Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My Take on Joseph Smith's King Follet Sermon

I've shared the following thoughts about Joseph's King Follet Sermon with others elsewhere. Admittedly, they're not that original. But they are, nevertheless, now my thoughts. These are the words I have chosen to express what not only feels right, but what makes the most sense to me after having read Joseph in context.

For those who haven't read the sermon, the most common format is the amalgamated version (which is accessible in two parts here and here. The non-amalgamated scribe notes (which I find more valuable) can be found here). I think it's critical to try to step away from years of implicit assumptions and interpretations about it and and look at what Joseph was explicitly teaching. I've taken a great interest in this sermon and topic. By most accounts, Joseph teaches some pretty radical doctrine (at least as far as the traditional Christian world is concerned), but that's one of the things I love most about Joseph Smith!

First off, I think too many people pick one or two quotes out of context and interpret Joseph to be teaching that God was once not God, but was once merely a man--even sinful--exactly like us. And this despite the fact that Christ was God before he took upon himself flesh and was also sinless throughout his mortality. Not only do I believe that this is a significant misinterpretation of Joseph Smith, but I also fail to see how that teaching would have been any comfort for a funeral sermon. (Remember that the occasion for the sermon was the sudden and accidental death of Joseph's close friend, King Follet). Rather, here's how I personally understand Joseph Smith. He took this occasion to declare a "great secret"--that God the Father once had a mortal experience. To paraphrase Joseph, "we've supposed that God has always been right where he is, eternally dwelling in His heaven, without any changes. But that's actually not the case! He too came to an earth and took upon himself mortality!" That is the great secret. Not that he hasn't always been God, but that He too had a mortal experience. God our Father understands us perfectly, even in the midst of trials and death, since he's been through it too!

Nevertheless, Joseph was not teaching that the Father's mortal experience was undertaken exactly like ours (that is, not as God), but rather "the same as Jesus Christ". Jesus Christ was also "a man", but like the Father, He was God while he had His mortal experience. We, on the other hand, are mere mortals, and clearly there is a difference between our mortal experience and that of Christ's, not the least of which was the fact that he was perfect and that he never sinned. He was God, I am not. Therefore, the "great secret" wasn't that God was once not God, but that God is in the form of a man (albeit a supremely exalted one), and that he dwelt on an earth "the same as Jesus Christ Himself did". The real revolutionary teaching, of course, is that we're of the same kind or species as God! When Joseph says that God is a man like us, he's teaching that God isn't some "substance", but rather that humankind and the divine are of the same kind/species and are not permanently separate, despite the traditional Christian belief about the Creator/creature divide.

I reject the interpretation which holds that God the Father was once merely a man and then grew into becoming God. I'm sure that many people (including Church leaders) have probably made that assumption, and still do, but I think it's the weaker argument. For me, that's not only unscriptural but it just was not what Joseph was teaching as I go back and read the actual text(s). One thing that seems very clear to me is that Joseph did not mean to contradict scripture--and he doesn't. He never said he was going to refute the Bible, but rather, that he was going to show this teaching from the Bible! The teaching was that the Son can do nothing but what he sees the Father do. Therefore, the Father took on mortality, became embodied, and experienced mortality the same as Jesus did (as a perfect, sinless, human-God) with the power to take up his life again. This is a power we clearly do not share.

Some people assume too much and think that Joseph implied things he never actually taught. For example, I've seen some argue that if the foregoing is correct, and the Father experienced mortality more in line with how the Son/Jesus experienced mortality, then that must mean He too was a Savior and performed an atonement. But again, that's just not an explicit teaching of Joseph Smith, and people are on thin doctrinal ice by making those assumptions. Joseph simply teaches that the Father had power in himself "to lay down his body and take it up again". I still believe in only one "infinite atonement". I've come to believe that if the Father can create multiple worlds by the power of His Son (Moses 1:33), then he would also redeem those worlds by the power of His Son. Otherwise, we'd have to reinterpret what "infinite" means in "infinite atonement".

The King Follet sermon goes on to include many more marvelous teachings from a prophet of God, including the radical rejection of the traditional doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (or creation out of nothing). I find it so much easier to appreciate the sermon and the prophet by not getting caught up with troublesome interpretations that don't ring true. Too many people bring previous assumptions to the text, or even the Lorenzo Snow couplet, and read it through that filter, rather than looking at what Joseph Smith was actually teaching.

For the record, the Lorenzo Snow couplet states that "As man is God once was, as God is man may become". Both the Father and the Son can both correctly be referred to as God, so if we read this couplet as referring to God the Father, I think we need to remember what Joseph taught about God's mortal experience and the divine power he had while a mortal. We could gain another appreciation for it by interchanging "Jesus Christ" for "God". We know that He too was/is God--not only the Son of God, but God the Son--or as the Book of Mormon title page says, "the Eternal God". Thus, as man now is, Christ once was. As Christ now is, man may become. What does that mean? What does it not mean? If we drop our previously held assumptions, things become a lot clearer. And that's how I also view the Snow couplet, whether we're talking about the Father or the Son, they were once as man is now (experiencing mortality) and we can become divine too! That is the heart of the gospel!


Thomas Parkin said...

Hey Clean Cut,

Wrong. :) ~

Anonymous said...

Hey CleanCut

Right on!

Thomas Parkin said...

I don't mean to be dismissive. When I start my own blog - and I just might - my first post will be a refutation of this way of thinking about the word "Eternal" and related words, like "endless" or the phrase "without beginning of days." These words simply do not mean, in the scriptures, what you're taking them to mean. Brother Faux, another blogger I have a great deal of respect for, makes the same mistake.

First place to look is Sec 19. It looks like God is playing with words there, but He is actually giving us a clue into how these words are used it the scriptures.

After that, consider this - someday we will have Eternal Life. Does that mean we will always have had it? In Sec 77, there is a description of the Earth in its "eternal state" - does that mean that the earth has always been in that state? No, clearly not. "Eternal" is clearly an adjective that is meant to convey a quality beyond and beside being unchangeable in time.

"Eternal Father". One of these words must be figurative, poetic. Both cannot be literal. In the past, you've shown your preference for Father being the figurative term. We are not exactly of the same kind of being as he is - there is a qualitative difference between exalted being and the Exalted One. You say there is a limit on use of the "metaphor" of the parent child relationship between us and God. But, traditionally Mormons have not thought of the parent child relationship between the Father and ss as metaphorical, but literal, and you're taking a huge step away from that.

Also, the claim that Lorenzo Snow's couplet refers to Christ, rather than the Father, seems disingenuous to me. I don't mean to say you're not sincere, but I don't think you can interpret it so far out of the context of Lorenzo Snow's actualy beliefs.

I mean this all with respect - in fact, if you were just someone, I wouldn't both engaging you on this subject at all. But I smell danger. I really do.

Best to you, CC. ~

Clean Cut said...

Thomas, of course you're entitled to your own opinion and interpretation, and I appreciate you being willing to respectfully share where you disagree. I don't expect everyone to agree with me (at least right away!) but I've put a lot of thought and time into studying this, enough to see clearly for myself what Joseph Smith was explicitly teaching. The point I want to stress is that I believe Joseph was clearly teaching that the Father's mortal experience was more like the Son's than ours.

Also, let me clear up any confusion about Lorenzo Snow's couplet so that you don't continue to think I'm being disingenuous. I think you misread me. I wasn't trying to say that it was referring to Christ rather than the Father. I know it was referring to the Father, and wasn't trying to suggest otherwise. I'm simply saying that in my view a more correct understanding (both scriptural AND in line with what Joseph Smith taught) could be more closely achieved by interchanging "Christ" in the couplet. Otherwise people are going to get the impression that the Father's mortal experience was not divine and not as God (or exactly like us) rather than how Joseph taught it was--like Christ's (with the power to lay down his life and take it up again).

Thomas Parkin said...


Do you mean the same Joseph Smith who said the following

"If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it."

Joseph Smith clearly taught the regression of Gods. ~

Eric Nielson said...

Very well expressed. Interesting take. I am not in total agreement either, but my opinions are speculative - as are yours.

I really enjoy thinking about the possibilities. I tend to take the spirit parent/spirit child thing pretty literally, which has its implications.

It is to bad we do not have actual transcripts of some of these geat early sermons.

Tom said...

Thomas -

First, it seems that CC is saying that the Snow couplet can apply equally well to BOTH God the Father and the Son.

I believe I heard Truman Madsen teach that there was a record of Snow actually rendering the couplet with "Christ" inserted in place of "God." I don't even know how to begin to check that.

Joseph said the Son had power to do what His Father did - lay down His life and take it up again.

Joseph never says the Father was also some kind of Savior.

Thomas Parkin said...

Furthermore, my fellow, Joseph's statement that Jesus laid down His life and took it up again, as He had seen His Father do, does not mean that He saw His Father do it in a mortal experience exactly like His own. His - Jesus' - observation of the Father's Resurrection may have happened under different circumstances. Again, you're taking literally what ought to be taken figuratively, and vis-a-versa. ~

Tom said...

Just because God the Father may have also had a Father doesn't mean He was ever sinful, or that He "progressed" to become God.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for the discussion, all. Like Tom Anderson said, just because God the Father may have also had a Father doesn't mean He was ever sinful, or that He "progressed" to become God. I'm also not convinced Joseph was teaching an infinite regression of Gods, but rather he was teaching a plurality of Gods.

Thomas Parkin, you've taken one quote from the Sermon in the Grove to claim Joseph taught this, but I think it is extremely beneficial to read it all the way through in its entirety. It doesn't take that long, since the Sermon in the Grove was an expansion on the KFD, wasn't as long (since it was given in a rainstorm) and also has less note-takers (a blessing if you're wanting a quick read but a curse if you're wanting to get the best understanding of what Joseph was actually teaching).

Reading the sermon all the way in context shifts the emphasis a bit, Thomas. I get a kick out of his almost defiant confidence in response to the apostates and critics. I loved his line: "I never hear of a man being d[amne]d for belg. too much but they are d--d for unbel."

Also, reading it through in context also made me realize the emphasis was on the plurality of Gods, which of course I believe, whether we're talking about the plurality of three distinct beings within the Godhead and/or the "Sons of God". Even more than that, the idea or emphasis on a "Head God" seemed to shine through in this teaching/sermon, as demonstrated by the knowledge of Hebrew and also by quoting the Book of Abraham (which by the way, as it is quoted in the Bullock report now clearly seems to be a misquote, since the idea Joseph is actually teaching here is consistent with the Head God who is "more intelligent" than all the rest that we actually read in the book of Abraham).

This I found interesting because what most people quote from when they quote the Sermon in the Grove is the idea that the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father. Yet, reading through the sermon in full seems to make it very clear to that the idea of an infinite regression of Gods above God the Father stems from reading more into the text than is actually there, especially when the emphasis of what Joseph was teaching seemed to be on the idea of a Head God.

It is still a little unclear to me if he believed that God the Father was the Head God, or if there were several "Fathers" above him before arriving at the Head God. Or perhaps merely that God the Father had a Father when he was a mortal, just like Jesus Christ did when he became mortal? What I would like to be able to say is that Joseph believed that the Father of Jesus was the Head God and then He appointed a God unto us, which was Jesus Christ. While I think I can make a case to myself that this is what he was teaching, I'm not quite sure of it.

Nevertheless, his strong teaching about a Head God would seem to contradict this idea of an infinite regression of Gods.

Thomas Parkin said...


Sure. But why not? If we can be cleansed from all sin, be pure, spotless and Holy - then why not the Father? Is an achieved perfection any less a perfection than an inherent perfection? No, because perfection cannot contain that element which may prove its undoing, and therefore achieved perfection is as stable as inherent perfection - that is to say, achieved perfection is Eternal.

May I suggest that this apprehension is a product of tension produced by the awareness that other folks will view the idea of a God that once sinned has blasphemous - that it somehow diminishes God. It doesn't, for the reasons I gave above. ~

Thomas Parkin said...


You understanding of Joseph's sermons follows seems to follow Blake Ostler, but contradicts Joseph's close associates - and we could start pulling out an exhaustive number of quotes from them. (This isn't a diss on Blake - I think he's right about most things, but wrong about this.) ~

Clean Cut said...

I just think that if you want to know what Joseph was teaching, look at what he was teaching, not what other people say he was teaching.

Thomas Parkin said...

Unfortunately, we obviously can't decide what Joseph was teaching by reading Joseph. We sort of lose all confidence in appealing to the Bible. *wink*

It seems to me, we are likely to benefit from reading those with whom he had conversations and other intimate dealings. ~

Clean Cut said...

Unless, of course, some of his contemporaries misunderstood what Joseph was actually teaching. Since the Sermon in the Grove was given just 11 days before he was martyred, he wasn't around to clarify the teaching.

Thomas Parkin said...

That assumes that he never discussed it, or even thought of it aloud, or even speculated about it, never alluded to it, until he delivered the Sermon. King Follett was, what, some time before that. You have to imagine that in those _years_, really, that we cease having a significant amount of canonized scripture, that Joseph said nothing to his intimates about his developing views. That would seem to contradict the openness and warmth that they speak of as being typical of him.

And not some of his contemporaries, virtually all of his contemporaries. Folks that heard him speak both publicly and privately on a regular basis. I'm not saying that this was all crystal clear doctrine at the time of his death. Nor has most of it ever been canonized. But, surely, the people who knew Joseph and his mind will have something significant to say on his doctrines - more than we have at this distance.

These have not been controversial doctrines, _within the church_, until recently. This has been bedrock stuff within my lifetime.

You are obviously free to believe what you want without being trammelled for it, and at some point you just agree to disagree - but I want to make sure I've said as much as I can for the traditions you are steering clear of. ~

Clean Cut said...

According to the Bullock report (in the SitG) Joseph said: "I am bold to declare I have taught all the strong doctrines publicly--& always stronger that what I preach in private".

So I wouldn't be surprised if this was new stuff, beyond what he had even said privately.

If you think about it, all that would have had to happen for "tradition" to get off track would to have one influential proponent of infinite regression, such as Brigham Young, and then most EVERYONE would have assumed that since Brigham Young believed it, then Joseph believed it and that was the final word.

As Joseph once taught, (and I paraphrase) if you start right, then it will be easier to go right. But if you start wrong, then it is almost impossible to get right.

"Tradition" has a way of starting people off in a wrong direction (ie: the Priesthood ban). Sometimes it takes years to separate truth from tradition.

Thomas Parkin said...

Yes, but if you start right, and then go wrong ... it might take me pounding away at this for years to get you right again.

Your argument fell back at the word Eternal. ;>

I agree tradition can be a problem. It's one of (at least) two ways we lose light and truth. But it doesn't follow that something is wrong because it is traditional. ~

Thomas Parkin said...

"I want to ask this congregation, every man, woman and child, to answer the question in their own heart, what kind of a being God is? . . . Does any man or woman know? Have any of you seen him, heard him, or communed with him? . . . God himself was once as we are now , and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret."

Clean Cut said...

"I agree tradition can be a problem. It's one of (at least) two ways we lose light and truth. But it doesn't follow that something is wrong because it is traditional."


About your other comment on "Eternal", I don't think that I made any argument on this post about it. I have tried, in the past, to defend multiple interpretations of "Eternal" on my post On God, Intelligence, and Atonement.

However, I'm a little fearful that you may be making a mistake in regards to the word. If I understand you properly, you're saying that "Eternal" doesn't mean eternal. However, D&C 19 only speaks about eternal not meaning endless in specific reference to eternal damnation. Joseph learned that hell is not eternal, and that it's only called "Endless" punishment because "Endless" is another name for "God", therefore it is "God's punishment". Hell has a definite end.

But this doesn't mean that we automatically overturn ALL references to eternity in the whole Book of Mormon or D&C or in Joseph's writings. That would do serious damage to Joseph's entire theology. Remember the ring analogy? Joseph is teaching that if a spirit has a beginning, it must have an end. He concludes that no, this isn't right. We have no beginning and no end, and certainly the same holds true for God.

By any means, it seems that rather than evaluating Joseph's own words in context, you've already made up your mind that you know what he was teaching based on what other people have said through the years, and you seem to resist everything anyone says that doesn't conform with what you're personally convinced of Joseph Smith taught. I think that's a mistake.

I also think it's a mistake to lift one sentence from the Sermon in the Grove or one quote from the King Follet Sermon and base your proof off them. You can't just ignore everything that Joseph has ever said and hold to a quote than can be better understood in context with the rest of the speech.

You quote the line "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man" as if I disagree with it. Quite the contrary. I simply disagree with you're interpretation of it. I stick to what Joseph taught about it in the actual sermon. Yes, the great secret is that God once had a mortal experience. He's been through it too! Jesus Christ was also once as we are now, too. God and Jesus Christ are actual people--human beings--not some bodiless substance. (Albeit, they're are exalted and glorified beings). You can't possibly read that quote in CONTEXT and come away saying that according to Joseph, there was no difference whatsoever between our mortal experience and God's.

You seem to be wanting to make the Father's mortal experience just like ours, and Christ somehow seems to be the only sinless exception. It just doesn’t make any sense to me that a Mormon could affirm that Jesus lived a life without sin (LDS scriptures are explicit on this point D&C 45:4), but then believe it is possible that God the Father could have been a sinner and have that be consistent with Joseph Smith’s view that Jesus did what he saw his Father do before.

Anonymous said...

Madchemist said:

What an amazing discussion Clean cut.

I also think it's a mistake to lift one sentence from the Sermon in the Grove or one quote from the King Follet Sermon and base your proof off them.

You're right. That's called

Aaron said...

I’ve been interested in reading this sermon since I read bits of it in Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.

I have tried to analyze what Joseph was teaching as I read the sermon as you suggested. The “great secret”, the idea that God is an exalted man, is not such a radical idea if you believe that we were created in his image. The harder concept is the idea of this hierarchy of Gods and the grand council of Gods he mentions at the time of creation. As Bushman puts it:

“The sermon actually restores subordination and supercordination in the spirit of the Great Chain of Being. God is superior to all other intelligences, and the Kingdom of God is made up of ranks of intelligent beings ruling under His authority.”

Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, page


Particularly troubling to me is that Joseph jumps around from text to text to back up his bold claims. In his sermon he uses his interpretation of the Bible in Latin, Hebrew, Greek, and German. I have no idea how educated Joseph was in these languages, but I doubt his knowledge was more than a basic level. In addition, any return missionary who has learned another language can attest that there is not always a literal English translation of a word or phrase from that language.

So that’s my analysis, here is my opinion…

In Elder’s quorum these kinds of discussions seem to be the most popular; the doctrines that explain the big questions about before the world existed and the “last days”. I’ve sat through many of these kinds of lessons / discussions and they always irritate me. Does anybody else feel that way or am I just different? I think to myself how is this going to apply to me today and tomorrow? I know enough about who I am and where I came from. Now lets talk about how I can be a better father and husband. How I can enjoy life a little more and be happier. Does that make sense? It seems like we spend so much time on the deep complex questions that probably none of us will know the answers to until we die. In the process we lose sight of the important things in life.

Anyway, good post and lots of good discussion.

Tom said...


"Sure. But why not? If we can be cleansed from all sin, be pure, spotless and Holy - then why not the Father? Is an achieved perfection any less a perfection than an inherent perfection? No..."

I agree. But do the scriptures warrant that interpretation of Joseph's sermon? I don't think so.

Tom said...

Christ is also an exalted man.

Tom said...

Thomas - I should be a little more clear.

The conclusion that God was once a sinful man is not warranted by scripture, in my opinion.

The KFD gives us license to believe God was once a man, but it does not allow us to conclude that He was once a sinful man.

Even the Snow couplet does not require that we believe God was ever a sinner (since it too can apply simply to mortality).

Bruce in Montana said...

I wasn't going to comment, being a fundamentalist and fully accepting the Adam-God doctrine, but I think I can comment without opening that can of worms :)

I've read the Follett sermon many times and I see nothing to lead us to believe that the being that now occupies the office of "God" was not once a carnal human like us. Obviously, through eons of progression, he became pure but I'm not sure why you guys have a problem with the idea that He committed sin on his way through progression. Why wouldn't he? One can't know good without knowing evil IMHO.

Interesting thread regardless...

Eric Nielson said...


Your last comment seems ironic. I view it as a classic 'pot calling kettle black' example. You are doing the exact same thing you accuse TP of doing. You are picking which phrases to emphasize and quote. You are picking which ones to dismiss. You are mapping your own theology onto the KFD like everybody else. This is not a bad thing to do. We all do it. I just wonder if you realize that you are doing it.

I still think you did a good job of expressing your view. But to make out like you are being completely objective, with no bias in your interpretations is just silly.

Clean Cut said...

Eric, that's not what I'm doing at all. I'm actually noting what Joseph explicitly and actually says, not what he doesn't say. Having said that, I'll openly and readily admit to being biased. I'm biased in favor of letting Joseph speak for himself. I'm biased in favor of looking at the complete record and in context, rather than speculating on things he did not explicitly teach and implicit interpretations of a select quote here or there.

I'm just stating my take on it after having studied what Joseph actually taught (as oppose to things he never taught), and obviously it's impossible to quote him on everything in one blog post--so I chose to explain a few select quotes based on my understanding of the explicit and complete (as complete as we have) record.

MadChemist and Tom A, thank you both for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the supporting thoughts. It appears we see eye to eye.

Aaron, I love your comment, and especially your statement about enough already with the mysteries and let's move on to the important things, like "about how I can be a better father and husband. How I can enjoy life a little more and be happier." It may seem ironic that I completely agree with you here, since I'm the one who wrote the blog post, but a lesson in a Church setting and a blog post are completely different forums, and I couldn't agree with you more.

Just last Sunday we had a fantastic lesson on the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I came away more convinced than ever that the Spirit is the absolute key to so many things in our life journey, but especially its connection to joy. Even that which seems to be a burden without the Spirit can become a privilege when we are under the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Clean Cut said...

“I think I can comment without opening a can of worms”


Bruce, while we surly disagree on a number of things (since you are a fundamentalist and I am not), I’m glad to see that you can at least agree that nothing leads us to believe that God “was once a carnal human like us”. I don’t think Joseph was trying to give us a whole new lens with which to view or reinterpret scripture. As I mentioned earlier, he felt his teachings were in accordance with the scriptures. I think it’s most wise to stick with what the scriptures actually say, as well as with what Joseph actually said. And where the scriptures or Joseph tend to be silent, perhaps we should all try to follow in their footsteps more.

I have to disagree with you, however, on the thought that God is an “office” in which interchangeable beings can occupy the spot in the Godhead. I can see how it could be common for either a Latter-day Saint, or a fundamentalist as yourself, to take what they know from their church experience or church organization and project that onto God (like there are three people in a presidency and three people in the Godhead, so the Godhead is like a presidency meaning people rotate in and out) but I simply can't accept this in this case.

What is the point of Joseph teaching that we need to know the CHARACTER of God, if God is merely a title or and that numerous individuals can simply assume that role. I’ve heard this likened unto someone saying we need to know the President of the United States and what kind of character and person he is, but not be talking about Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson but the office of president. No one does a biography on the "title" of the president, they do it on actual people. I can't love a title or office or role, I can only love a person. How can I love a title? Wouldn't that mean once that title changes then my love changes?

Anyway, as always, just my "non-objective" take.

Tom said...

CC - Bruce said,

"I see nothing to lead us to believe that the being that now occupies the office of "God" was NOT once a carnal human like us."

I don't have a problem with the idea that God may have been a mortal sinner when taken at face value, but the scriptures don't allow us to make that interpretation, in my opinion, even if we supplement with the KFD.

All Joseph says is God was once like us. Certainly that means He was once mortal, but can we logically assume that it also means He was a sinner when Joseph didn't say that?

Clean Cut said...

Whoops. I misread Bruce.

Clean Cut said...

He opened a can of worms after all! :)

Bruce in Montana said...

Has anyone seen my worm-can lid? :)

Yes, after considering it, I agree that it leaves it to our interpretation as to whether God's mortal existance was sinless or not.

I'm getting off track and it wasn't my intention to hyjack the thread with the "office" discussion so I'll briefly comment and leave it alone.
From what I have studied, many times our references to God, Christ, Savior, etc., are used more frequently in referring to the office or title than to the individual.
"I am the Lord God Almighty, and endless is my name, for I am without beginning of days or end of years."
This, IMHO, can only refer to the office because the individual occupying that position is not without "beginning of days or end of years." He WAS born or begotten as all human beings have been. But he came to occupy an office that has always existed and always will.

My opinion only...
Mileage may vary...

Clean Cut said...

"This, IMHO, can only refer to the office because the individual occupying that position is not without 'beginning of days or end of years.'"

Actually, it's my understanding that Joseph taught that in the non-physical body respect, at least, we all are without beginning of days or end of years.

"God made man out of the earth and put into him his spirit and then it became a living body. The mind of man--the intelligent part is coequal with God himself. I know that my testimony is true. Hence when I talk to these mourners what have they lost--They are only separated from their bodies for a short season but their spirits existed coequal with God and they now exist in a place where they converse together as much as we do on the earth. Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet have a beginning because if a spirit have a beginning it will have an end--good logic-- (Clayton Report April 7, 1844)."

The difference was that Christ was God before he ever became a mortal. He didn't come "to occupy an office" or progress to fill a "role". He was that role! That's who he was and is (and who I believe he always was.)

Bruce in Montana said...

I see your point CC, but "without beginning of days or end of years."
seems very "physical body" to me.

Clean Cut said...

How come? Why does it "seem" to you to be more of a reference to our physical bodies? Under that logic, since there was a "beginning" to our physical bodies, there will also be an "end". I don't believe that. I believe those physical bodies, once resurrected, will always be with us in immortality/eternal life. So I just can't see what would lead you to apply that statement to our physical bodies rather than that portion of our intelligence/spirit that is co-eternal with God.

Thomas Parkin said...


CC is of course mapping his own views on to texts. You are 100% right in saying this is what we do. We all see everything from within the constructs of what we choose to believe. It takes a monumental psychological effort to suspend this - I'm certainly not doing it in this discussion, and I don't intend to. It is one thing to do it, another thing to not be able to acknowledge it. The refusal to acknowledge this is, in my experience, an indication of arguing in bad faith, which isn't something I intend to engage anyone in. CC is not only dismissing, out of hand, quotes from Joseph Smith - but decades of quotes from church leaders and scholars, the vast majority of which do not affirm his position. His readings are possible and consistent but not logically necessary, nor, in my view, likely. I think the discussion can be no more than hurling paragraphs back and forth. Which is what it has been.

I disagree strongly that this isn't important stuff - especially at a certain level of development. It certainly seems to have been important to Joseph and his crew. Perhaps an open discussion on why it was so important to them would lead to something.

Finally, if we really want to "get back to basics", only personal revelation solves these problems for individuals. It isn't a matter of discussing and asserting who has the stronger and weaker view. This is all just shooting around in the dark.

"God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them... "

o/ ~

Clean Cut said...

Thomas, now you're getting personal. That's crossing a line.

By the way, I have not dismissed ANY quote from Joseph Smith here. I've only explained quotes in context with the rest of his teachings. Big difference.

Bruce in Montana said...

Well, I can't see why a spirit would concern itself with days, years, and other physical limitations. We'll just have to agree to disagree over that one.

Let me try another angle... :)

Section 95...Jesus Christ calls himself "Son Ahman: or, in other words, Alphus; or, Omegus; even Jesus Christ your Lord"....then in verse 7 He calls himself the "Lord of the Sabaoth", meaning the "creator of the first day, the beginning and the end."
IMHO these have to be "titles". Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, was not the creator of the first day, the beginning and the end; that day was created long before this Jesus became an embodied spirit.
"Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who created the heavens and the earth"
The way I'm reading this it says that the Father of Jesus Christ, not Jesus Christ, is credited with being the creator.
I don't think spirit children, even the 1st begotten spirit child, are creators of worlds and I'm absolutely sure they are not fathers of spirits before they have taken on bodies and become resurected beings themselves.
These ideas must be referring to offices IMHO.

Sorry to be so long-winded.
This is probably not something that can adequately be addressed in a blog format and I'm just submitting food-for-thought.
Further discussion would get into the Adam-God doctrine and this, I'm sure you'll agree, is not the place.

With respect CC,

Thomas Parkin said...


I shouldn't have come after you in the way I have - not just in this thread, but from the first time you started alluding to these views - at least on your blog. Perhaps the reason that you show so little give is that I have come after you like a bulldog.

The reason I am taking my recent more personal tack is because I feel that you are being obtuse and not copping to it. I'm being obtuse, but I am copping to it. I have a thing with folks I respect, and that is that I don't cosign their bull-pucky. I'm fully prepared to get the same in return. Like I said, if you were just some dude who I had no feeling about, or positive view of, there is no way I'd make a stink about any of it. If you think your views are simply a logical reading on the whole gamut of Joseph's teachings on the subject - the only way you can reach that conclusion is to highlight certain aspects of that totality at the expense of other aspects. You have to ignore most of what has been said on the subject in order to maintain that perspective on your reading.

And, at that, I surrender. I hope there are no permanent hard feelings. ~

Clean Cut said...

Yeah, Bruce, I can see that thoughts about "embodied spirits" (which we have zero information about) and what exactly it means to be a "begotten spirit child" would be better saved for another post/debate--perhaps J. Stapley's Tripartite existentialism post.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks Thomas. You might sense some rigidity here on my own blog because it’s the place where I get to be the authority on what I personally believe and share the things I feel passionate about.

I'll admit that in the real world, I understand there are other viewpoints and interpretations. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to defend and argue for every position that any Mormon authority has ever had, but I’m interested in sharing with people that at least there is not one “official” way of interpreting this. There are various interpretations and ways of looking at this. I’ve done my best to state my view/interpretations based on what Joseph explicitly taught (as opposed to implicit teachings), and I’m not going to budge on what I have felt a personal confirmation of correctness.

I try to be flexible in my understanding that Mormonism is a large tent with many unique and divergent views, but I still believe some views are stronger and others are weaker.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I dismiss all tradition. For example, I believe in a Heavenly Mother. I just generally feel strongly that we should not be reading the scriptures with extra-scriptural/traditional lenses. I also don't think we should read the King Follet sermon by first putting on "tradition" lenses. As mentioned, if you start out right, it makes it easier to go right. But if you start off wrong, you're not going to go right.

My point is only this, and this is what I would say to both Latter-day Saints and their critics: If you want to know what Joseph Smith was teaching, look at what he was actually teaching. Now you said that we “can't decide what Joseph was teaching by reading Joseph.” I strongly disagree with this logic. We can't decide what Joseph was teaching by reading Joseph? But we are more likely to know what Joseph taught by reading what other people than Joseph believed? This makes no sense at all to me—it even seems wrong to me.

If you want to know what I believe, then ask me, don't ask all my friends what I believe. I'm the expert on what I believe. If we want to know what Joseph taught we must do every thing we can to read and learn directly from Joseph. We don't take the teachings of those who came after Joseph and then assume that this is what Joseph must have taught. It just doesn't work that way. If that is the case, then we never have to study Joseph, there is no need. This, to me, would be a huge mistake.

Apparently we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

Thomas Parkin said...

"You might sense some rigidity here on my own blog because it’s the place where I get to be the authority on what I personally believe and share the things I feel passionate about."

Yes. And, in fact, if it were my blog, I would have just deleted my comments. *smirk*

Yes. We cannot understand Joseph only by reading Joseph. Just like we can't understand the Bible just by reading the Bible. We _do_ actually ave to read Jospeh, read the Bible, etc. But spiritual things are spiritually understood. This discussion shows, for the umptillionith time, that people can read the same texts and come to very different conclusions. (I've read both the SG and the KFD I don't know how many times ... dozens and dozens.)

Glad there are no bad feelings. I think your are a good thoughtful man, a good thoughtful Mormon. ~

Bruce in Montana said...

That's an interesting thread...thanks.

Back to King Follett if that's ok...
I'm too lazy this time of night to document my sources but I recall that either 2 or 3 people recorded the sermon and the repetitions were later omitted.
Joseph was reported to have spoke from 2 to 2 1/2 hours to 10,000-20,000 people..depending on your source. (Imagine that without a microphone) I can read it out of "Teachings" in about 30 minutes....SO... I think there is a lot that we just don't have.
It is still, IMHO, a beautiful discourse and worthy of cannonization (if that's a word).

Clean Cut said...

Thanks again, Thomas.

Perhaps I can at least give one unsolicited piece of advice, though, for when you do get around to starting your own blog. If you truly want to win someone over to your side, you'd certainly be wise to not come at them like a "bulldog"--"pounding away" to get them to accept your line of thinking.

Whether you're talking with critics or with fellow Latter-day Saints, you don't want to defeat them, you want to get them on your side. I don't want to defeat anyone, rather I want to turn them into friends and join me. That's hard to do. I can defeat people in a game of argument. But does that make them friends? Does that help the cause? Does, that change how they represent Mormonism. No, it doesn't. It just makes them more convinced of their ways. I don't want to defeat people, but win them over to my side. :)

Thomas Parkin said...

That is very good advice. But personalities change slowly, even under profound spiritual influences. I'm likely to be a little pugnacious for a few years, yet.

I've been doing this since before my first Prodigy account. I first started arguing with people on the internet something like fifteen years ago. Believe me, I could point you to some things that would demonstrate how relatively tame I've become. :) I've been a figurehead of menace in large online communities, and had, at least consciously, no problem being hated for things I said.

What's funny ... when I first started reading the 'naccle, I'd see people talk about flames and arguments and I would have no idea when they were talking about. I thought, I haven't seen anything remotely like a flame, this place is a field of daisies. But, over the last couple years, as I've become more sensitive to people, I see that there are indeed hurtful things said and done. Naturally, I don't want to be a part of that.

For me, this is all evidence that the Atonement works. My nature is very much changed. I find I can no longer hold a grudge. At the first sign of bending, my heart will go out to a person. I no longer feel the same degree of need I once felt to press my advantages. This is not the person I've been since I was young, but am again and more. And this is not because of my efforts, but because getting a glimpse of myself I have wanted to change and have done those things that invited the influence of the Holy Ghost, which does the work. Grace, as you say. ~

Tom said...


"Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who created the heavens and the earth"

I see how you are getting your interpretation of the Father as Creator and not the Son. Perhaps you can enlighten us further on how you reached your conclusions - your opinion seems unsustainable in view of Mos. 3:8, Moses 1:32-34, or numerous references in the OT to Jehovah as the Creator.

In the old 6th missionary discussion, there was an entire principle devoted to Jesus Christ as the Creator.

Or we could go to the words of Joseph Smith. Once, on trial, the prosecutor decided for some odd reason to test Joseph's biblical knowledge, asking, "What was the first miracle Jesus performed?"

Joseph replied, "He created the earth." (Truman Madsen, in Joseph Smith the Prophet.)

Richard Alger said...

"I'm also not convinced Joseph was teaching an infinite regression of Gods, but rather he was teaching a plurality of Gods." -CC

I have long been comfortable with an infinite regression of Gods. Joseph seems to be referring to it here.

"that another who is wiser than the wisest may exist-- intelligences exist one above anotr. that there is no end to it-- if Abra. reasoned thus--
if J. C. was the Son of God & John discd. that God the Far. of J. C. had a far. you may suppose that he had a Far. also---where was ther ever a Son witht. a Far.---where ever did tree or any thing spring into existence witht. a progenitor-- & every thing comes in this way--Paul says that which is Earthyly is in likeness of that which is Heavenly-- hence if J. had a Far. can we not believe that he had a Fa.r also"

He said "that there is no end to it" and then went on to reason that there never was a father who was not also a son.

This made more sense to me when I studied calculus. It boggled my mind that I could figure out things that went out infinitely, at least in a limited way. When I think about Joseph's analogy that a father is also a son, it makes so much sense to me.

I also agree with others that it is important not to get too caught up in the things we do not know for sure. Whoever is more correct in this discussion is far less important than my personal covenant relationship with God. That I rid myself of pride and humbly ask for His grace to overcome my weaknesses. And then stand up and get to work at it.

Aaron said...

Well hey one things for sure Spence, when you finish school and go into public office you'll know what a good debate is like :)

Bruce in Montana said...

I totally understand your view. That is the current view of the Church. To explain my view would be getting into the Adam-God doctrine which is complicated at best and not suitable for blog format. (Not to mention I'm not trying to turn CC's blog into a fundamentalist doctrine launch pad.)
Here's a link but be's lengthy.

Aaron said...

But if Adam was God our Father in Heaven, who was it that appeared to Adam and Eve in the garden?

Bruce in Montana said...

Adam-God doctrine adherents would say that the entity conversing with Adam in the garden was His (Michael's) god from the sphere that he came from.
Orson Pratt and Brigham Young publicly discussed/debated it and it's all available for anyone that want's to dive in....take your vitamins's lengthy stuff.

Jim said...

Very interesting discussion. What I've taken from this is that, yes, topics like this are important, but I can't believe that our salvation rests on them. With questions like these, I believe it is good that we individually ponder and develop our own understanding, but it seems fruitless to try to convince someone else that our understanding is the correct one.

Aaron said...

Yeah I think I like the church better when I stick to the basics. Some of that far out doctrine just makes my head spin.

Clean Cut said...

These are not deep complex questions. It is simply a matter of wanting to know what Joseph Smith taught. Either we want to know or we don't. I've had an interest in knowing for myself.

I personally believe we can let Joseph speak for himself. I think it's a bit lazy to conclude that we can't really figure out what he was teaching and its all speculation; therefore it's not worth the mental effort. No, my point was to separate the speculation from what Joseph was actually teaching.

I've spent a lot of time trying to understand the Bible. I simply disagree that we can't understand the Bible by reading the Bible. Yes it's very helpful to seek help from those with more understanding and yes, there will still be parts we may not understand. But I still have an obligation to read the Bible if I want to understand the Bible. If I want to understand a book, the best way is to read that book. We may still come to various interpretations of those verses based on the different lenses we read with, but I don't think that is an excuse NOT to study the actual source and let it speak for itself.

There are many Christians that can understand the Bible and do understand the Bible by reading the Bible. Similarly, I think it's possible, despite the gaps, to understand Joseph Smith by reading Joseph Smith. Let's focus on what we DO have, rather than what we don't have, and not just the amalgamated version (which contains interpretation) but also the notes of the scribes. For me, that's the next best thing to time travel and being there in person. Reading them in one sitting made me feel like I was almost there, and wishful that I could have actually seen and heard the Prophet speak in person.

In this post I desired to discuss what IS written and what the text actually says, as opposed to traditional interpretations that require bringing a previous assumption into the text but which Joseph never actually teaches.

Clean Cut said...

Another thing I learned through personal experience is that we can gain new insight by reading his sermons in one sitting. I think we lose so much just with isolated quotes here and there. It's simply impossible to gain a deep and full appreciation of his teachings without reading it from start to finish.

This was especially helpful with the Sermon in the Grove and seeing the emphasis shift away from an infinite regression of gods to one Head God among the gods, more intelligent than all the rest.

Rich asks a good question about the quote: "where ever did tree or any thing spring into existence witht. a progenitor?" If this was the case, I would point out that Joseph Smith is the one who taught that spirits are uncreated and co-eternal with God, and do not have a progenitor. This might be why Blake Ostler believes Joseph Smith must be talking about mortality. A tree having a progenitor is something that happens in earth life. But according to Joseph, there is no creation to spirits. It makes sense. It's logical. The transcript says "every thing comes in this way" but apparently not everything comes in this way because spirits are co-eternal with God and in the beginning with God and there is "no creation about it" (Joseph's words). So this just can't seem to be referring to spirits but to earth life--according to Joseph's own teachings.

When we have several like sermons where Joseph is trying to show there is a Head God and when he says over and over that spirits are not created, to take one sentence of a sermon that has gaps in it, it doesn't make sense to overturn everything Joseph has taught just because of one sentence. And yet, I feel this might be what is happening. But obviously I don't presume to have the final word.

My own view is that given the whole sweep of the sermon and Joseph's other sermons and the scriptures, I'm not at all clear we have all the information in the Sermon in the Grove. We only have the Bullock report, no other reporters, and he misses things. There are a lot of incomplete sentences. The sentences stop in the middle and start in the middle. It isn't a complete transcript. I'm not comfortable overturning Joseph's views by focusing on one cryptic sentence and ignoring everything else.

Thomas Parkin said...

"one Head God among the gods, more intelligent than all the rest. "

One head God in charge of the council that convened before the 'foundations' of this 'world.' Our Father. This reconciles the idea of a head God, and the numerous quotes from both Joseph and others, regarding the fact that, for instance fathers were always once sons.

This thing you keep saying ... I do not think it means what you think it mean. *wink*

"the mental effort"

What is really required in spiritual effort. If all that was required was mental effort than everyone who expends x amount of mental effort would come to the same conclusions, and clearly that is not the case. Spiritual effort will not bring us to the same conclusions instantly, but will over time.

One thing for sure, this effort, while it can and should be augmented by interacting with others, is ultimately an individual endeavor. ~

Jim said...

I don't mean this as a "knock" against anyone- I often am in awe at the insights and knowledge that others have as I read different posts around the 'nacle- many of which I don't fully understand. But I wonder if there is a fine line where we sometimes begin speculating in areas where it isn't really beneficial and potentially detrimental.

In contrast, I like these quotes from Elder Causse (General Conference, Oct. 2008): "...our Heavenly Father is always available to us. He adapts to our level of understanding. “If He comes to a little child, He will adapt himself to the language and capacity of a little child” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 3:392)."

"...our knowledge of God does not depend on the amount of information we accumulate. After all, all the knowledge of the gospel which is meaningful for our salvation can be summarized in a few points of doctrine, principles, and essential commandments, which are already there in the missionary lessons we receive before baptism. Knowing God is a matter of opening our hearts to gain a spiritual understanding and a fervent testimony of the truth of these few fundamental points of doctrine. Knowing God is having a testimony of His existence and feeling in one’s heart that He loves us. It is accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and having a fervent desire to follow His example."

As with many things in life, I think the trick is finding the right balance between being content with what we have and striving for improvement.

Bruce in Montana said...

Well stated Jim...thanks.
I would only take mild issue with the idea that trying to understand the exact nature of God is somehow an area that isn't beneficial.
With respect..Joseph Smith taught us that "the first principle of the Gospel is to know for a certainty the Character of God.”
Correct me if I'm wrong but that says to me that the knowledge of who God really is is as important, or more so, than understanding things like the atonement.
(if I'm reading something into what you said that you didn't mean, I apologize)
I don't see an exchange of ideas, if it's kept civil, to be anything detrimental.
We don't have to come out agreeing but the exchange keeps us from getting "set in our ways" and close-minded IMHO. At least it does for me.

Jim said...

I'm don't mean to say that we shouldn't try to understand the nature of God. Certainly that is something we should strive for. I only question at what point we should be content or satisfied with the knowledge that we have.

And if people such as Clean Cut and Thomas Parkin, for example (obviously there are many others), that have dedicated much time and effort to better understand God, have studied many of the same materials, etc., and still reach different conclusions, it makes me wonder if my efforts are better spent elsewhere. Is that a copout?

I think I understand the basics- that God is the father of our spirits, we are his children, he loves us and prepared a plan for us to progress to be like Him, etc. I am sure that I could add a few other similar fundamental doctrines. I do not know all there is to know and am happy to learn more, but are these basics not sufficient?

I liked one of Thomas' earlier comments that the things of the spirit are discerned and learned by the spirit and not necessarily through sheer effort and research (my paraphrase). But the spirit can't teach one truth to one person and an opposing truth to someone else, right?

So, what is the course to take?

Thomas Parkin said...


I don't think we should ever be content. (Think of the man with one talent). But I also don't think it is necessary to understand all these things we've been talking about. I think you start from where you are, and live the basics, and learn how to receive revelation, and get where you are receiving revelations regularly. And then I think it is good to remember that this is stuff that Joseph was concerned about a long time after virtually everything we have canonized from him. I'm certainly very much still working with the 1830 stuff, not the 1844 stuff - in terms of my personal life.

A couple of my favorites are these:

Alma 12

9 ... It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receivables the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

So, if we don't harden our hearts, we will receive more of the word (in studying, praying, church attendance, everything) until we understand God in full. Also, it is interesting to me that to know nothing of the mysteries of God is hell. Great stuff.

And this from D&C 50:

"That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. "

So, I think the answer is be grateful for what you have, but not content. Living the gospel is an expansive process, though which we are slowly embiggened (one of my favorite non-words) - but in which we never get to rest on our laurels.

Another thought: real knowledge is always at least partially experiential. It is not just a collection of ideas. We do not know the love of God because we can say interesting things about it - but only as we've experienced it and it has begun to underlay our character.

As to the basics, I don't believe we ever leave them behind but that they continue to be principals that propel us forward as we advance in understanding and being.

The following from Hebrews interests me ... the author has been talking about having much to say of Christ, but that he can't because his audience is unprepared, that they still have need of milk and are not prepared for meat. Then he say this, in Cp 6

"1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
3 And this will we do, if God permit. "

Joseph Smith translates "...not leaving the principals..." He says, how can we be saved in them if we leave them behind. That is right - but the message is partly the same, either way. That there are things beyond the first principals which are involved in being perfected, and that the author of Hebrews, as well as Joseph Smith, found that they wanted to communicate them.

Cool. ~

Jim said...

Good points, and I agree. One of my favorite aspects of the gospel is that of continuous and even eternal progression. It does sometimes seem as though there is a point of diminishing returns, but perhaps that is my own cycnism mixed with natural-man laziness/excuses.

I also do love the concept of line upon line, but again, it is the natural man that becomes impatient and only wants to be "done"- to check off the box and have reached the goal instead of loving the process of becoming.

As you alluded to, our compassionate and loving Father does give us more knowledge, but only as we are prepared for it. With knowledge comes accountability, and He will not allow us to be accountable until we are prepared for it.

Also, I think the law of the harvest is applicable- sometimes we want things (such as greater knowledge), but we can't expect blessings without the effort required to achieve them.

Finally, I love this quote from you: "...real knowledge is always at least partially experiential. It is not just a collection of ideas. We do not know the love of God because we can say interesting things about it - but only as we've experienced it and it has begun to underlay our character."

Sometimes I have gained this type of experience through reading and seeing things in a new way that I hadn't considered. But if I understand you correctly, you are saying that true knowledge is gained through not just study but by fully living the gospel. I do think that my experiential knowledge is somewhat weak. But I suppose this comes with time, effort, and patience.

Sorry, Clean Cut, if this was a blogjack. Thank you again, Thomas, for your thoughts.

Clean Cut said...

Jim, don't feel bad at all. It sparked a very profound (IMHO) comment by Thomas Parkin.

Thomas, I think that your last comment is excellent. I really appreciate the insights.

Anonymous said...

Clean Cut:

May I make a suggestion? If you have a chance you may want to get a copy of The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo discourses of the Prophet Joseph which may help put this discourse into a doctrinal and historical context. It is one of the Prophet's "public sermons [which] would serve us well in the quest for preparation" for the endowment - What is an Endowment?.

Anonymous said...

As a follow up to my last comment, here is an excerpt from a footnote to this discourse in The Words of Joseph Smith, p. 394, n. 1:

Traditionally considered the Prophet's greatest sermon, the King Follett discourse was delivered at a time when both anti-Mormon and apostate sentiment was intensifying. "Accusations were repeatedly being made," notes B. H. Roberts, "that President Smith was a fallen prophet." On this occasion he coolly claimed that this single discourse would vindicate his prophetic calling. Although the sermon contains no new doctrine, never before had Joseph Smith so thoroughly, eloquently, and with such power presented what by now had become the very life-blood of Mormon theology. B. H. Roberts added that "The Prophet lived his life in a crescendo. From small beginnings, it rose in breadth and power as he neared its close. As a teacher he reached the climax of his career in this discourse (Teachings, pp. 355-56). Joseph Fielding, one who knew all that the dissenters knew of the Prophet's private teachings, including plural marriage, the endowment, and the Council of Fifty, had "evidence enough [from the discourse] that Joseph [was] not fallen." So affected was he by this sermon that he asserted "any one that could not see in him the Spirit of Inspiration of God must be dark. They might have known that he was not a fallen Prophet even if they thought he was fallen."

Clean Cut said...

I think that's a great suggestion Greg. From all I've heard, Ehat and Cook's "The Words of Joseph Smith" is much more comprehensive than say, "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" by Joseph Fielding Smith, which are only selections that JFS personally wanted to include.

Serious scholarly work of Joseph Smith's writings can't only depend on "Teachings" but rather on all the scribes' individual writings. Apparently it's really hard to find Ehat and Cook's book now, and it seems to be very expensive. However, I've been told by a friend that LDS Library 2009 has hundreds of books and a huge selection of writings of Joseph Smith, including "Words of Joseph Smith". I'm strongly considering ordering this resource. It seems invaluable.

C.J. said...

Hi--I just found your blog from Mormanity. Great post, I really enjoyed it. I wish there were more such well reasoned, thoughtful explanations of doctrinal issues out there.

Tony said...

Wow! Quite the discussion on here, and some good points brought up, especially I thought from our fundamentalist friend.

I have to say that this post caused somewhat of a paradigm shift for me. Personally, I really like your view on the KFD, from what we have recorded. It's not something I'll struggle many a night over, but I appreciate what seems to be taught clear enough in it and that we can see it in such a positive light while others may call it heresy.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever read the Sermon on the Grove? You have to do some real mental gymnastics to not interpret the KFD in the traditional sense, in light of this.

Clean Cut said...

Anonymous, I appreciate the question. However, it is clear you have not read further into the comments when I do indeed address the Sermon in the Grove. In light of my careful reading of that sermon, I must politely, but strongly, disagree with you.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that there is not a more comforting doctrine than the idea that even us, in our sinful state, can eventually be perfected and become like our Father in Heaven. Abraham's covenant is our covenant (see D&C 132) and where is Abraham? He is where we hope to be: exalted with the Father and a joint heir with Christ and therefore a God preparing to reign over worlds without end the same way that our Father does. (see D&C 132 and pay particular attention to verses 20, 29-31). See also

Clean Cut said...

Are you the same "Anonymous" as above? Do you mind using a different handle/name? I'd be happy to have a conversation, but it's hard to keep anonymous people straight. Also, is that your own blog to which you linked?

Richard Alger said...


'Things went pretty well. But right at the end of the final lecture, something peculiar happened. A member of the audience asked me a question. He said, “What you have been telling us this week about romanticism and the death of God where religion becomes art is premised on a certain understanding of God, namely that God is unitary and infinite. Would you agree?” “Sure,” I said, “At least two of the predicates of the divinity are that he/she/it is unitary and infinite.” Gosh, I was smart back then. “But what if,” he went on, “God were plural and finite?”
For Joseph Smith, it is turtles all the way down. There is an endless regress of Gods which beget one another, but which do not beget the universe. '

I am not trying to state that an infinite regress of Gods is correct. Only that it is interesting that this has made the NY Times. That many people will end up seeing this as orthodox Mormon belief.

Clean Cut said...

Matt said...

If you listen to talks from Apostles and prophets such as Bruce R McConkie, many of the comments back and forth will seem pointless. There is only one plan of Salvation. It is perfect and will always be perfect. Looking logically at the word "exalted", if God the Father is exalted, how did He exalt Himself? That's impossible. If it was possible then it would fit well with the sectarian belief that God created Himself. The truth is that God is God because He was exalted by someone above Him. His Father. And so on. Also if God the Father "had power to lay down His life and take it again" then why don't we ask ourselves why he was even able to lay down His life? The only reason Jesus Christ laid down His life was because of the fall. God the Father cannot lay down His life anymore. That's why He needed a Savior for us. He gave the Savior the power to take up His life again, but again it proves that there is a regression of God's, and that the plan of salvation is perfect and will always be used. Although different experiences in different eternities can happen, the plan works perfectly. There will always be a creation, a fall and an atonement.

Matt said...

Also the word eternity does actually have multiple meanings, depending on how it is used. "From all eternity to all eternity" indicates forever and ever. But we live in an "eternity" meaning our galaxy, created by God. Our eternity has a beginning and an end. Then more "eternities" will spring up. Our eternity is 2,555,000,000 years old. The source I have comes from Lorenzo Snow where he states "I remember once being in the office in Nauvoo where the Prophet Joseph Smith and some other brethren got to talking about the length of an eternity." That would make no sense if we didn't understand eternity in that sense. He goes on and says says: "One of the brethren, possibly Phelps, went to work and managed to get the number of years that composed an eternity. President Smith said that was correct." There we go, the prophet sanctions it. Go listen to some talks by Bruce R. Mcconkie about the plan of salvation and you will hear him teach that there is only one plan, there is always a Firstborn Son who becomes the Only Begotten of the Father. Each eternity requires a Savior. If we become exalted and create our own eternities with our own spirit children then we will also need to have a Son, willing to atone for their sins. Other past eternities need to have their own atonement's made for them. How can they know a Savior whom they've never heard, seen or met. How can they love someone who atoned for them trillions of years later. No every eternity has a beginning and an end. We are at the end of ours, because we are in the last dispensation of the fulness of times. We are the wrap up of everything. Once this is done it will be finished. Christ's atonement covers other worlds in this eternity. I have sources for all of this too.

Matt said...

Another thing brought up is that God the Father should not be viewed as the creator, that Jesus Christ is the creator. It is true in the sense that yes Christ created under the direction of the Father, as the agent. In the book of Abraham, God the first (the Father) is the creator, God the second is the redeemer (Jesus Christ), and God the third is the testator (The Holy Ghost). That source comes from Joseph Smith, although you will notice it is not in the pearl of great price because Joseph didn't have time to put it in sadly, among many other things, But it was said.

Now with all that said when it says the "Head God called together the gods" we can understand clearly that the Father of this eternity called all of us together. When this is all said and done, Christ will deliver up everything to His Father, and then take His place as a Father. God will always be progressing. Don't misunderstand me though. Not progressing in the sense of learning, but progressing in the sense of kingdoms, glory, and power. Jesus Christ was learning all the way up until He received a fulness.

Matt said...

I love discussing and learning about the Gospel! I don't enjoy back and forth conversations that have little to no support for what has been said. Everything I've said can be backed up to sure sources. I think it's awesome you are writing blogs on the Gospel! Keep it up!