What I taught last Sunday in High Priest Group

Chapters 5 and 6 of President Snow’s book are connected (so sayeth the manual).  For us, chapter 5 was taught last month, and so I jumped back momentarily to speak about Pres Snow’s couplet:

“As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”

In discussing the couplet, I broke it into its two main components: phrases one and two.  In teaching, I used the method being used in the Youth classes: focused primarily on asking questions and allowing them to find the answers and experiences.  (It works great with high priests – not a single one of them fell asleep. Not even me!).

For phrase one, we discussed what scriptural or authoritative teachings support it.  The only answer was the King Follett Discourse by Joseph Smith. I asked why they thought the couplet or KFD were never canonized. We briefly discussed some of the speculation that has come from this part of the couplet, such as the Adam-God theory, to show that it is not understood well even by prophets like Brigham Young.  We discussed Pres Hinckley’s television interview with Mike Wallace, where Wallace asked about this belief, and Pres Hinckley answered that while he knew something was taught in the past regarding it, we simply do not know enough to really understand it.  It then was interesting to discuss why this part of the couplet was in the manual, and noting that the discussion in chapters 5 and 6 almost entirely focus on the second phrase.

For this part of the couplet, there were several scriptures that were brought up to support it. Interestingly, I had to mention D&C 132, because of the 5 scriptures offered by the high priests, none mentioned that section!  Then we discussed what does it really mean to be as God is. What was doctrinal versus what is speculation.  We determined that populating our own little planets in this vast universe is a logical conclusion, however is not scriptural.  We do know that God will share all he has with us (D&C 84:33–39), that we will sit on his throne with him (Rev 3-4), and that we will rule with him.

Then we spoke on the things we must do to become as God is, according to scripture.

Beyond that, we could not determine anything else that was well established doctrine regarding the couplet. So, for me, it was interesting to see Church Education actually use the couplet, when they have not had lessons on polygamy,

For me, this is an example of the Church’s change from having GAs as teaching speculative things as authoritative to having GAs only focus on the core doctrine and leaving the rest to scholars and speculators (I’m a little of both, I suppose).  For me, this is a positive, because we can discuss things without having GA speculation (such as Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory) get in the way of actually discussing the doctrines of the gospel.  In the past, I’ve seen two people use different GAs to beat up on each other to try and establish what they felt should be doctrine. The “my apostle is bigger than your apostle” should not be the method for establishing truth nor doctrine. Yet a high priest group should be able to function somewhat like the School of the Prophets did in Nauvoo and Kirtland.  It should allow members to expand their minds on the things of God, without feeling imposed upon to believe things the Church officially has not sanctioned as doctrine.

And I still can’t figure out how this one slipped past CES, when they’ve focused so long on keeping it doctrinal and simple.


15 thoughts on “What I taught last Sunday in High Priest Group

  1. The Savior is the exemplary model of the first portion of the couplet: “As man is, God once was.” Jesus lived in mortality once, just as we do now, but today is God in the fullest, embodied sense.

    Of course, Pres. Snow probably had different ideas when he conceived of the couplet, and it is those ideas that raise the question as to its doctrinal standing. The second phrase is indisputably Church doctrine. The first is not, although it may well still be true.

  2. In my experience, HP Group may be the one of the few places at church where people can speculate about doctrines like this.

  3. Scott, We did discuss Jesus in the role of God becoming man. However, we also discussed that is not usually what is brought up in this discussion. It normally deals with God the Father as man (or in BY’s view: Adam God as man). Again, it all goes to this couplet and the KFD – with no real scriptural support, and no recent GAs discussing it.

    And yet, we didn’t speculate. We did speak to its being a form of speculation. I think that is a significant difference.

  4. Regarding the Adam-God (and others) theory, I think there was perhaps a time in church history when things like that were taken for granted and/or accepted by a lot of Mormons. (was that redundant enough for you :)). Because I’m reading Matt Bowman’s book (slowly, it’s awesome) and he writes with such clarity about our history and how certain policies/doctrines/practices developed. I don’t recall that he mentioned that specifically, but a lot of things we today blow off and tsk over were actually accepted practice way back when. Like women giving blessings. The differences in opinion among our leaders is kind of astonishing to me and also a testimony because it’s amazing how we kept basically on track. We could really be a bunch of crazies were not God guiding us. IMHO.

  5. I haven’t met many people in the church who are uncomfortable with the doctrine. Most people seem to like it in my experience. I’m glad to hear it continues to be preached in manuals.

    I wish the same could be said about the Adam-God Theory, which is one of my favorite doctrines. Joseph Smith diminished God by housing him in flesh and bone and saying he was once human, and one of many other gods. That is pretty audacious. But then Brigham Young further diminished God by naming the human that God actually had been: Adam, making him a very minor God of less that 6,000 years’ glory! Brigham’s brilliant theory solves many of the problems with Joseph Smith’s doctrine. By making Adam our God, Brigham Young explains the mystery of why Joseph Smith sees God in caucasian human form, a form which is very much married to the arbitrary exigencies of natural evolution on planet Earth. Inasmuch as evolution is being more and more accepted by many LDS people (like jettboy) as the only rational means to explain man’s creation, the big hurdle is trying to explain why God happens to be in the form of a caucasian man, if He does not come from the same branch. God’s caucasian personna as witnessed by Joseph Smith seems entirely implausible, if we are to accept that the caucasian type is a very particular evolutionary strain, unique to the random exigencies of life on this planet. However, if God is one of us, a few thousand years old, well that explains everything! Maybe it’s embarrassing worshiping such a “minor” God as Adam. But I prefer it. We just need to articulate the idea of a higher “God” represented by Law and Truth, a Spirit of some sort, the kind of God everyone else worships, who doesn’t have flesh and bone. Then we are back to where we started, worshiping the Great Spirit! It’s just that we happen to call Adam a “God,” and worship Him as our Father, which He literally is. It makes perfect sense to me. In a way, the Adam-God theory is an apologetic argument for Joseph’s Man/God doctrine, and explains how it can be possible.

  6. Personally, I find Stephen Hawking’s paradigm of our universe being a bubble in a larger multi-dimensional multiverse goes a long way to explicate some of the “all” and “only” and “forever” and “eternal” clauses in scripture.

    Elohim is the only God of _this_ universe, since before this universe came into being. He was a “man” in a different universe, separated from this universe inside of a higher dimension, and became a God before the time-frame of this universe even started.

    That is how the scriptures can say that he always has been God. He has always been God from the standpoint of our universe, since before (our) time began. “Time” being a local phenomena, which does not exist in higher dimensions.

  7. Another thought, the divisions between the multiplicity of gods may also be at the galaxy level. As there appears to be a black hole at the center of all galaxies, the black-hole/white-hole theory of the recycling of galaxies may somehow correspond to “the heavens being wrapped together as a scroll”.

    And as there likely are multiple generations of gods (Heavenly grandparents?) the hierarchies of galaxies, galactic clusters, Hubble Spaces, etc, may have some correspondence there too.

  8. Nate, etc., the problem is, the first part of the couplet can be recited a thousand times (as well as the AG theory) and still not be doctrine, because it has not been accepted by the members of the Church. Nor has it been espoused by modern prophets – note Pres Hinckley stating he doesn’t know enough about it. Then Pres Kimball stated that the AG theory is wrong. The AG theory is not supported by the Bible, Book of Moses, D&C, Book of Mormon, etc. Guess what? I’ll take the scriptures over some of BY’s speculation any old day. His theory went contrary to the scriptures and what prophets teach today. That’s good enough for me.

  9. Adam is Lord over the whole earth
    Adam is the Father of all living
    When Christ comes he will receive the keys from Adam.
    Adam is the Ancient of Days (a title nearly all other religions believe is God)
    Adamondiahman refers to both Adam and the Lord.

    These are all scriptural or traced directly to JS. I do not believe any of us really understand what Brigham was speaking about (especially without revelation directly on the matter) and I do not believe what he was trying to teach was soley from him without origin in JS.

    But whatever the case I dont think its something to contend over or something we ought to be teaching. If God wants to shed light on this and reveal more to indiviudals he will.

  10. I don’t think God is diminished at all, Nate. CS Lewis theorized about this, too. It makes sense. We’re not all that bad, most of us, that it makes God a dweeb that He was once one of us.

  11. I tend to think that a great deal of confusion on this topic is related to the neglect of the following passage of scripture, and a number of others like it:

    “Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end” (D&C 20:28)

    Clearly this passage and Lorenzo Snow are not talking about the same thing. L. Snow is talking about a particular individual. D&C 20:28 is talking about, on the other hand, at least three individuals, and possibly an endless number of them, as a group. Same name for two things and ample opportunity for error by assuming one or (mostly) the other on any given occasion, and the consequences that flow therefrom.

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