Over the years, numerous Mormons have told me I was wrong when I stated that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods, while a smaller number of Mormons have said that I was correct. This lack of agreement is understandable because this doctrine has been downplayed in recent years. Just one example of that is the change made in Gospel Principles, the basic manual of the LDS Church.
The 1979 edition states: “We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.” (p. 290). In contrast, the 2009 edition states: “We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation.” (p. 275). Both, however, just a few sentences later, talking about those who are exalted, say: “They will become gods.” That sentence alone indicates that present-day Mormonism still teaches this doctrine.
But, as I have stated, it is not mentioned nearly as much as it used to be. Therefore, I was surprised to see a reference to it in the current (August 2011) issue of the Ensign, the monthly magazine published by the LDS Church. Elder L. Tom Perry, one of Mormonism’s 12 apostles, has a lengthy quote from Spencer W. Kimball, a past prophet of the LDS Church. In reference to Peter and John, Kimball wrote: “Their righteous lives opened the door to godhood for them and creations of worlds with eternal increase.” (p. 51) Not only does President Kimball talk about their becoming gods but also refers to the LDS doctrine that part of godhood is the creation of new worlds which they then will populate “with eternal increase” or, in other words, with their own spirit children.
I have a couple of reasons for highlighting this quote. The most obvious reason is as proof that the idea of people becoming gods is still a teaching of Mormonism – a fact that should be both known by Christians and acknowledged by Mormons. (By the way, even some Mormons have told me that it bothers them that many of their fellow Mormons don’t acknowledge this or do so reluctantly.)
But another reason I am citing this quote is to offer another example of how Mormonism focuses the attention on people and not on Christ. According to Kimball, it was Peter and John’s own righteousness that opened the door to godhood for them. According to the Bible, however, it’s all about Christ’s righteousness. In fact it says our righteousnesses are nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
I, for one, am so comforted by the fact that my standing before God and my eternal destiny doesn’t depend on what I do or how good I am, but rests entirely on what Jesus has done for me and his perfect righteousness. As Paul states, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” (Philippians 3:9) That also is my desire. To Jesus, not to myself, be all the glory.