A 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.