Exaltation: As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be

After the Holy Ghost brought me to faith, I had a burning desire to share my Savior with my Father. He was dying of cancer in Idaho and I lived in Virginia. I was attending the College of William and Mary as an older student. During the summer before my senior year I grabbed an opportunity to take a few classes at Boise State. My daughters and I stayed with my folks and I took every opportunity I could to share my new-found faith with my Dad.

I felt that the Lord was leading me to stay in Idaho to witness to my father, so I gave up my last year at William and Mary and stayed with my parents. The Lord gave me a full year with my Dad before he died and I cherished every moment. We had different faiths, but the Bible was our common ground and while he lay in bed I read it to him often. I must have read the book of Romans to him a hundred times. The message of free and full forgiveness seemed so clear to me and I couldn’t understand how my family couldn’t see the truth.

My father’s health deteriorated as the months went by. I believe that through his physical limitations, God was giving him the opportunity to be humbled; to see his need for a Savior who had already done everything for him. One day about three months before he died, I heard him ask my uncle this question:

“Bob, how is it possible that we can become gods?” My uncle Bob replied “It’s possible, just believe it.” My dad said: “But we are so far from it!”

My heart sang when I heard his words! My father had taught the false LDS doctrine that man could become a god for many years. Now his words were those of someone who was truly seeing himself as the sinful man that he really was. He was being humbled by God.

That was over fifteen years ago. Since that time, I have discovered a simple truth: Those who believe in Jesus are fully aware that they sin all the time–even though they try not to. Because of their own struggles with sin, they believe and understand the Words of Christ; that “there is none good but one, that is, God” (Mark 10:18). Believers in Christ know that only God is good. That is one reason they are so thankful that it is through faith alone that they are credited with Christ’s righteousness, just as Abraham was (Romans 4:20-5:1)

Humility is one characteristic of every person who has a living faith in Jesus. Humble sinners know how often they sin. They know that if their eternal destination depended upon anything they had to do, they would be doomed to spend eternity with Satan. They know that God loves them so much He sent a Savior to rescue them from their depraved life of sinfulness.

The Apostle Paul described the criteria God uses to choose His followers and why:

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:25-31)

The very essence of LDS doctrine leads a person away from humility and towards pride. There is no better example of this than the belief that man is good enough to one day be a god himself! Gospel Principles Chapter 47 explains some of the blessings that will be given to those who obtain Exaltation through their obedience:

They will become gods (see D&C 132:20–23)…
They will have everything that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have—all power, glory, dominion, and knowledge (see D&C 132:19–20). President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The Father has promised through the Son that all that he has shall be given to those who are obedient to His commandments.” (p.277)

Can you see how blasphemous this is in God’s eyes? To Him it would be the epitome of arrogance! The Prophet Isaiah testified that even our righteousness is like filthy rags: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6).

When you believe that you can really become a God, it shows two things: (1) that you have no clue as to how amazing God really is, and (2) you have no idea how utterly sinful you are. As my father had come to know, you are so far from God’s holiness that you could NEVER become a god!

The Apostle Paul knew how sinful he was:
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:18-25)

The Apostle Paul did not despair because of how sinful he was. Instead, he spent his whole life thanking Jesus with a life dedicated to serving God! He knew that Jesus had already delivered him!

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God’s Nature: What Does He Look Like?

Have you ever questioned the LDS belief that God’s “eternal spirit is housed in a tangible body of flesh and bones”? As a Mormon I never questioned this teaching—it seemed that the Bible clearly supported it. After becoming a Christian I discovered that this doctrine was unique to Mormonism. And, the Christian churches I attended taught other things about the nature of God that didn’t make much sense to me. So I decided to dig into scripture to find out the truth. With my new-found faith I had a strong resolve to be like the Berean’s—to search the scriptures and make sure that whatever I was told agreed with God’s truth. (Acts 17:11)

Underlying the LDS belief that God has a body of flesh and bones is the doctrine that God was once a sinful man, subservient to an earlier god: “Explain that since the restoration of the true Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days, Church members have known of their origin and destiny as children of God. A latter-day prophet, Lorenzo Snow, summarized this teaching clearly when he said, ‘As man is God once was; As God is, man may be.” (Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, Lesson 1, page 1)

But searching the scriptures I quickly discovered that the words of this LDS prophet were false. The Prophet Isaiah wrote: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” “Thus 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.” (43:10, 44:6)

Learning that God could never have been a man still didn’t explain to me what God “was”. I wondered what He looked like. I had been taught that since I was created in God’s image, then God must look like me. But reading in Genesis confirmed that this “image” could not be a “physical” one—I was a woman, not a man. I decided to read all the passages referenced in the LDS Topical Guide about the body of God to see if any had been miss-interpreted. To my surprise, they hadn’t. These passages clearly taught that God had the physical characteristics of a man. They attributed God as having a face, mouth, voice, fingers, hands and feet. Wanting to learn more, I started doing word studies. When I found another passage saying that God had a hand as well as ears, I wondered why this passage hadn’t been listed in the LDS Topical Guide. Reading in context answered my question and led me to a surprising discovery! Not only did God have ears, He had wings and feathers:

I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. Shew thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them. 8 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings” (Ps 17:6-8).

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. 3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. 4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:1-4)

From this study I learned that while scripture often attributes human characteristics to God, it also uses non-human characteristics to describe Him. (Not surprisingly, you won’t find any of these passages listed in the LDS Topical Guide.) Mormons can no more claim that God is a glorified man than someone could say He is an enormous bird. While God is a spirit (John 4:24) He is so powerful that He can take on any form He chooses. We see at Christ’s baptism that the Holy Ghost took on the physical form of a dove.

Scripture often uses word pictures to give us a glimpse of what God is like because He is so unlike humans:

And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)

Scripture reveals that our Savior has always been God! He was not (as LDS prophets claim) “the first spirit born to our heavenly parents”—parents who began their lives as spirit children:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14) Jesus took on human flesh and became a man “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-18). Even though He was God, He “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

In the end, it is not the form of God that matters, it is what He accomplished. Death is a consequence of sin but Jesus had no sins of His own! He died on the cross because He chose to die—for you. It was His mission—His very purpose for coming to earth was to take our sins upon Himself, as if they were His own:

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Your sins have been covered and forgiven by His blood. Believe it and receive it, and trust in Him:

How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” Psalms 36:7

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Jesus Has Delivered You From Your Sins!

After I came to faith, I had a burning desire to share my faith with my Father. He was dying of cancer and I lived 3000 miles away. I had gone back to college as an older student at the College of William and Mary. During the summer before my senior year I grabbed an opportunity to take a few classes at Boise State. My daughters and I stayed with my folks and I took every opportunity I could to share my new-found faith with my Dad. I felt that the Lord was leading me to stay in Idaho to witness to my father, so I gave up my last year at William and Mary and stayed with my parents. The Lord gave me a full year with my father before he died and I cherished every moment with him. We had different faiths, but the Bible was our common ground and I read it to him often as he lay in bed. I must have read the book of Romans to him a hundred times. The message of free and full forgiveness seemed so clear to me and I couldn’t understand how my family couldn’t see the truth.

My father’s health deteriorated as the months went by. I believe that through his physical limitations, God was giving him the opportunity to become humble and see his need for a Savior who did everything for him. One day, about three months before he died, I heard him ask my uncle this question: “Bob, how is it possible that we can become gods?” My uncle replied “It’s possible, just believe it.” My dad said: “But we are so far from it!” My heart sang when I heard his words! My father had taught the false LDS doctrine that man could become a god for many years. His words were the words of someone who was truly seeing himself as the sinful man that he was. He was being humbled by God.

Humility is one characteristic of every person who has a living faith in Jesus. Humble sinners know that they are nothing in comparison to God’s perfection. They know that if their eternal destination depended upon anything they had to do, they would be doomed to hell. They know that God loves them so much He sent a Savior to rescue them from their depravity. In Corinthians, the Apostle Paul described the criteria God uses to choose His followers and why: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.

Today’s Gospel Doctrine Lesson talks about humility and pride. It asks: “What is pride?” President Benson gives the LDS answer: “Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing. “The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’”

While pride certainly has an element of enmity towards God, that is not the heart or core of it. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary explains: “The ten Hebrew and two Greek words generally used for pride refer to being high or exalted in attitude, the opposite of the virtue of humility, which is so often praised and rewarded by God. One other Greek word refers to a person’s being puffed up or inflated with pride or egotism. The idea is that one gives the impression of substance but is really filled only with air… Pride is basically a sin of attitude and of the heart and spirit.

The very essence of Mormon doctrine leads a person away from humility and towards pride by claiming that man is good enough to one day progress to godhood! In God’s eyes, this is blasphemous and the epitome of arrogance! He has claimed that even your righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). When you believe that you can become a God, to be God’s equal; it shows that you are inflated with pride and egotism. As my father had come to know, you are so far from God’s holiness that you could NEVER become a god!

The Apostle Paul knew how sinful he was: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Do you know how utterly sinful you are? If so, count yourself blessed!!! Turn to Jesus who has delivered you! Then, live your life in thankfulness to Him, as I do!