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Gospel Topics Chapter 2 Sherlock Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
April 20, 2021 9:30 pm

Gospel Topics Chapter 2 Sherlock Part 3

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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April 20, 2021 9:30 pm

This week Bill and Eric cover chapters 2 and 3 of the book Gospel Topics Series. These are important essays and it’s interesting to see how these are looked upon by a variety of different scholars from different backgrounds.

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ViewPoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Biblical perspective. ViewPoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now, your host for today's ViewPoint on Mormonism.

Thanks to Adams Road Band for that musical introduction. Welcome to this edition of ViewPoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. The Mormon doctrine of men becoming gods. You can't really discuss this issue without bringing up the famous Lorenzo Snow couplet. And Mr. Richard Sherlock, who wrote chapter two in the book, The LDS Gospel Topics Series, a scholarly engagement in his rebuttal, or I should say his critique, of the Gospel Topics essay, Becoming Like God, of course is going to get into this subject.

And I think it's absolutely necessary. You have to talk about the Lorenzo Snow couplet. So he's going to tackle this at the top of page 60. What does he say, Eric? When it comes to LDS President Lorenzo Snow's famous statement, as man is, God once was, as God is, man may become, the essay admits the first part, quote, God was once a man, end quote, but says almost nothing about it or its implications. Quote, little has been revealed about the first half of this couplet. Consequently, little is taught, the essay states. The essay follows this up with what I read as a misleading reference to LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley's treatment of the topic. The essay accurately quotes Hinckley's statement to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, quote, that gets into some pretty deep theology that we don't know very much about, end quote. But the essay does not refer to Hinckley's answer to talk show host Larry King and Hinckley celebrated in much admired interview, quote, I don't know that we teach that, end quote, meaning God's having once been a man.

In the context of the LDS reverence for the living prophet, Hinckley's dismissal strikes me as an astounding claim for the Christian tradition as a whole. The idea that God was once a man is a claim for which there is not even a verbally similar set of sources. Christians reject this picture of God because this cannot be a God in which we can have absolute trust for our salvation. And Bill, I like what he says, that last part there, Christians reject this picture of God because this cannot be a God in which we have absolute trust for our salvation.

Because if all he is is a later possibility of what you and I can be, that he was a man who may have sinned in a previous realm, then is this the God that we can trust for our salvation? Well, those are some great questions, but I like how he zeroes in on what Mormon President Gordon B. Hinckley said, because when he said that, a lot of us were wondering, he's the prophet of the LDS church, and he doesn't seem to understand this doctrine that has been touted for much of Mormonism's history. He can't come up with somewhat of a logical explanation or at least an explanation that is supported by Scripture?

Apparently not. And so when Gordon B. Hinckley made those comments, it certainly caught our attention. And he got criticized for it. And so at a later general conference, he made light of that and said, people might think that I don't know what my own religion teaches. And everybody laughed because he was trying to save face, I thought, by saying, I do know about that.

I just didn't want to talk about it at that time. Well, Mr. Sherlock goes on to say what this essay and Hinckley wanted to avoid, Joseph Smith was not so reticent. In the King Follett sermon, and we've discussed that earlier in this week, King Follett was the name of a man who had died and Joseph Smith preached his funeral sermon. In the King Follett sermon, Smith states at the beginning that his purpose is to, quote, find out the character of the only wise and true God, end quote. His announced purpose is to tell humanity about God. What comes next is right out of the Univocalist playbook, quote, if the veil were rent today and you were to see the great God, you would see him in the image and very form of a man, for Adam was created in the very fashion and image of God.

He received instruction from and walked, talked and conversed with him as one man talks and communes with another, end quote. This, of course, brings God down to our level rather than elevate human beings to the divine. Then he goes on on page 61, Mr. Sherlock writes, to further this move, Smith states plainly that the idea that God was God from eternity is wrong. This foundational conviction of all Western monotheism, that God is the eternal creator of all that exists, is here cast aside. Because, as Smith states, quote, God himself, the father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ, end quote. If God dwelt on an earth, then he cannot be the creator of everything, including all earths. That seems to be pretty logical, and it's an argument that certainly Christians have been raising for years.

It just does not make sense. I guess it could also be said of the same, that in the first article of faith, in the articles of faith, where it talks about they believe in God, the eternal father. Well, how can Elohim, the God of Mormonism, be the eternal father if he was not always God, if he became God at some point in time?

We have to assume that there was some kind of deity prior to his existence, or at least his existence as, what would you say, Eric, a human before he became God? Because Mormons do believe that even humans existed eternally, we just did not exist as we are right now. We were intelligences, according to LDS theology.

But I think Mr. Sherlock raises a good point. The fact that the God of Mormonism was not always God, the fact that he could not have possibly created all things would definitely tell us that we are not speaking of the same deity. That, I think, needs to be brought up in a conversation with our Mormon friends, don't you?

I think so. I mean, just the very idea that God was once a man, and that we have the potential to become gods, that is opposite, as he mentions, of all Western monotheism. I don't care if you're talking, again, the Western or Eastern churches, Protestant beliefs, that this is a different God, and a different gospel, if you will. Well, Mr. Sherlock goes on on that same page to say, it may be said that the LDS church, and its officials, know little about how such a process happened. But then he says, the church cannot, however, deny that it is taught. And I think he's absolutely correct. And I think what he's doing with that little sentence right there, Eric, is he's showing that what Gordon B. Hinckley said years ago really should not be taken all that seriously. Who cares if Gordon B. Hinckley can't explain this?

The fact is, it is a doctrine of the LDS church that cannot be denied. And he's going to give several examples in his chapter. And he does. And when you talk about Hinckley not being able to, well, maybe he couldn't do it for political reasons, but he certainly knows better. And so for him to explain where God came from is not advantageous when he's talking to secular media. And he knows that that could be very problematic for people who might not want to join the church when they hear about a God who once was a man. So he just leaves it alone. Well, you bring up a good point, because in the Lorenzo Snow couplet, when it says, as man is, God once was, now Hinckley says, well, we don't know a whole lot about that first part.

How many more details do we really need? I mean, that statement alone, as man is, God once was, man, red flag should be going off for any person who holds the Bible dear, because that certainly does not fit within the theology of the Bible. And what Sherlock does here is what we like to do is quote from other leaders. And he gives us a whole page of quotes.

For instance, he quotes from Melvin J. Ballard in April of 1921. And Ballard said it is a Mormon truism that is current among us. And we all accept it that as man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.

Brigham Young was more expansive. Quote, he is our father, the father of our spirits, and was once a man in mortal flesh as we are. And then George Q. Cannon was equally direct. The prophet Joseph teaches us that our heavenly father was once a man and dwelt on an earth like we do.

He quotes in 1945, Milton R. Hunter, 70. He said Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God, the eternal father, was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth. Tenth Mormon president Joseph Fielding Smith said God is an exalted man. Some people are troubled over statements of the prophet Joseph Smith that our father in heaven at one time passed through a life and death and is an exalted man. And he even quotes a current scholar, Robert Millet, retired professor of religion at LDS church-owned Brigham Young University. And he said this in the Ensign magazine at the time was the official church magazine, July 1996, knowing what we know concerning our father, that he is a personal being, that he has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as our own, that he is an exalted and glorified and exalted being, that he was once a man and dwelt on an earth, knowing that this knowledge was had by many of the ancients.

Should we be surprised to find legends and myths throughout the cultures of the earth concerning gods who have divine power but human attributes and passions? Bill, I'm going to tell you that Hinkley knew all of this. He just chose not to talk about it.

I think you're right. Sometimes it becomes expedient for a Mormon leader to be a bit evasive, but isn't that kind of why they had to ultimately end up putting out the Gospel Topics essays? Because they had such a history of being evasive, not being very clear. When people started finding out some of these doctrines from other sources other than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that compelled the church to have to come up with a response. They don't want critics explaining what they believe. So what they did, and it all ties in together, the church came up with these Gospel Topics essays to explain from an official position, even though all the essays are anonymous, they are still considered official because the First Presidency has condoned these essays and they encourage members to know what's in these essays. And as we mentioned earlier, though, sometimes explaining these doctrines to members can also cause even more confusion than what they may have had before because many Latter-day Saints in reading the essays came to the conclusion, that's not what I bought into when I joined the church years ago.

I wasn't taught this. Now the church is admitting all this and it becomes troubling to them and many have left as a result of this. At the end of this section on page 63, he gives a personal story. He writes, Which basically means that their God is the offspring of another God further back going clear into eternity past. He finishes it by saying Christ followed the pattern laid down by His Father who followed His Father ad infinitum. We hope you will join us again as we look at another Viewpoint on Mormonism. that will probably come up in a typical conversation. You can find these informative articles at
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-27 21:50:09 / 2023-11-27 21:55:25 / 5

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