From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Carter, K. Codell
Logically and naturally, the ultimate desire of a loving Supreme Being is to help his children enjoy all that he enjoys. For Latter-day Saints, the term "godhood" denotes the attainment of such a state-one of having all divine attributes and doing as God does and being as God is. Such a state is to be enjoyed by all exalted, embodied, intelligent beings (see Deification, Early Christian; Eternal Progression; Exaltation; God; Perfection). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all resurrected and perfected mortals become gods (cf. Gen. 3:22; Matt. 5:48). They will dwell again with God the Father, and live and act like him in endless worlds of happiness, power, love, glory, and knowledge; above all, they will have the power of procreating endless lives. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ attained godhood (see Christology) and that he marked the path and led the way for others likewise to become exalted divine beings by following him (cf. John 14:3).
The LDS conception of godhood is central to their understanding of why God creates and acts. Latter-day Saints believe in a God who "cleaves unto" other eternal intelligences (D&C 88:40) and wants to make them happy. Joseph Smith observed, "Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God" (TPJS, p. 255). Happiness is the goal of existence, and God created this world in order to promote happiness (2 Ne. 2:25). Because he loves the world, he gave his "only begotten Son" (John 3:16). God gives commandments to help mankind achieve happiness. Joseph Smith wrote: "In obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness-and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has-He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances" (TPJS, pp. 256-57). The Book of Mormon refers to God's Plan of Salvation as "the great plan of happiness" (Alma 42:8). In this sense, God creates in order to increase the total happiness in the universe.
As the Supreme Being in the universe, God has the greatest capacity for happiness. Thus, to maximize joy in others, God desires them to be as much like him as possible. "For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39; cf. Ps. 16:11). This latter-day scripture is understood to mean that God's goal is to help men and women share in the kind of eternal life he lives. Joseph Smith wrote: "God was more intelligent, [and he] saw proper to institute laws whereby [his children] could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits" (TPJS, p. 354).
All of God's spirit children have within them a divine nature with the potential to become like him. To become more like God, individuals must gain increased light and truth and follow all the commandments that God has given. They must know God (John 17:3; D&C 88:49) and see him (1 Jn. 3:2). Those who achieve this level of perfection will become joint-heirs with Christ: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons 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" (Rom. 8:14-17). "All that [the] Father hath" shall be given to them (D&C 84:37-38). In biblical terms, those who are worthy to share in all the power and glory that God himself has are called "gods": "Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High" (Ps. 82:6; John 10:34-38). Latter-day scriptures refer to several persons, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who once lived on earth and who are now resurrected beings and have become gods (D&C 132:37).
Most people are accustomed to using the term "God" to identify only one being, the Father. But the scriptures sometimes use the term to designate others as well. In this sense, while the faithful worship only one God in spirit and in truth, there exist other beings who have attained the necessary intelligence and righteousness to qualify for the title "god." Jesus Christ is a God and is a separate personage, distinct from God the Father (see Godhead).
People qualify themselves for this rank and degree of exaltation by bringing themselves fully in line with all that God has commanded them to do: "Here, then, is eternal life-to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power" (TPJS, pp. 346-47).
Joseph Smith also wrote, "Every man who reigns in celestial glory is a God to his dominions" (TPJS, p. 374). This does not mean that any person ever would or could supplant God as the Supreme Being in the universe; but it does mean that through God's plan and with his help, all men and women have the capacity to participate in God's eternal work. People participate in this work by righteous living, by giving birth to children in mortality and helping them live righteous lives, and by bringing others to Christ. Moreover, Latter-day Saints believe that those who become gods will have the opportunity to participate even more fully in God's work of bringing eternal life to other beings. God is referred to as "Father in Heaven" because he is the father of all human spirits (Heb. 12:9; cf. Acts 17:29), imbuing them with divine potentials. Those who become like him will likewise contribute to this eternal process by adding further spirit offspring to the eternal family.
Latter-day Saints believe that God achieved his exalted rank by progressing much as man must progress and that God is a perfected and exalted man: "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,-I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form-like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another" (TPJS, p. 345).
Much of the LDS concept of godhood is expressed in a frequently cited aphorism written in 1840 by Lorenzo Snow, fifth President of the Church. At the time, Snow was twenty-six years old, having been baptized four years earlier. He recorded in his journal that he attended a meeting in which Elder H. G. Sherwood explained the parable of the Savior regarding the husbandman who hired servants and sent them forth at different hours of the day to labor for him in his vineyard. Snow continued, as recorded in his sister's biography of him: "The Spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon me-the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown me . As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be" (Eliza R. Snow, p. 46).
Snow, Eliza R. Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow. Salt Lake City, 1884.
Snow, LeRoi C. "Devotion to a Divine Inspiration." IE 22 (1919):653-62.
Widtsoe, John A. Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 65-67. Salt Lake City, 1960.
K. CODELL CARTER