The 2013 LDS Priesthood and Relief Society manual, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, features a lesson, “The Grand Destiny of the Faithful” (Chapter 5) in which one of President Snow’s most famous teachings makes a fresh appearance. Often referred to as “The Couplet,” it states: “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”Encountering this teaching in an official Church publication has been surprising to many Church watchers who have noticed in the past couple of decades a dramatic drop off in LDS comfort levels with the teaching that we human beings are on a progression path that God once traveled, and that with continued growth and development of divine qualities we can one day become Gods ourselves. So what’s going on? Why was this teaching de-emphasized? Does its appearance in the manual signal a shift from recent preferences to publicly emphasize similarities between Mormon thought and that of mainline Christianity to a willingness to more explicitly embrace differences? And, for that matter, are teachings about theosis or divinization actually all that unusual when one considers the entire arc of Christian teaching?
In this episode, panelists Danielle Mooney, Charley Harrell, and Tom Roberts join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon for a thorough look at this teaching within Mormonism, as well as the wider Christian world, especially in Eastern and Greek Orthodox Christianity and the writings of early thinkers who provided the impetus for the directions they took separate from what became Roman Catholicism. Fascinating, rich stuff! The panel explores the history of “couplet” theology, including one of the early forms it took in Brigham Young’s teaching about Adam as God, and discuss possible reasons for its fall from the public sphere and recent reappearance. It also takes a strong look at black Latter-day Saints and women, for whom the ideas expressed in couplet (or, at least the contexts in which it rose and were commented on by Church leaders) have been particularly problematic. Can the doctrine of theosis be separated from the difficult assumptions that have been linked to it?
Parts 1 and 2 (#166 & #167) present an historical overview of the couplet and divinization teachings in Mormonism and Christianity.
Parts 3 and 4 (#168 & #169) examine it in concert with the Adam-God Theory, teachings about blacks and women (in particular the close tie with ideas entailed in polygamy theologies), and comparisons and contrasts between Mormon teachings about the eternal and uncreated nature of all things and the idea of creation ex nihilo held to by much of the Christian world, though not so thoroughly in Eastern Christianities.
We look forward to you listening and then sharing your thoughts in the comments section below!
Father Tom Roberts, “Sacral Kingship of Christ,” Facebook page with links to his various writings, videos, etc.