I just reread that last comment by Stephen and realized I didn't address his understanding that we and God "are all the same species, God having progressed from a man." This is based on a couplet from Elder Snow ("As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become") and some elements of the record of Joseph Smith's discourse at the funeral of King Follett. This is a pretty slender base on which to construct a robust understanding of LDS belief. I think it's indisputable that orthodox LDS doctrine teaches that our Father was once a man (meaning a mortal being) who, through a process of exaltation, attained his Godly state. (Note that I am not proclaiming this as doctrine, just as my understanding of our doctrine. I could be wrong, but I don't think I am.)
What is nowhere stated or even implied is that God was once a flawed, sinful man, as we are flawed, sinful men and women. On the contrary, of the vanishingly few scriptures we have that seem at all to touch, however tangentially, on this point, the best idea we have is that the Father may have stood in the same position as our Lord and Savior now stands. Since no one who can call himself a Christian disputes the perfection and divinity of Christ, the idea that the Father may have stood in that same place or function should raise no questions about his divinity or perfection, whether or not you believe it.
I thought I’d open up a new topic in the LDS Gospel Discussion board to respond to it, as it really is a discussion of LDS beliefs, and also that thread was too long anyhow. Finally, the debate I intend may not have been appropriate there.
I’d like to also add that I’m not necessarily arguing with Vort here. What he says is true. The implications are, perhaps, as he says, and he’s clear in the first paragraph that we don’t know (which is my entire contention). That being said:
Concerning the doctrine, I find the self-effacing, “we’re sorry for our doctrine even among ourselves”, argument decidedly bothersome. That is to say, I do not find statements supporting this thinking very convincing, and logically, it makes little sense.
Here’s the argument from the King Follet Discourse:
The argument stems from this: “...what the Father did. The answer is obvious--in a manner to lay down his body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again.” And “What did Jesus do? Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. I saw my Father work out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom I shall present it to my Father so that he obtains kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt his glory. And so Jesus treads in his tracks to inherit what God did before. It is plain beyond disputation.”
This implies that the Father did just the same as Jesus, and therefore must have been a Savior himself, sinless, perfect, etc...
But also in the discourse we read: “Here, then, is eternal life--to know the only wise and true God. And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves--to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done--by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.” We also have plenty of scriptural and other sources that talk about us following the Savior and doing as He did, etc…
So here’s where the logic doesn’t work for me. If we must become gods, the same as all gods have done, the same as Jesus has done, the same as God the Father has done, then we would, according to the above, all have to be Saviors, perfect, sinless, etc... We know this is not true.
We are to do to be the same as the Savior, and the Atonement allows for this to happen. If it works in that direction, then could it not reasonably work up the chain too? In other words, could not the idea of, “doing the things my father did” be as symbolic as our following of the Savior. Literally we cannot be like the Savior, but we can be “like” the Savior.
We also know that with the atonement our sins are washed clean. How does this apply to us but would somehow be inappropriate for God the Father?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing that God was a sinner, or that he wasn’t a Savior. What I’m arguing is that IF He was a sinner, and IF he wasn’t a Savior, wherein does the doctrine of exaltation cause a problem for us in that regard? How does that diminish his perfection now? I can see that being a problem with other Christian theologies, but they think the whole idea of man becoming a god is blasphemy.
If we can progress from principle to principle until we become perfect, wherein do our previous sins play a role? Will we somehow be less perfect, less glorious, less honored? Will our eternal posterity, our worlds without number, have less respect for us because at one time, in our blip of mortality, we made mistakes? The logic just doesn’t work out for me.
I do not deny, in any regard, that God may have lived a sinless life like the Savior. But the whole point of making that kind of an argument is to somehow apologize for our belief that we can become like God.
As I understand it, and as the King Follett Disc. speaks to, the order of exaltation will always give glory upward. God will have all the glory from all of His works, and all of the works that all of his exalted children work, and so forth. The same for anyone who becomes exalted. We will have glory from our works, and from the works of our posterity, onward forever. Am I wrong? God having been through the mortal experience and having repented of imperfections and having been atoned through the same process as us would not, logically, diminish his glory. And he would give all his glory to His Father, who gives all His glory to His Father, and onward.
In short, I would contend that, doctrinally speaking, the appropriate argument would be that we just don’t know.
I could go on, but...well, there’s a start. Have at it.