Biblical Theology in the Book of Mormon

While it can be said there are many things within Mormonism that cause many problems when compared with the bible, such as God once being a man, men becoming Gods, etc etc its interesting to note that the book of Mormon itself does not have much, if any of these problems, in fact there are many statements within it that are very biblical and at least appear to contradict Modern day Mormonism.

With this post I just want to list 2 of these and show how they fit in with the bible but also compare them to authorative statements from LDS leaders or other scriptures. Please make comments and discuss your thoughts on these at the end.

One God

So in the Book of Mormon we see this:


27And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.

28Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?

29And he answered, No.

30Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?

31And he said: An aangel hath made them known unto me.

So Amulek here states that there is only one God and this is from a revelation from an angel.

This is heavily in agreement with this statement from God in Isaiah.

Isaiah 44:6-8

6Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

7And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.

8Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

So in this subject according to these verses I would say the Book of Mormon and the Bible are in great agreement, we have Amulek saying He has been told by an angel there is only one God, then we have God Himself in the bible saying He is the only God.

So going right back to the beginning of where the LDS teaching to the contrary comes from we need to look at the King Follet Discourse by Joseph Smith where he said this.

So firstly Smith states God used to be a man

In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how He came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. 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.

Then he states we are to learn to become Gods, like the Gods before us.

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. And I want you to know that God, in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming His name, is not trifling with you or me.

This is the first time that I know of this teaching was brought publically, this sermon was taught in 1844, around 14 years after the Book of Mormon was published.

As well as being taught then the belief in Gods plural has very much carried on since then.

In Mormon scripture Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 it says this:

20, Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from aeverlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be bgods, because they have call power, and the angels are subject unto them.

The LDS church teaches that the Doctrine and Covenants are all revelations from God, how can this revelation come from the God that said He knows of no other, and from an angel of light working for God that taught even in Mormon scripture, the Book of Mormon,  that there is only one God?

God is Spirit

Alma 18:24-28

24And Ammon began to speak unto him with aboldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?

25And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth.

26And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a aGreat Spirit?

27And he said, Yea.

28And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

Also Alma 22:9-11

9And the king said: Is God that aGreat Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?

10And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he acreated all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?

11And he said: Yea, I believe that the Great Spirit created all things, and I desire that ye should tell me concerning all these things, and I will abelieve thy words.

So we see again here a strong agreement with this statement in the bible.

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

So the Book of Mormon and the Bible seem to concur here that God is a Spirit,  when Jesus came to the earth in the form of a man abolutely biblically He was then God in the flesh, God in a body, I see every reason biblically to believe for Him this is still the case. However God the Father in Heaven biblically He is a Spirit.

However within Mormonism we see a shift from this,  going right back to the first vision of Joseph Smith seeing God the Father and Jesus which I believe is the basis for the Mormon belief that God the Father has a body.

So in Mormon Scripture, The Pearl of Great Price, we have Joseph Smiths History, this verse is the initial basis for the belief God the Father has a body.

17It no sooner appeared than I found myself adelivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I bsaw two cPersonages, whose brightness and dglory defy all description, estanding above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My fBeloved gSon. Hear Him!

This has led on to this “Revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 130:22

The aFather has a bbody 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 cSpirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not ddwell in us.

What might not be known to LDS members reading this is that Joseph Smith actually wrote down a number of accounts of His first vision, the version used by the LDS church today was wrote in 1838 by Joseph Smith, however the first known handwritten account from Joseph Smith was in 1832 and it says this:

marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him (them) and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath thewise man said the (it is a) fool (that) saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things and that (that) being seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in (the) attitude of calling upon the Lord (in the 16th year of my age) a piller of fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the (Lord) opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph (my son) thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy (way) walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life (behold) the world lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not (my) commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to th[e]ir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which (hath) been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Ap[o]stles behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud (clothed) in the glory of my Father and my soul was filled with love and for many days I could reioice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but [I] could find none that would believe the hevnly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart about that time my mother and but after many days

If you click on the link above you can see the actual handwritten copy as well. So in this account which Joseph Smith wrote himself before he wrote the version accepted as LDS scripture today, he states He saw the Lord, not God the Father and the Son.

The point of this post is to show something of the evolution of Joseph Smith’s theology. When he started out he was much closer to the teachings of the bible with what he produced, however as time went on and his thinking evolved so did his theology become more man centered. Which is why in the book of Mormon we see I would say more biblical theology than we do Mormon theology.

However in the Doctrine and Covenants and the later first vision account we see this evolution coming into place with teachings like men can become Gods, God has a body of flesh and bones like mans.

As ever please look into this for yourself, check my links, look around and see if what I am saying has any truth in it, and for more examples of clashes with Book of Mormon and Mormon theology please check out this link

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46 Responses »

  1. Hi Bobby. As usual, I’ll offer an LDS perspective on these questions. I’m going to start by addressing only the first half of your post, and then later I’ll comment on the second half. I’m going to number my points.

    (1) As we’ve discussed elsewhere, this is another classic case of definitions. What Amulek means by the word “god” in Alma 11, what Isaiah means by “god” in Isaiah 44, and what Joseph Smith means by “god” in D&C 132 are all slightly different things. It is extremely important to realize that. It is a mistake to assume, as you have, that “god” has the exact same meaning in every instance. Let me elaborate.

    The following two statements appear to be contradictory:
    (a) I am an American.
    (b) I am not an America.

    If the word “American” has the same meaning in both instances, than we have a contradiction. But if the word “American” does not have the same meaning, then it is extremely important that we realize that. In one case the word “American” may refer to anyone living in the North or South American continents. In the other case it may refer to a resident of the United States of America. We have equivocation if we don’t define our terms carefully.

    (2) In Alma 11:22 Zeezrom tempts Amulek with money if Amulek will deny the existence of a “Supreme Being”. Amulek of course refuses the temptation, and Zeezrom follows up by asking Amulek if he really does believe in a “true and living God”, to which Amulek says he does (26-27). But the sense in which they are using the word “god” is already clear. In this discussion, the narrow sense in which they are using the word “god” is clearly “supreme being”. Perhaps a more familiar synonym for “supreme being” is “Most High God”.

    (3) It is orthodox LDS teaching that there is a “Most High God”. Nothing about this contradicts any later teachings of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith taught that God the Father is greater than all other spirits in existence (Abraham 3:19). Even in the quote you provide from the King Follett discourse Joseph refers to God as the “only true and wise God” in the same breath that he says we have to learn go become “gods” ourselves. So clearly there is something different about God the Father that makes him the “only true and wise God”. Speaking of those who will become “gods”, D&C 76:58-59 explains that “they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” So there is clearly a sense in which God the Father is still the “Supreme Being” even though other “gods” might exist.

    (4) You noted that 1844, around 14 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, is the earliest teaching of the concept of plural “gods”. This is incorrect. As early as 1832, about 4 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, the concept was taught (D&C 76:58). There may be earlier instances that I’m not thinking of.

    (5) In summary, the discussion between Amulek and Zeezrom centers around the existence of a “Supreme Being” or a “Most High God”. That is the specific sense in which they are using the word “god”. This is not contradictory in the least to either the Bible or to the later teachings of Joseph Smith.

    • Hey James hope your Christmas was good,

      (1), While I can undesrstand your logic here it would be helpful if you can how in this instance how this is the case, you have given an example of how things can have different meanings however you have not explained how that is the case here.

      (2), This point I think your going to need to back up a lot more, yes you are totally right this does a few verses earlier refer to a surpreme being however in verse 32 it says this 32And Zeezrom said again: Who is he that shall come? Is it the Son of God? to which the answer is yes and the coversation goes on, so therefore the God being talked about here is God The Father. As well as this the conversation starts talking about a supreme being but goes on to talk about God, the true and living God as Amulek says.

      (3), So is it now LDS Doctrine that our God the Father is over all other gods? If so it would be great if you could provide a quote or two.

      (4), Wow ok I did not know this one, I will just quote the D&C verse here,

      58Wherefore, as it is written, they are agods, even the bsons of cGod—,

      However do you know if this was taught as doctrine between the time of this verse and the King Follet Discourse?

      (5), I would heavily disagree with this and say it ignores the context of the chapter, bearing in mind what I said about verse 32 saying that the Son of this God will come.

  2. Here is a good example of where the word “god” can change meaning, even within the same passage:

    Psalm 86:8-10

    8Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.
    9All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
    10For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

    In verse 8 the word “gods” refers to a group of divine beings that Jehovah is being compared to. But in verse 10 Jehovah is described as being “God alone”. In each case the word “god” means something different, otherwise we have a glaring contradiction.

    • Looking at your quote from Psalm 86, I would agree that yes in this instance gods, and God are certainly reffering to different things, though I am sure we disagree on what those different things are I will save that for a future post on the subject.

  3. Hello Bobby.

    I’m going to try and summarize the discussion that Amulek and Zeezrom have, and I’ll provide my commentary as I go.

    Verses 21-22
    Zeezrom tempts Amulek with money, asking him to deny the existence of a “Supreme Being.”

    Verses 22-25
    Amulek declines the offer, and chastises Zeezrom for it. Amulek then restates what Zeezrom tried to do, but instead of using the title “Supreme Being” Amulek uses the title “true and living God.” So in verse 25 Amulek has equated “Supreme Being” with “true and living God.” That is important.

    Verses 26-27
    Zeezrom basically repeats the same question as before, but this time uses the title that Amulek used. Zeezrom asks Amulek if he believes in a “true and living God”, and Amulek affirms that he does.

    Verse 28
    Zeezrom then asks, “Is there more than one God?”. It is important for us to understand what exactly Zeezrom has in mind here. What does he mean by “God”? It seems rather clear from the context of their discussion that Zeezrom has in mind the sort of God who could be described as a “Supreme Being” or as a “true and living God.” I don’t know how else you could interpret this.

    Verse 29
    Amulek replies with a “No.” There is not more than one “Supreme Being” or “true and living God.” So far, this is all perfectly in keeping with other LDS scriptures. As I showed in my previous post, in various places in the LDS canon God the Father is described as being the Most High. Within the LDS doctrinal framework there are multiple “gods”, but only one of them is the “true and living God”.

    Verses 30-31
    Zeezrom asks Amulek how he knows this, and Amulek says that an angel told him.

    Verses 32-33
    Zeezrom asks Amulek about “he that shall come”. This is a reference to Alma’s sermon that they all just listened to in chapter 9. Zeezrom refers to him as “the Son of God”, the same title that Alma used in 9:26. Amulek responds by affirming that “he that shall come” is indeed the “Son of God”. In summary, they establish that the person who Alma prophecied would come is the son of the Supreme Being they have been discussing.

    From there they get into a debate about what exactly the Son of God will do. But by now they have already left their dicussion about the Supreme Being, of which there is only one, and are discussing the Son of the Supreme Being and what he will do.

    The bottom line is that when Zeezrom asks “is there more than one God?” it is in the context of their discussion about the Supreme Being. In the ancient world it was commonly believed that a pantheon of divine beings wrestled for the allegiances of men. Zeezrom is basically asking Amulek if Amulek believes that, and Amulek says that he does not believe that. Amulek reject the idea of multiple divine beings who vie for the allegiances of men, and instead preaches that there is only one Supreme Being, and that that Supreme Being has a son, and that they work in unison and do not wrestle for the allegiances of men.

    • I see what your saying James and I still think there are major holes in your thinking, firstly it seems to me that although Amulek is presented with someone who doesnt know God asking some vague questions, it seems he is trying to communicate something of the true God to Zezrom, as you said in verse 27 Amulek says there is a true and living God, in the next question he says there is only one God so if I was there and was explaining about the only true God even in the context of how this coversation started it seems silly to give a false answer. And to say when they start discussing the Son they have left the discussion about God I cannot accept heres the quote.

      27And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.

      28Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?

      29And he answered, No.

      30Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?

      31And he said: An aangel hath made them known unto me.

      32And Zeezrom said again: Who is he that shall come? Is it the Son of God?

      33And he said unto him, Yea.

      There is hardly a break in conversation here.

      I think also most importantly you quickly moved on from the fact that Amulek said an angel revealed these things to him, so he is only saying what has been revealed to him, presumably what this angel revealed would be the full truth?

  4. Now I’ll address some of your other concerns.

    (1) In the debate between Zeezrom and Amulek, the word “God” takes on the meaning of “Supreme Being”. But in other contexts, such as in D&C 76:58 and in the King Follett Discourse, the word “gods” refers to those who will receive all that the Father has, and who will eternally progress, but who are still subordinate to God the Father, the Supreme Being who is the source of divinity for all others.

    (2) I’ve provided an extensive commentary on issue #2 in the above post.

    (3) You asked, “So is it now LDS Doctrine that our God the Father is over all other gods? If so it would be great if you could provide a quote or two.”

    The LDS scriptures pretty clearly teach this concept. But within the LDS membership there is some disagreement about God the Father’s past, and whether or not he really is the Supreme Being, or whether he has a God the Father above him. We don’t have any definite revelation addressing that specific question, and so we are left to piece it together from the scriptures that we do have. I have a blog post about this that you should read:

    I don’t know of any quotes off the top of my head, but I’m sure I could find some easily enough if I did some digging. But the bottom line is that the binding LDS canon teaches these concepts pretty clearly, regardless of what some LDS leaders and members have believed. As the Church has recently affirmed, not every statement made by every LDS leader constitutes LDS teaching or doctrine.

    (4) I’m assuming that since it was taught in D&C 76 in 1832, that it was occasionally talked about in between 1832 and 1844. In 1844 Joseph Smith expanded and elaborated on the issue in his famous KFD.

    • (1) I am totally happy that within the context of the King Follet discourse gods means those who have recieved exaltation so thats no problem, regarding the amulek discussion I think it starts out about a supreme being but ends talking about the true God.

      (2) Cool

      (3) Thats fair enough.

      (4) Now I see that this is in D&C 76 however I wonder whether it was really taught openly until the KFD for this reason, when Smith preaches he says things like “you have supposed God was God from all eternity” this suggests the people listening did not know otherwise, so I do wonder whether it was publically expanded upon between the two.

  5. Bobby,

    I don’t know what to say other than that you are just plain wrong. This whole conversation centers around Amulek’s affirmation that there is only one god. Given the context of their discussion about a “Supreme Being” I find nothing whatsoever in Amulek’s answer that is contradictory to Joseph Smith’s later teachings.

    When they begin talking about the “Son of God” they have moved to talking about a different being. There is a difference between “God” and “Son of God” in their discussion.

    Happy New Year!


    • Well james for me your whole argument here has been clutching at straws at best.

      However I am happy to agree to disagree for me this ministry is not about winning arguments I just want to give people issues to consider I hope you and others reading will consider what I have said.

      And have a great new year james looking forward to more discussion in 2011.

  6. Bobby,

    Clutching at straws? C’mon. I don’t even understand how your comments anywhere in our discussion have shown my argument to be inferior. If you want to show that I’m clutching at straws then lay out a well organized argument against it. Your previous comments up to this point have been vague and unspecific to me. I don’t really know why you think my argument is flawed.

    If you think that Amulek contradicts Joseph Smith somehow, explain exactly how, and take into account my suggestion that “god” has a specific meaning in each respective context.


  7. OK. And what is the definition of “God” that Amulek has in mind?

    You are making a mistake if you assume that “God” has a uniform definition in every instance in which it is used. We’ve already seen that “god” can be used in multiple ways.

    • Yes but to read this for what it says rather than adapting it to suit what you want it to say is clear, Is there the danger of going in circles here?

      The reality is james I know a mormon apologist with a cast iron testimony like you is probably impossible to ever accept something like this, I hope others reading who are willing to see things for what they are will see what is very clear here.

  8. Bobby,

    I’m asking you to read it for what it says. It says that there is only one god. What does that mean? You have to have a definition for the word “god” in order to comprehend what they are saying.

    If I say, “There is only one zorph” you have no idea what I mean until we get a definition for “zorph”. So this isn’t just a matter of reading it “for what it says”. We have to know what Amulek has in mind when he says the word “god”. I’ve provided a definition based on the context of the discussion. You haven’t provided any definition at all.

  9. To translate your question into non-Mormon lingo:

    “Does the Book of Mormon anywhere support the teaching that God’s children can become glorified and receive all that the Father has and enjoy a relationship of interpenetrating love with God?”

    The answer is yes, but not as clearly as the New Testament or the Doctrine and Covenants do. The Book of Mormon’s focus is primarily on testifying of the divinity and work of Jesus Christ, and on convincing men to repent and follow Christ. Only seldom does it discuss doctrinal issues not pertaining to that.

    I think that this passage from the Book of Mormon is referring to men becoming “gods”:

    3 Nephi 15:9 “Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.”

  10. I also think that this refers to becoming “gods”:

    3 Nephi 19:23 “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.”

    • Ok james my apologies maybe I was being provocative however I think it is safe to say the book of mormon does not have the clear teaching of becoming Gods, God once a man or indeed exaltation at all, other than what is another lift from the bible in a text that is not clearly presenting that teaching, I think this futher adds to my point that joseph smith had not come up with these ideas yet at this point.

    • Another reason why you need to explain what you mean James, as a Mormon. I don’t see anything in that verse that implies a man can become a god.

    • If we take the point that this passage in 3 Nephi mirrors that in John where Jesus prays for his diciples prior to his arrest. So there is a different motivation for Jesus to be praying this prayer in John’s Gospel. Anyway, I can take John’s Gospel and look at the Greek Text to see if the wording used in the original languages, just as I can in the Hebrew would have implied that Men would have their nature changed and become gods. Obviously, The Book of Mormon, according to Joseph Smith was written in Reformed Egyptian, yes? And as there is no Gold plates to examine and, from my understanding anyway, there is no record of Reformed Egyptian in existance today, we can’t go back and check those words. So it would be good to have you as a Mormon explain what Mormons mean when they uses such passages to say or suggest that men may become gods.

      But Mind you, I know that Kione Greek was one of teh more accurate langiages ever spoken and written on the Earth, but English is not so vaige that we can’t be explicit with it. I mean there is still a case to say that if The Bible is translated to say “There is only one God and there is NO other” Then any English speaking person is going to read that and say that it means “There is only one God and there is NO other” no one is going to be able to turn around and say otherwise without denying the meanings in English, because those denials would need to be enforced in other texts too. So the language would need be redifined consistantly too. So please do share from a Mormon point of view what you mean James. because we can’t go to the original language to test the words.

      • Phil,

        You seem to have a unique view of languages. Rather than follow you down that rabbit trail, I’ll just note in passing that I agree that Evangelicals in general (and many Mormons) need to brush up on what exactly LDS scriptures say about what it means for a man to become a “god”.

    • Totally agree with you James. This disscussion is not about the original languages. It’s something we can’t test with the Book of Mormon because your Church’s history says the Gold Plates were taken away by the Moroni and unless He gives them back, I guess we’ll not know what this language was, unless more evidences of it is found elsewhere. But either way, it would be unfair to ask you to attempt to put up a defence for something that we cannot fully question either because at the end of the day, you take it on faith and on the witness you received when you prayed to ask if it were true and if Joseph Smith were true and if the church were true and you got your burning, your testamony.
      You know that, like the physical gold plates, is not comparable or testable on that level. Because to a large extent we are both trying to examine or prove a negative. That’s why I am not trying to get you to go down a “rabbit trail” as you put it. I’m just agreeing that terms from your posistion need to be established because then we can know from where you are coming from. Because, if I were a Jehovah’s Witness, and I was given the verse from 3 Niephi, I would have a direct opinion on what the verse was saying, that would have a different understanding of the terms from what both Mormons and Christians would believe it meant.
      So that is what I mean, that it is good that you will put up an official Mormon posistion and perspective on what Mormons believe and what they say their scriptures say. Because if I look at Mormon Scriptures and I read them like a Christian would, perhaps with preconcieved Christian Ideas of what Mormonism says. And like wise, if you are honest, I would think you approach The Bible from a Mormon perspective, and I don’t know your history, but I am guessing that only a person who has been apart of a group or Church which claimed to be the only true Church but was not on closer examination, only that person would really understand what it is like to be in the truth and find out their Church/group was lying. So I think only that kind of person would understand the need to appreiciated what the other party means in what it says, even if they disagree with what is said and if it threatens/challenges their own beliefs.
      I mean….I read Watchtower booklets and to me I find it obvious that Jehovah’s Witnesses have got no real perspective of what I as a Christian actually believe. They only have what The Society says is what I believe.

      So to meet someone like yourself who says “I’ll tell you what we believe” is a real blessing.

  11. Bobby,
    One of these days you and I need to have a conversation about what exactly Latter-day Saints means when they talk about becoming “gods”. As I understand the belief, the Book of Mormon definitely teaches it.

    But it wasn’t until later in Joseph Smith’s ministry that we get some more details about the afterlife and about what it is will be like to be “one” with God. I completely agree that our understanding of man’s potential future was given little by little, and was not all revealed at once. It isn’t as if Joseph walked out of the Sacred Grove already understanding all of the mysteries of heaven. It is a fundamental Mormon belief that truth is revealed “line upon line”. I definitely believe that Joseph Smith revealed more about the divine potential of man than any other prophet before him (including Biblical and BoM prophets).

    Finally, I simply disagree that the passages I’ve cited were lifted from the Bible.

    Soon I’ll comment on the latter half of your post.

    • Thanks James will look forward to that, thanks for sticking with me this is a fascinating discussion.

      Regarding the becoming Gods that is a good idea I dont know how would be the best way to start that but I think it would be good to look at that from your perspective.

  12. I’ve been reading through this and I agree, it would be good to have a Mormon perspective on what is meant by “becoming gods and Man’s divine potential.” Because in spite of James saying he believes Joseph Smith showed these things more clearly than any other prophet, I think it has added to the confusion because the terms now seem to mean something else. It’s not enough to just read the text of the Bible or the Book of Mormon, you have to redefine what is meant. For if there are more than one god in existance and yet the Bible in Is 43 and 44 says, there is only one God, and Alma agrees with this, then Pearl of Great Price says there are many gods, how does a mormon reconsile that? It would be great to hear an answer from a Mormon to know exactly what they mean. Because reading between the lines, the terms are different. And if some words and verses don’t actually mean what they seem to mean when you read them in context, how can you tell the difference between other verses and hold anything true? Obviously, Christian and Mormon agree that God has spoken through the Bible, so we need to weigh up against that as the older revelation, but also level the playing ground to be honest to say from both parties …When I say GOD, is mean a divine Spiritual Being or A man who became devine or a spirit creature in the form of a golden calf. We need to be honest and say this is what we mean then at least we can discuss if we are all part of the same faith or if Christianity and Mormonism are two different faiths.

    • Phil,
      The problem is that you have to ask SEVERAL mormons to explain things to you, because they have all been taught different things. You won’t get the full answer from just one. Mormon apologists are going to give you a very different answer than if you ask an every day mormon. In my experience, I was NEVER told that we would become gods. I learned it from a friend. James will tell you that the reason I wasn’t taught about it in church is because it isn’t faith promoting and not necessary as not all mormon “scholarship” needs to be discussed in church. Really not into this discussion, but would like to give you that bit of information so you are aware.

  13. Phil,

    I assume that if you’ve been reading our exchange here you’ve come to realize that some words, such as “god”, have various definitions employed by different authors. Earlier I gave the example of Psalm 86. I’ve also provided a link to where I discuss on my blog the various definitions for “god” that exist (especially in Mormon discourse).

    Perhaps Bobby could write a blog post that simply says, “This is a chance for us to discuss what it means for a man to become a “god” according to the LDS scriptures. Please give us your thoughts in the comments below.”

  14. Phil,

    I was really hoping to move on and talk about the latter half of Bobby’s post, but it seems every time I look there is another comment that I need to address.

    (1) You keep talking about the need to look at the original languages of scripture. I certainly understand that looking at the original languages can be beneficial, but it does not play a fundamental role in our debate. I’m not aware of very many instances where important issues, such as man’s divine potential, can be resolved by going to the original Greek of the New Testament. I’m certain there are some instances, but it is not as paramount an issue as you make it appear.

    (2) I don’t appreciate your veiled jab at the fact that the Gold Plates are no longer with us.

    (3) Regarding the role of a spiritual witness in my religious convictions, it plays the same role that a spiritual witness plays in the life of an average mainstream Christian.

    (4) There are very few “official” Mormon positions on anything. There is no systematic theology or glossary of terms that is endorsed by the LDS Church as being “official”. We don’t have creeds as they traditionally are held by other churches. Only on a few fundamental issues are there anything like “official” Mormon positions. So what you are going to get is my personal best understanding of things.

    (5) I like to try my best to read the scriptures as they would have been read by the ancient audiences they were written to.

    (6) I hope that in my next comment I won’t have anything else other than the second half of Bobby’s post to respond to.


    • HI James, can I please pick up a point or two in response to your comments as you move on in this debate with Bobby?

      1) I’ve come into this debate half way through, all I was merely refering is how helpful in defining terms going to the original languages were. In this debate at this stage, perhaps it is not totally relivent, I was just implying it was helpful, nothing more, in establishing understanding of terms.

      2)I’m sorry you feel it was a veiled Jab, sincerely it was not, it was a statement of fact, but done so with the understanding that it’s your church history and neither you, Thomas Monson or I can do nothing about that. I am fully aware that We Christians do not have the original manuscripts of The Bible. (Or at least we can’t confirm 100% we do as we have some fragments written during the times but nothing to say “YES ths is MARK’s Gospel that HE wrote and this is HIS signiture.) We take it on faith, just as you do with the Bible and Book of Mormon. I was just pointing out that it’s only the translation we have to go by and, In the context of establishing TERMS, we can do that with the Bible but we appear to need to look at how the early mormons interpreted the writings to mean. meant no disrespect and I am sorry if it came across as a JAB, you have probably had a lot of people throw that at you. I was trying to say that I appreieciate your position on this matter of faith.

      3) I find spiritual witness to ones faith be a fasinating subject. I’d like to go deeper into this in another blog if that is OK?

      I hope I’ve not dug myself a deeper hole here but what I was actually trying to do was to say is understand that there are issues with your faith, particularly on Official points (or lack of them as you imply), that I do not respect you or your beliefs and I have an appreiciation on some things having to be taken on “Faith” alone.

      You are the member of the Mormon Church, not me. I am very interested to hear what is your perspective on these things and to have an honest opinion that is, as I am sure reading previous posts, backed up by solid grounds for holding to those beliefs, be they “official” or just personal. Thank you for taking the time to be apart of this debate, in what might be for some, appearing as a hostile environment.

      • Thanks Phil. I apologize for misinterpreting your comments as a veiled jab. I believe you that they were not intended that way.

        I enjoy participating in discussions here. Bobby is a generous host and easy to get along with. I look forward to future interaction with you Phil.

  15. I am now going to give some comments about the latter portion of Bobby’s post.

    (1) First, I want to state once again that I agree with Bobby’s basic idea that Joseph Smith’s theology was somewhat dynamic. For me, it is a sign that he was a true prophet of God. True prophets are continually learning little by little from God, and so later in their ministries they are going to have a richer and more detailed theology than when they started off.

    (2) But I disagree with Bobby’s insinuation that Joseph’s earliest theology was more “biblical” and that his later theology somehow had strayed and became contradictory. As we will see, nothing said in Alma 18 or 22 contradicts Joseph’s later revelations.

    (3) In Alma 18 and 22 a Christian missionary is teaching a “pagan” about God for the first time. Alma 18 tells the story of Ammon, and Alma 22 tells the story of Aaron. It is important to keep in mind that in each case they are addressing someone who doesn’t know anything about the true God, and who holds a number of false mythological beliefs. If you have ever been in a situation like that (I have), it is important to begin by attempting to build on common beliefs. You don’t need to throw your full theological artillery at someone all at once. When Ammon and Aaron describe God as the “Great Spirit” they are just attempting to build on some common ground.

    (4) In Alma 18, King Lamoni is marveling at Ammon’s power and ability. The very first question that King Lamoni asks Ammon is, “Art thou that Great Spirit who knows all things?”. King Lamoni is looking at Ammon, a man of flesh and bones, and he still asks him if he the “Great Spirit”. To the Lamanites, being “The Great Spirit” did not preclude being corporeal—Alma was mistaken for the great spirit, and yet he clearly had a body, could perform physical actions, etc. So, the concept of “spirit” used by the Lamanites is not (as the critics assume) the same as the non-physical and metaphysical “spirit” of Nicene trinitarianism.

    (5) In LDS doctrine, all individuals who have a body of flesh and bone also have a spirit body. Therefore, it would be entirely correct for me to refer to Bobby Gilpin (the author of this blog) as “a spirit”. I could also refer to myself, James, as “a spirit.” I am a spirit, and just because I have a body of flesh and bones does not make it inaccurate to refer to myself as “a spirit”. In like manner, it is entirely correct to refer to God the Father as “a spirit” even though he also has a body of flesh and bones.

    (6) I believe that these passages in Alma 18 and 22 are referring to the pre-incarnate Christ. So even with all the details I’ve given above, Christ was a “spirit” with no body of flesh and bones at the time they had this discussion (roughly 90 BC).


    • Ok James been looking forward to this here we go.

      (1) Cool, I can accept that if Joseph Smith was a true prophet he would not have known everything straight away.

      (2) Yep obviously that is my thinking but on we go.

      (3) Ok I can understand that

      (4) Ok I can see the point you are making more in this instance than I could in the last one however I still see a problem, firstly in chapter 18 we see this

      26And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?

      27And he said, Yea.

      28And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

      So Ammon who I believe is the one speaking for God here describes this Great Spirit as God, now I actually respect your point that He is relating to what the King has asked him, however my question then would be is, either later in Alma or anywhere in the book of Mormon for that matter the teaching that God has a body of flesh and bone? As I agree with you in point 3 that you would build on common beliefs but then bring in the full truth after this is not an approach I would always use but nevertheless it is a perfectly valid approach only if you conclude it with bringing in full truth, otherwise it is kind of deceptive.

      For the Alma 22 text I would ask the same question, is it then revealed later into the conversation that God is not just a spirit?

      (5) I can see what you are saying but, if the other side is not revealed in the book of Mormon this could simply be a way of explaining away the problem which is my point.

      As I have been doing further research on this subject I have come across other early Mormon references referring to God as a Spirit.

      In the lectures on faith which were originally in the Doctrine and Covenants it says this in Section 5, or page 53.

      They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness: The Son, who was in the bosem of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, or fashioned like unto man,

      Do you have a copy of this? I checked mine and this is in there.

      (6) Ok but what context do you use to think this? As to me the king is simply asking about God, so you and I despite our differences from a Trinitarian perspective I assume would naturally think God the Father when we say God is that not right?

  16. Bobby,

    Before I go on to make my comments, I want to say that I’m glad you agree with me that Ammon and Aaron could possibly be building on common ground, and not throwing their full artillery at these Lamanite kings. Remember, in each case the Lamanite king first uses the term “Great Spirit”, and the Nephite missionary (Ammon and/or Aaron) simply pick up on that terminology and use it for the sake of the discussion. They aren’t making theological statements about God’s metaphysical nature. They are just using vocabulary that is familiar to their audience.

    (4) You asked if later in Ammon’s or Aaron’s respective conversations with these Lamanite kings they go into more detail about the nature of God. Well, there are a couple of important things about this:

    (a) In Alma 18:34 Ammon tells the king that man is created in the image of God. This could be interpreted as basically teaching that since man looks like God, God looks like man. That is how Mormons generally interpret Genesis 1:26-27 also..

    (b) In Alma 18:35-40 we are told that Ammon explains to the king all about the gospel. Remember, this is an edited version of the story by an editor living hundreds of years later (the prophet-historian Mormon). Mormon is looking at ancient court records and is directly quoting portions of it, summarizing other portions of it, and leaving out the vast majority of it. We don’t really know all that Ammon taught the Lamanite king, but we are able to assume that he taught him more about God’s nature.

    (c) Alma 22 (the account of Aaron) tells almost the exact same story. In verse 12 Aaron tells the Lamanite king that man was created in God’s image. Aaron then goes on to explain the rest of the gospel to him, including how he can be saved and receive eternal life. It is possible to assume that Aaron taught him more about the nature of God.

    (d) Having said all of that, it isn’t clear whether or not the Nephites even had a complete understanding of God’s nature. I believe that some of the Nephite prophets may have understood that God is a unity of three persons, just as modern LDS believe, but that belief may have not been very well taught or understand by the vast majority of Nephite Christians. Remember, theirs was a world in which every day was a struggle just to put food in your mouth. Hardly anyone could read, hardly anyone could write, and there was almost no time for leisure, much less theological reflection. It was a very hard world, very alien to our modern world. I find it possible that the Nephites by and large were unaware of God the Father’s corporeality.

    (e) Also, I’ll once again point out that the Book of Mormon is just that…a book compiled and edited by a prophet-historian named Mormon. Mormon has a very specific agenda which he makes extremely clear in the Title Page of the Book of Mormon. The message he is trying to pound into our heads is that “Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God” and that there are covenants that God wants to make with us. So The Book of Mormon wasn’t designed to a theological treatise on a broad range of subjects. It has a very specific message, and it only rarely strays from that message. I think that is a perfectly good reason for why we don’t find a lot of distinctive doctrines in the Book of Mormon. That wasn’t Mormon’s point in writing the book, and I’m glad it wasn’t. Just as Joseph Smith taught, the Book of Mormon can bring a man closer to Christ than can any other book. That is exactly what Mormon intended when he wrote it.

    (5) You asked the Lectures on Faith and certain statements therein about the nature of God. I’ve read the Lectures on Faith. The basic thing you should know is that they were probably authored by Sidney Rigdon, not Joseph Smith. They were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants, and so there really is no need for me to defend them. Nonetheless, since you and I have already agreed that a prophet receives revelation little by little and doesn’t get the whole picture all at once, I’m not sure there is any reason to get into too much detail on this one. If the case is that Joseph Smith in 1834 (the year the Lectures on Faith were penned) wasn’t totally clear about God’s corporeality, that shouldn’t be surprising since it was early in his prophetic career. He had a decade to live still and many things to learn from the heavens.

    • Hi James mate,

      As I said I agreed this was a possibility and I could see your logic however only if the terms I stated were met that being that in these conversations the fulness of Gods nature was then explained, if not then your point cannot be valid as the explaination of God was left with saying He is a Spirit in which case I would have to say I see that as what the book of Mormon teaches. From your answer I can see that the Book of Mormon does not at all teach that God has a body of flesh and bones, the reference of us being made in Gods image could certainly be taken another way as indeed it is by bible believing only Christians, the fact that this is the only reference you can suggest given my point is the book of Mormon is more biblical in its theology does not hold any weight for me in that regard.

      The Lectures on Faith introduction lists Joseph Smith Jr, Oliver Cowdery, Sindney Rigdon and F.G Williams as its authors, it is unclear who wrote this section however it was allowed to be in a book of Mormon Scripture in a church led by Joseph Smith wrote by someone who felt they had the authority to write on the subject. So while I said if Joseph Smith was a prophet his theology would have developed, this whole issue to me adds a lot of weight to my view that he wasn’t and that his theology was very much biblical to start with and as far as I can tell the belief that God has a body of flesh and bones was introduced by Smith no earlier than 1838 when he then adapted his first vision account to include God the Father appearing like a man, please tell me if it was taught before that but even if it was I would say everything does appear the way I am saying.

  17. Bobby,

    (1) You’ve just claimed that the fulness of God’s nature was not explained in the discussions of Alma 18 and 22, yet you failed to address the fact that those discussions were not reported in full. We don’t know all that Ammon and Aaron taught to those Lamanite kings. We are specifically told that in each case that much much more was taught beyond what is reported in the record.

    (2) The Book of Mormon teaches that man is made in God’s image. It really doesn’t matter how *you* interpret that statement. What matters is how ancient Nephites and Lamanites interpreted that passage. And, since you don’t even believe in ancient Nephites and Lamanites, you ought to leave it to a believing Mormon to best determine how an ancient Nephite or Lamanite would have interpreted it. Remember, we are discussing Book of Mormon theology, and it is requisite that we give first priority to those who actually believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

    (3) I provided the example of Ammon and Aaron teaching that man is made in God’s image. You then said, “…the fact that this is the only reference you can suggest…”. Well, this is the only reference immediately found in the discussions we are talking about. But there certainly are other places in the Book of Mormon that suggest an embodied God. I didn’t cite those because I didn’t think it was important for our discussion.

    (4) You keep suggesting that the Book of Mormon teaches biblical theology as if that is somehow a bad thing for Mormonism. This is utterly wild! Mormons have always claimed that their religion is a biblically sound religion. I’m glad you finally agree!

    (5) I want to re-emphasize something. King Lamoni asked Ammon if Ammon was the “Great Spirit”. Ammon was standing in front of King Lamoni and it was clear that Ammon was composed of flesh and bone. Nevertheless, King Lamoni felt no contradiction in concluding that Ammon was a “spirit”. The obvious point is that within the parameters of their discussion a “spirit” is something that has flesh and bone, or at least can have flesh and bone. You are incorrect to assume that “spirit” in this specific discussion has anything to do with how it is understood by modern creedal Trinitarians such as yourself. You have to let go of your preconceived notions about what “spirit” means and try to figure out what it means to the participants in the story. The word “spirit” in this instance clearly has nothing to do with an unembodied, unseen, intangible being. You can’t conclude that Trinitarian theology is being taught here just because they use the word “spirit”. You have got to take into account what the word “spirit” means in their discussion. You have not done that, and it is a mistake.

    (6) Once again I’ll remind you that the Book of Mormon has a clear and almost unwavering message. Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God. There is no reason to complain that it doesn’t teach every distinctive doctrine of the LDS gospel. That is like complaining that a history book doesn’t teach arithmetic. A history book isn’t supposed to teach arithmetic. That isn’t its purpose. Likewise, it isn’t the purpose of the Book of Mormon to teach about God the Father’s corporeal nature. It also isn’t the purpose of the Book of Mormon to teach about the nature of heaven. It also isn’t the purpose of the Book of Mormon to teach about any other peripheral subject. The stated purpose of the Book of Mormon is to teach about Jesus Christ, and how a man can be saved. You have to keep that in mind. It isn’t fair to criticize the book for not doing what it isn’t designed to do.

    (7) Regarding the Lectures on Faith, I think we are getting a little too far afield. I think you need to educate yourself a bit more about that issue. I recommend this pro-LDS resource:
    That website also discusses evidence that very early in Joseph Smith’s ministry he understood that God the Father was embodied. D&C 130:22 (in 1843) was definitely not the first time that idea was taught.

    • James, I respect why you have asked why I am doing this, I will drop you an email on that one to talk about it a bit more personally, for anyone else reading my post with my Evangelical times article in covers it as well.

      But regarding your points.

      (1) Ok, I will say that is convenient in light of my point however I will accept that.

      (2) Is there any indication of how they interpreted it?

      (3) I would be genuinely interested to know if God the Father having a body is taught anywhere in the Book of Mormon, in the least that would help show that it was not a later creation of Joseph Smiths.

      (4) Haha good point I think the Book of Mormon is not too troublesome theologically at all, Mormonism as a whole is a world apart.

      (5) I can accept that this point alone does not prove my point as a whole and yes I am coming to it with preconcieved notions, however I do see it as one piece of the puzzle, I also do respectfully accept that you will as a Mormon know more about the book of Mormon than me to say the least, however I still do with what I have quoted and others that I have not see an evolution in the development of Mormon theology from God centered and biblical to man centred and unbiblical, to be fair in recent years I would say there is also a shift back happening too.

      (6) Well ok but what you are saying is I would say your take on it as James the individual, some Mormons these days claim the book of Mormon has no authenticity historically and is just a spiritual guide, others may emphasise it theologically, however my point is and has been that the Book of Mormon makes statements that when simply read appear to be in harmony with biblical statements and not with modern day mormonism.

      (7) I think the lectures on faith is a very interesting thing to look at as it totally proves my every point so far it clearly says God the Father is a Spirit and it is in Mormon Scripture, and has since been removed, I could not ask for anything clearer. From the article it shows allusions to the teaching up to the point of 1843 and otherwise just says the point I am presenting is flawed, not a massive surprise it says that.

  18. I think we’ve pursued the issues of Alma 18 and 22 as far as we can. I think I’ve made my point well that Trinitarian theology is not being taught in these places in the Book of Mormon. Since that objective has been successfully completed, I’ll leave you with the last word.

    Perhaps another post about the Lectures on Faith is appropriate. If you choose to do so, please interact with the evidence I’ve provided in the link.

    • The last word would be….. lets leave it there I dont want to go in circles and I am happy that I have got across what I wanted to.

      But thanks James I appreciate you being here and bearing with all the things thrown at you, you are on your own here with at times many posts going your way so I do respect and appreciate it!

  19. Thanks for the article, I really learned something from it. Really good content on this blog. Always looking forward to new entry.

  20. whatever feels good to you, my man. still,i want nothing to do with this. hover over. Anyway, i subscribed to your rss feed which really should work! Have a good day!

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