A more “appealing” afterlife.

lorenzo snowA person I really like and respect in our local ward recently gave the priesthood lesson on Lorenzo Snow’s “infamous couplet.”  While Snow’s little snippet isn’t the primary source of the unique Mormon doctrine of exaltation, it is definitely a sort of crystallization of it – a concrete yet succinct view of what some might call the “traditional” view in Mormonism.

As man now is, God once was:

As God now is, man may be.

Now I have mentioned before some problems I have with this doctrine in Mormonism.  For instance, I don’t think there can be more than one God.  I think having multiple contingent gods renders reality inexplicable, and turns morality into a subjective free-for-all.  I think the LDS church has done a great job at completely watering down, deflecting, and abandoning in practice that doctrine, but a lot of its practices and teachings seem to rest on it in some way (For instance, in what sense is God our “literal father” if He was not like us and we cannot be just like Him?  That’s what being a father literally means.  If that is not what Mormons mean by saying God is our “literal father” then they are equivocating on what it means to be a “literal” father.).

But I also think that the more Mormonism distances itself from this and other unique doctrines that set it apart from mainstream Christianity, the more it renders itself pointless.  So it’s a Catch-22 for the LDS church – Mormon exaltation creates scores of logical problems, but denying it makes Mormonism seem like a quirky version of plain Protestant Christianity.  The doctrinal limbo of this teaching has resulted in a large church full of Mormons who can’t seem to agree on whether it’s true, true-with-qualifications, non-canonical, false, dangerous, or essential to their faith.

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Theosis, Part 1

This is a massive topic in both Eastern Orthodoxy and Mormonism so this will only be my first post on it; likely many more are to come. When I really began examining the doctrines of Mormonism that set us apart from other faiths, my understanding of theosis changed.  Mormons often use the word theosis and early Patristic literature on that subject for a few reasons.  First, they want to show that Mormons are not so strange for talking about men becoming gods, since many Christians have been using such language for thousands of years.  Second, there is the suggestion that when the Church Fathers talked about men becoming gods, it was perhaps a vestige of Christ’s true teachings on exaltation which were lost during the ‘Great Apostasy.’

I think both these reasons are misguided.  The Orthodox view of theosis is different from Mormonism in the most crucial way possible.  In Orthodoxy, God is One, and his essence is utterly transcendent and can never be known directly by men.  Theosis is the process whereby men can be transformed by God’s grace and thus participate in his nature, but it does not mean that the essence of a man can become like the essence of God, because there is only one God.  As far as I can tell, this has always been what the Orthodox have meant by theosis, including the Church Fathers. Continue reading