scriptural references.

There is a lot of interpretation that goes on when things are not spelled out clearly.

Some of the "mysteries" are discouraged from being discussed.

Some of the principles that are directed at your questions can be found in the D&C and the principle of "eternal progression."
And the little poem/couplet by Eliza Snow in the teachings of Lorenzo Snow:1898 to 1901
“As man now is, God once was; as God is now man may be.”
( The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1984], 1.)

Many of the teachings of the prior prophets are often considered personal opinion and not 100% doctrinal as in a direct reference but is the conclusion of the teachings.

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Posted by: jacob ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:07AM

I would only suggest this if you wish to be frustrated with migraines for the next month. Or if you really enjoy root canals.

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Posted by: druid ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:27AM

The "milk before meat" reasoning runs true even today. In Brighams time it was whole milk and beef steak, now the milk is weak and the hot dogs cheap.

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Posted by: anybody ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:32AM

Dear Prof. Beverley:

As an interested observer here's my two cents worth:

The Brethren are pulling the same bait-and-switch routine as the Scientologists. They don't openly discuss it in public but still teach the things you mentioned in private. Romney's presidential campaign marked the culmination of a decades long effort to reach some sort of rapprochement with the evangelical Christian community and make Mormons appear to be just another protestant denomination when in fact they are not. Unfortunately for them, living in the Information Age will make this impossible.

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Posted by: Gazelam ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 11:25AM

I left in 2000 so I can't give TOO much input on current teachings, but I was taught from a very young age that I could become a god someday and would create my own worlds. In fact, I spent much of my childhood doing preliminary designs for my worlds where all of my stuffed animals would be incarnated.

Here is a good synopsis of the doctrine from a semi-official site.

And from the official website..

The code phrase is always 'we can become like god'

Under the 'blessings of exaltation' it quite explicity says 'They will become gods'

As far as point 3, this is something I would imagine the leadership is paddling away from as quickly as they can, publicly at least. As of the late 1990s is was still taught as 'folklore'. I heard it fairly explicitly from my New Testament professor, Andrew Skinner.

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Posted by: Cali Sally ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 11:50AM

As a convert to Mormonism I was shocked to hear Pres. Hinckley deny the teaching that God was once a man. It was taught to me as a convert and I taught it when I was a missionary. His lying on T.V. just plain disgusted me.

About God having sex with Mary, I was never taught that specifically. I was told that Jesus was the literal, physical, son of God but it was not known how it was done. It was always told to me that it was done somehow through the Holy Ghost. In my mind I kind of thought of it (I know this sounds ridiculous) as some kind of artificial insemination because I couldn't picture God coming to earth and sleeping with Mary. But "Born in the Church" members were probably taught something different because they are considered more faithful.

There are lots of things that are not taught to people investigating the Mormon church. For instance, there are two versions of what happened to the Book of Mormon (golden plates) after Joseph Smith translated them. One is that they were taken back up to heaven by the Angel Moroni and another is that they were reburied into the Hill Cumorah. To this day I do not know which is the official version because there is always some holding back of information if you are not yet a baptized member. And if you have gone to the temple and sworn your total allegiance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a corporation, not to God, you are even more of an insider. Then, if you become what some of us refer to as "Mormon Elite", like the General Authorities and their families and probably rich people like Mitt Romney, you are entitled to special access to general authorities and special blessings. The Osmonds were all married by someone high up in the Mormon Church. When I saw that kind of behavior among Mormons while they taught that God was "no respecter of persons" I could no longer tolerate the hypocrisy and resigned.

Thanks for your question.

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Posted by: Glo ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:01PM

No matter what the church claims nowadays, the core doctrine of Mormonism is found in the 25 volumes known as the Journal of Discourses.

This doctrine was taught from the pulpit in Salt Lake City as the mind of god, the will of god, and the power of god unto salvation.

Modern leaders have retreated from various points over the last decades but still, the JoD shows Mormon belief in its original form in the 1800s.

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Posted by: Demon of Kolob ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:20PM

I was taught the god had sex with Mary in Mormon seminary (1987).
Man becoming gods is taught in the Mormon temple

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Posted by: shannon ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:31PM

Your average LDS middle-schooler has never heard of ANY of these three doctrines!

Just sayin'.


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Posted by: heretic ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:32PM

"Achieving a Celestial Marriage,"Student Manual, Church Educational System, Department of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1976 Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Lesson No. 1, Celestial Marriage: Key to Man's Destiny
"God was once a man who, by obedience, advanced to his present state of perfection;..." p.4
" his mortal condition man is God in embryo. However...any individual now a mortal being may attain to the rank and sanctity of godship..." p.4 (Articles of Faith, p. 529)
"...Do you realize the implications of this doctrine as far as you are concerned?" "I think so. If God became God by obedience to all of the gospel law with the crowning point being the celestial law of marriage, then that's the only way I can become a god." "Right: And it is the law that assists us in reaching that potential...." p.4
"...I can be a god only if I act like God." "Exactly right. Can you imagine the state of the universe if imperfect gods were allowed to spawn their imperfections throughout space, if beings who did not have law under their subjection were free to create worlds?" p. 5

If this is the type of source material you're looking for I have more I can supply you with.

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Posted by: Erick ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 12:54PM

I assume given your background that you are not looking for source material at this point, but rather your hoping to get an inside look into how Mormons on the floor actually see this "stuff". This is probably the wrong crowd in many cases for that, given that the people who frequent this site are no longer active (may not have been for years) and tend to be a little overly cynical in their perception of things.

I myself have not attended a Church services in over three years, so my perspective would be limited in that way. Your questions:

1) Yes, I think so. As has been mentioned, the greatest example of this was Gord B. Hinckley's waffling on the matter on Larry King Live. As an observation, I don't recall the Church curricula emphasizing this point in any of the Sunday School manuals. I'd suggest getting copies of these and verifying for your book.

2) This is really the same as number 1 - I don't hear talk of "becoming more like our Heavenly Father" as much as I hear "returning to live with our Heavenly Father".

3) The "Church" never taught this. There has been some squabbling over the matter even at higher levels of the Church's hierarchy. The farther you go back into the historical record the more overt the statements become.

James E. Talmage kind of put a wrench in the spokes of a lot of this rhetoric in Jesus the Christ (1915), when he stated :

"That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof"
(Jesus the Christ, Chapter 7 - Gabriel's Annunciation of John and of Jesus, under the subheading: The Annunciation to the Virgin)

There has been significant debate among 20th century Church leaders, between the caste of Joseph Fielding Smith/BRM types who insist on the interpretation of a literal shag between God (Elohim) and Mary, and those who prefer this "higher manifestation" interpretation. In other words, the idea is that God (Elohim) managed to get his DNA into Mary in such a way that did not require physical intercourse as we understand it. That the important thing is that Jesus literally possessed God's DNA.

These day's you will be hard pressed to find any discussion of any of this in a local meeting of any kind. You will NEVER get a contemporary LDS General Authority to even "go there".

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Posted by: Erick ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:03PM

I guess the real question I have for those in insist on the idea of God having real sex with Mary is, was that it? I mean, did he at least take her out for dinner, maybe a little dancing, and then a movie at his place before making a move - or did he just ride in on his horse like a Noble and claim his right to deflower the peasant maiden for the groom???

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Posted by: Mia ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:02PM

They may not teach it so much in lessons or talks.

However, it is very clearly stated in the temple ceremony that the men will become Gods and the women will become goddesses if they live righteously enough.

This is way they can say they don't teach it. Members who haven't been through the temple would be inclined to agree. Anyone who has been through the temple knows different. They have also promised to not talk about it.

I believe Richard Packhams site has the words to the temple endowment.

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Posted by: Chicken N. Backpacks ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:12PM

Like the poster anybody above said about Scientology, this is a case of "deep doctrine" or "milk before meat", which of course flies in the face of the advertised "plain and simple truths" of the gospel that the LDS church says were "restored" to Joseph Smith.

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Posted by: Intel-Geek ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:26PM

This is right off the current LDS website:
Chapter 47: Exaltation Gospel Principles, (2011), 275–80


Those who receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ will receive special blessings. The Lord has promised, “All things are theirs” (D&C 76:59). These are some of the blessings given to exalted people:

1. They will live eternally in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ (see D&C 76:62).

2. They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23).

3. They will be united eternally with their righteous family members and will be able to have eternal increase.

4. They will receive a fulness of joy.

5. They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge

(see D&C 132:19–20).

It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God. … He was once a man like us; … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 345–46).

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Posted by: Intel-Geek ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:29PM

All of the above is quoted in it's exactness from the LDS dot org website..I did not alter the text quotes in any way.

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Posted by: The Oncoming Storm - bc ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:27PM

1&2) See

This is as close to official doctrine on the subject as you can get. For example see the paragraph:

"Exaltation is eternal life, the kind of life God lives. He lives in great glory. He is perfect. He possesses all knowledge and all wisdom. He is the Father of spirit children. He is a creator. We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation."

- The LDS church has a long history of not putting "milk before meat" - they try to obscure their actual doctrines from outsiders to see less weird. Don't confuse attempting to obscure the doctrine with walking away from the doctrine.

3) This has never been official doctrine or anything close that this is the case. There are a number of Mormon's including some quite high up whose conjecture is that God physically had sex with Mary.

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Posted by: Intel-geek ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:30PM

haa beat ya BC :)

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Posted by: James Beverley ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 01:55PM

Thanks for all the input on these questions. I am deeply grateful.


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Posted by: dfweasel ( )
Date: February 18, 2013 02:02PM

Bona is right. What looney church do you go to James?

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