Return to About Mormons home

Biblical Support for Deification

Don’t you know that your doctrine of becoming Gods isn’t Biblical? In fact, it's just the original lie told by Satan in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:4 says "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For GOD knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like GOD , knowing good and evil." It sounds like the same lie, when we are told by Mormon missionaries that you are working your way to godhood.

What do the Latter-day Saints really believe about God? Is it true that they believe man can become as God?

This page has comments from the following authors:

W. John Walsh
Robert L. Millet
Stephen E. Robinson
Michael W. Fordham

by W. John Walsh

First, you need to read the rest of Genesis chapter 3. In Genesis 3:22, it states "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil... ". Therefore, as the Lord himself says, Satan told Eve a half-truth. The Adversary lied when he said that Eve would "not surely die", but he told the truth when he said that she would become "like God, knowing good and evil."

To spread the false notion that Latter-day Saints do not show proper reverence towards the Godhead, anti-Mormons often tell people that Latter-day Saints believe that they will become co-equal, or on the same level, with God and no longer worship him. This misrepresentation is a twisting of an LDS doctrine called exaltation, a doctrine which the Bible clearly teaches.

Latter-day Saints believe our Heavenly Father has given us this mortal life to become more like him. Those who are true and faithful in all things will sit in the throne of Christ. (Rev 3:21) They will have the name of God the Father placed upon them (Rev 14:1) We believe that they shall be "heirs of God, and joint-heirs of Christ" (Rom 8:17). What shall the faithful inherit? ALL THINGS according to scripture (Heb 1:2) (See Heirs of God and Joint-Heirs with Christ)

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)

"For I [am] the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I [am] holy." (Leviticus 11:45)

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (John 14:12)

We call anyone who sits in the throne of God, has God's name and attributes, and who has inherited all things (i.e. - power, dominion, knowledge) from God-----a god.

Hence the scripture, "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods....I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." Psalms (82:1,6)

While we believe that the faithful will enjoy a life similar to our Heavenly Father, we also believe we will still be subject to and worship the God of Heaven, which is represented as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, while we will be "gods, even the sons of God" (D&C 76:58), we will never be at the same level as them or stop worshipping them, but we will be like them and enjoy a quality of life similar to theirs. 

by Robert L. Millet

Latter-day Saints believe that we come to the earth to take a physical body, to be schooled and trained and gain experiences here that we could not have in the premortal life, and then to seek to grow in faith and spiritual graces until we can qualify to go where God and Christ are. But they believe that eternal life consists in more than being with God; it entails being like God. A study of the Christian church reveals that the doctrine of the deification of man was taught at least into the fifth century by such notables as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, and Augustine. Latter-day Saints would probably not agree with most of what was taught about deification by the early Christian church leaders, because they believe that many of the plain and precious truths concerning God and man had been lost by then. But I mention this to illustrate that the idea was not foreign to the people of the early church; the names mentioned were not pagan or Gnostic spokesmen but Christian.

The Latter-day Saint belief in man becoming as God is not dependent upon the early Christian concept, or upon such popular modern Christian thinkers as C. S. Lewis, who taught this notion. In the vision of the hereafter given to Joseph Smith, described in chapter 5, is found this description of those who attain the highest or celestial glory: "Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God." (D&C 76:58.) Godhood comes through the receipt of eternal life. Eternal life consists of two things: (1) the continuation of the family unit in eternity; and (2) inheriting, receiving, and being endowed with the fullness of the spirit and power of the Father. (D&C 132:19-20.) Latter-day Saints do not believe they will ever, worlds without end, unseat or oust God the Father or Jesus Christ. Those holy beings are and forever will be the Gods men and women worship. Men and women, like Christ, are made in the image and likeness of God, that it is not robbery to be equal with God (Philippians 2:6), and that like any father, our Heavenly Father wants his children to become and be all that he is. Spiritual growth to this lofty plain is not something that comes merely through hard work, though men and women are expected to do their best to keep their covenantal obligations. Deification is accomplished finally through the grace and goodness of Jesus Christ, who seeks that all of us might become joint heirs, co-inheritors with him, to all the Father has. (Romans 8:14-18.)

The Mormon Faith: A New Look at Christianity
Copyright by Deseret Book

Joseph Smith's First Vision represents the beginning of the revelation of God to man in this dispensation. We will no doubt spend a lifetime seeking to understand the doctrinal profundity of that theophany. This appearance of the Father and Son in upstate New York had the effect of challenging those creeds of Christendom out of which the doctrine of the Trinity evolved-a doctrine that evolved from efforts to reconcile Christian theology with Greek philosophy. President Gordon B. Hinckley has observed:

"To me it is a significant and marvelous thing that in establishing and opening this dispensation our Father did so with a revelation of himself and of his Son Jesus Christ, as if to say to all the world that he was weary of the attempts of men, earnest though these attempts might have been, to define and describe him. . . . The experience of Joseph Smith in a few moments in the grove on a spring day in 1820, brought more light and knowledge and understanding of the personality and reality and substance of God and his Beloved Son than men had arrived at during centuries of speculation."

By revelation Joseph Smith came to know that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost constitute the Godhead. From the beginning the Prophet Joseph taught that the members of the Godhead are one in purpose, one in mind, one in glory, one in attributes and powers, but separate persons.

God is the Father of the spirits of all men and women (Numbers 16:22; 27:16), the source of light and truth, the embodiment of all godly attributes and gifts, and the supreme power and intelligence over all things. From the Book of Moses we learn that among the ancients God the Father was called "Man of Holiness," and thus his Only Begotten Son is the Son of Man of Holiness, or the Son of Man (Moses 6:57). The title Man of Holiness opens us to a deeper understanding of Deity. We believe that God the Father is an exalted man, a corporeal being, a personage of flesh and bones.

That God has a physical body is one of the most important of all truths restored in this dispensation; it is inextricably tied to such doctrines as the immortality of the soul, the literal resurrection, eternal marriage, and the continuation of the family unit into eternity. In his corporeal or physical nature, God can be in only one place at a time. His divine nature is such, however, that his glory, his power, and his influence, meaning his Holy Spirit, fills the immensity of space and is the means by which he is omnipresent and through which law and light and life are extended to us (see D&C 88:6-13).

The Father's physical body does not limit his capacity or detract one wit from his infinite holiness, any more than Christ's resurrected body did so (see Luke 24; John 20-21). Interestingly enough, research by Professor David Paulsen of our Philosophy department indicates that the idea of God's corporeality was taught in the early Christian church into the fourth and fifth centuries, before being lost to the knowledge of the people.

On the one hand, we worship a divine Being with whom we can identify. That is to say, his infinity does not preclude either his immediacy or his intimacy. "In the day that God created man," the scriptures attest, "in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them" (Moses 6:8-9). God is not simply a spirit influence, a force in the universe, or the First Great Cause; when we pray "Our Father which art in heaven" (Matthew 6:9), we mean what we say. We believe God is comprehendable, knowable, approachable, and, like his Beloved Son, touched with the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15).

On the other hand, our God is God. There is no knowledge of which the Father is ignorant and no power he does not possess (1 Nephi 7:12; 2 Nephi 9:20; Mosiah 4:9; Alma 26:35; Helaman 9:41; Ether 3:4). Scriptural passages that speak of him being the same yesterday, today, and forever (e.g., Psalm 102:27; Hebrews 1:12; 13:8; 1 Nephi 10:18-19; 2 Nephi 27:23; Alma 7:20; Mormon 9:8-11, 19; Moroni 8:18; 10:7; D&C 3:2; 20:12, 17; 35:1) clearly have reference to his divine attributes-his love, justice, constancy, and willingness to bless his children.

In addition, President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that"From eternity to eternity means from the spirit existence through the probation which we are in, and then back again to the eternal existence which will follow. Surely this is everlasting, for when we receive the resurrection, we will never die . We all existed in the first eternity. I think I can say of myself and others, we are from eternity; and we will be to eternity everlasting, if we receive the exaltation."

We come to the earth to take a physical body, be schooled and gain experiences in this second estate that we could not have in the first estate, the premortal life. We then strive to keep the commandments and grow in faith and spiritual graces until we are prepared to go where God and Christ are. Eternal life consists in being with God; in addition, it entails being like God. A study of Christian history reveals that the doctrine of the deification of man was taught at least into the fifth century by such notables as Irenaus, Clement of Alexandria, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, and Augustine.

Because we know that many plain and precious truths were taken from the Bible before it was compiled (1 Nephi 13:20-39; Preface to D&C 76), we might not agree with some of what was taught about deification by such Christian thinkers, but it is clear that the idea was not foreign to the people of the early church.

For that matter, no less a modern Christian theologian than C.S. Lewis recognized the logical and theological extension of being transformed by Christ. "The Son of God became a man," Lewis pointed out, "to enable men to become sons of God."

Further, Lewis has explained: "The command Be Ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were 'gods' and He is going to make good his words.

If we let Him-for we can prevent Him, if we choose-He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.

"All men and women, like Christ, are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27; Moses 2:27), and so it is neither robbery nor heresy for the children of God to aspire to be like God (Matthew 5:48; Philippians 2:6); like any parent, our Heavenly Father would want his children to become and be all that he is.

Godhood comes through overcoming the world through the Atonement (1 John 5:4-5; Revelation 2:7, 11; D&C 76:51-60), becoming heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, who is the natural Heir (Romans 8:17; Galatians 4:7), and thus inheriting all things, just as Jesus inherits all things (1 Corinthians 3:21-23; Revelation 21:7; D&C 76:55, 95; 84:38; 88:107). The faithful are received into the "church of the Firstborn" (Hebrews 12:23; D&C 76:54, 67, 94; 93:22), meaning they inherit as though they were the firstborn. In that glorified state we will be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2; Alma 5:14), receive his glory, and be one with him and with the Father (John 17:21-23; Philippians 3:21).

Although we know from modern revelation that godhood comes through the receipt of eternal life (D&C 132:19-20), we do not believe we will ever, worlds without end, unseat or oust God the Eternal Father or his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ; those holy beings are and forever will be the Gods we worship.

Even though we believe in the ultimate deification of man, I am unaware of any authoritative statement in LDS literature that suggests that we will ever worship any being other than the ones within the Godhead. We believe in "one God" in the sense that we love and serve one Godhead, one divine presidency, each of whom possesses all of the attributes of Godhood (Alma 11:44; D&C 20:28).

In short, God is not of another species, nor is he the great unknowable one; he is indeed our Father in heaven. He has revealed a plan whereby we might enjoy happiness in this world and dwell with him and be like him in the world to come.

Delivered at the weekly BYU Devotional in the Marriott Center February 3, 1998

Copyright 1998 Robert L. Millet

by Stephen E. Robinson

... the claim is made that certain LDS doctrines are so bizarre, so totally foreign to biblical or historical Christianity, that they simply cannot be tolerated. In terms of the LDS doctrines most often criticized on these grounds, however --the doctrine of deification and its corollary, the plurality of gods--this claim does not hold up to historical scrutiny. Early Christian saints and theologians, later Greek Orthodoxy, modern Protestant evangelists, and even C. S. Lewis have all professed their belief in a doctrine of deification. The scriptures themselves talk of many "gods" and use the term god in a limited sense for beings other than the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost. If this language is to be tolerated in scripture and in ancient and modern orthodox Christians without cries of "polytheism!" then it must be similarly tolerated in the Latter-day Saints. If scripture can use the term gods for nonultimate beings, if the early Church could, if Christ himself could, then Latter-day Saints cannot conceivably be accused of being outside the Christian tradition for using the same term in the same way.

Again, I am not arguing that the doctrine is true, although I certainly believe it is. I am only arguing that other Christians of unimpeachable orthodoxy have believed in deification long before the Latter-day Saints came along, and that it has been accepted and tolerated in them as part of their genuine Christianity. Fair play demands the same treatment for the Latter-day Saints.

For Dr. Robinson's full comments, please see The Doctrinal Exclusion

by Michael W. Fordham

Critics of the Church claim that the LDS religion is blasphemous and even Satanic because we think we can become a god. They use Isaiah 14:12-14 in an attempt to show that wanting to be like God is satanic.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12-14)

When the critics make these claims, they never explain what LDS doctrine really is. Instead, they give a perverted version of LDS doctrine that Latter-day Saints don't even recognize as what they believe or are taught. We absolutely do not believe that we will ever be independent of God or no longer subject to Him. He will always be our God. We do not believe that we will take away His glory, but we only add to it by following Christ.

Latter-day Saints believe that God is literally the Father of our spirits. We believe we lived in a pre-existence with Him. This pre-existence is another subject, but it should be understood we believe this, so that we can understand that God, in being our Heavenly Father, is not symbolic or figurative, it is literal.

The Bible tells us that God is the father of our spirits. "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the FATHER OF SPIRITS, and live?" (Hebrews 12:9, emphasis added). More than this, the Bible tells us we are the offspring of our Heavenly Father. "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For WE ARE ALSO HIS OFFSPRING" (Acts 17:28, emphasis added). Our physical bodies are the offspring of our mortal parents, and God is the Father of our spirits. Therefore, our spirits are the offspring of God in the very same sense that our bodies are the offspring of our earthly parents. The book of Acts goes on to tell us that since we are the offspring of God, God must be some type of being which we are similar to. "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." (Acts 17:29) The doctrine of the Trinity as accepted by most Christians today is certainly based on the creeds, which are "man's device."

When the Bible tells us of our creation, we are told we were created in the image of God. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness:" (Genesis 1:26). If God is literally the Father of our spirits, making us offspring of Him, then we could be called gods ourselves. In fact, the Bible makes this very declaration. "I have said, YE ARE GODS; and all of you are children of the most High" (Psalms 82:6, emphasis added). Jesus Christ Himself said we were gods. "Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, YE ARE GODS? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and THE SCRIPTURE CANNOT BE BROKEN;" (John 10:34-35, emphasis added). Notice that Christ pointed out that Psalm 82:6 was not a mistake, for He added the phrase "and the scripture cannot be broken" right after it, stressing that it was a fact and that its meaning could not be argued away.

Even though we can be called gods, we are not on the same level as God the Father. We are LIKE Him in that we have POTENTIAL. In other words, being his children, we are in essence gods in embryo, not equal to Him. In order to reach that potential, there is a transformation that we must go through. We cannot go through this transformation without Jesus Christ.

The Bible talks about this transformation. There were two trees in the Garden of Eden. "And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the TREE OF LIFE also in the midst of the garden, and the TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL" (Genesis 2:9, emphasis added). Adam and Eve ate of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which changed their state of innocence to our mortal condition we are in now. Once Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, our potentiality of becoming like our Heavenly Father was made manifest. "And the LORD God said, Behold, THE MAN IS BECOME AS ONE OF US, to know good and evil:" (Genesis 3:22, emphasis added). However, they also transgressed when they ate, and that would prevent mankind of reaching this full potential, since no unclean thing can enter heaven. To prevent mankind from living eternally in this less than full potential state, God evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden and made it impossible for them to eat of the Tree of Life. "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24). Once the fruit of the Tree of Life is eaten, then we would live in whatever condition our life has brought us to. Therefore, it is reserved for those who reach their full potential, or in other words, those who overcome. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; TO HIM THAT OVERCOMETH WILL I GIVE TO EAT OF THE TREE OF LIFE, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7, emphasis added). Those who overcome are those who have obeyed the Lord. "Blessed are they that DO HIS COMMANDMENTS, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city" (Revelation 22:14, emphasis added). Among the things that we have been commanded to do is to have the proper ordinances performed (baptism, marriage for eternity, priesthood ordination, etc.), and repent. Without all this, we cannot reach this potential to become a god.

The Bible also tells us that we can be "one" in the very same sense that Christ and His Father are "one." Now, if God the Father is God, and Jesus Christ is God, and we can be one with them, then we have the potential to be a god ourselves. A God has glory and is perfect. Glory and perfection are two attributes that make a God. Christ, when He prayed to His Father, prayed for this very thing, that we might receive glory, and be perfect "even as we."

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; THAT THEY ALL MAY BE ONE; AS THOU, FATHER, ART IN ME, AND I IN THEE, THAT THEY ALSO MAY BE ONE IN US: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And THE GLORY WHICH THOU GAVEST ME I HAVE GIVEN THEM; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that THEY MAY BE MADE PERFECT in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23, emphasis added)

To what extent is this glory that we have the opportunity to obtain? The Bible is quite clear that it is the FULNESS of God that we might have. "And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, THAT YE MIGHT BE FILLED WITH ALL THE FULNESS OF GOD" (Ephesians 3:19, emphasis added). But does this "fullness" really have anything to do with the very nature of being a god? It most certainly does. "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these YE MIGHT BE PARTAKERS OF THE DIVINE NATURE, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3-4, emphasis added).

The Bible continues to explain that as children, we have the opportunity to inherit everything the Father has. "He that overcometh shall INHERIT ALL THINGS; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev. 21:7, emphasis added). The Bible clarifies this inheritance. It tells us that we will inherit the very same thing that Jesus Christ inherits from the Father. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD: AND IF CHILDREN, THEN HEIRS; HEIRS OF GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST; if so be that we suffer with him, THAT WE MAY BE ALSO GLORIFIED TOGETHER. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:14-18, emphasis added). In fact, the Bible tells us that we may have thrones just like the Son and the Father. "To him that overcometh will I grant to SIT WITH ME IN MY THRONE, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Rev. 3:21, emphasis added).

Besides the nature and characteristics of godhood, we are told that our bodies will be just like God’s body. "Who shall change our vile body, that IT MAY BE FASHIONED LIKE UNTO HIS GLORIOUS BODY, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil. 3:21, emphasis added). Though we may not fully understand this, it will become apparent when Christ returns for the second coming. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, WE SHALL BE LIKE HIM; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2, emphasis added).

No true Christian would deny that God is perfect. We have been commanded to be like Him in this respect as well. "Be ye therefore perfect, EVEN AS YOUR FATHER which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48, emphasis added).

Faithful Latter-day Saints recognize that we can only inherit all things if we are married for eternity. We believe that this principle, which is ridiculed by critics of the Church, is also taught by the Bible. "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as BEING HEIRS TOGETHER of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Peter 3:7, emphasis added). Latter-day Saints are taught that only those who are married for eternity can fully be heirs of all that the Father has. Only a God can have spirit children of their own. Thus, the cycle continues, as does our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Why do you think marriage is such a sacred subject in the scriptures? It is not a coincidence that our earthly marriage is a step in preparation for us to reach our full potential of becoming as God.

In conclusion, the Bible teaches us the following truths:

(See Godhood; Early Christian Deification; Exaltation; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

All About Mormons