Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Becoming Gods/Chapter 6

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 6: Siblings from Eternity Past"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism, a work by author: Richard Abanes
Claim Evaluation
Becoming Gods
Chart.becoming.gods.ch6.jpg

Response to claims made in Becoming Gods, "Chapter 6: Siblings from Eternity Past"

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Response to claim: 154 - Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother "through some kind of sexual union" clothed each of us with a spirit body

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother "through some kind of sexual union" clothed each of us with a spirit body.

Author's sources: Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 750.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The means by which spirits are created are not known. The source nowhere makes the author's claim.

Question: Did Bruce R. McConkie claim in Mormon Doctrine that our heavenly parents created our spirits "through some kind of sexual union"?

Elder McConkie never talks about a sexual union between our heavenly parents in Mormon Doctrine

It has been claimed that Bruce R. McConkie in his book Mormon Doctrine talks of a "sexual union" between heavenly parents.[1] However, nothing in Elder McConkie's statements in Mormon Doctrine say anything about spirit creation via "some kind of sexual union."

Relevant passages include:

Entry Spirit Birth: "1. In the literal sense, the expression spirit birth has reference to the birth of the spirit in pre-existence. Spirits are actually born as the offspring of a Heavenly Father, a glorified and exalted Man. They will be born in a future eternity to future exalted beings for whom the family unit continues."

Entry Spirit Bodies: "Our spirit bodies had their beginning in pre-existence when we were born as the spirit children of God our Father. Through that birth process spirit element was organized into intelligent entities. The bodies so created have all the parts of mortal bodies."

Entry Spirit Children:"1. All men in pre-existence were the spirit children of God our Father, an exalted, glorified, and perfected Man. "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's" (D. & C. 130:22); the offspring born to him in that primeval sphere had bodies of spirit element....In a future eternity, spirit children will be born to exalted, perfected glorified couples for whom the family unit continues. The very glory of exalted beings is to have "a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever."

Elder McConkie emphasizes that spirit children are the literal offspring of God, but the means of their creation is not specified. The Heavenly Mother is not even mentioned. This does not necessarily mean that Elder McConkie or other General Authorities did not personally believe that such a thing was achieved through some sort of sexual intercourse - only that it was not Church doctrine.


Response to claim: 156, 394 n. 28-31 - The belief in a "Heavenly Mother" is not supported by scripture and was simply added by Joseph Smith

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

The belief in a "Heavenly Mother" is not supported by scripture and was simply added by Joseph Smith so that his views about God "would make sense."

Author's sources:
  • Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 98.
  • Cannon, in Daniel H. Ludlow, vol. 2, p. 961.
  • Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 516.
  • Gordon B. Hinckley, "Daughters of God," Ensign (Nov. 1991), 100. off-site

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

None of the cited LDS sources make the claim that Joseph "simply added" the belief so his views "would make sense."

Gospel Topics: "Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them"

"Becoming Like God," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

Eliza R. Snow, a Church leader and poet, rejoiced over the doctrine that we are, in a full and absolute sense, children of God. “I had learned to call thee Father, / Thru thy Spirit from on high,” she wrote, “But, until the key of knowledge / Was restored, I knew not why.” Latter-day Saints have also been moved by the knowledge that their divine parentage includes a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father. Expressing that truth, Eliza R. Snow asked, “In the heav’ns are parents single?” and answered with a resounding no: “Truth eternal / Tells me I’ve a mother there.”45 That knowledge plays an important role in Latter-day Saint belief. As Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote, “Our theology begins with heavenly parents. Our highest aspiration is to be like them.”[2]


Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe in a female divine person, a "Heavenly Mother" as counterpart to God, the Heavenly Father?

Latter-day Saints infer the existence of a Heavenly Mother through scripture and modern revelation

Because LDS theology rejects the doctrine of creation out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) as a post-Biblical addition to Christian belief, and because they see God as embodied in human form while rejecting creedal Trinitarianism, having a female counterpart to Our Heavenly Father seems logical and almost inevitable. This is especially true given the LDS embrace of the doctrine of theosis, or human deification. Thus, the Heavenly Mother shares parenthood with the Father, and shares His attributes of perfection, holiness, and glory.

There is evidence for this doctrine in ancient Israel,[3] and within the Book of Mormon.[4]

As early as 1839, Joseph Smith taught the idea of a Heavenly Mother.[5] Eliza R. Snow composed a poem (later set to music) which provides the most well-known expression of this doctrine:[6]

In the heav´ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I´ve a mother there.
When I leave this frail existence,
When I lay this mortal by,
Father, Mother, may I meet you
In your royal courts on high?

In 1909 the First Presidency, under Joseph F. Smith, wrote that

man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father [as an] offspring of celestial parentage...all men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity....[7]

The 1995 statement issued by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles, entitled The Family: A Proclamation to the World, states that all men and women are children of heavenly parents (plural), which implies the existence of a Mother in Heaven.[8]

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.


Response to claim: 157 - According to Brigham Young, our spirit body was created via a sexual union of Heavenly Father and Mother

The author(s) of Becoming Gods make(s) the following claim:

According to Brigham Young, our spirit body was created via a sexual union of Heavenly Father and Mother.

Author's sources: Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:123.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Brigham probably did believe that, since he knew of no other way that this could have happened.



Question: What have Latter-day Saint leaders actually said about the method of procreation in the afterlife?

Church leaders have said very little about this, because little is known about the process

The fact that we do not know the exact process by which “spirit children” are created does not mean that LDS leaders have not speculated on the process. There are a few quotes that are often used to support the critics’ concept of “Celestial sex," which we will now examine:

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 387

"[I]ntelligence or spirit element became intelligences after the spirits were born as individual [spirit] entities."

Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 750

"Our spirit bodies had their beginning in pre-existence when we were born as the spirit children of God our Father. Through that birth process spirit element was organized into intelligent entities."

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, 122

"[God] created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be."
— Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:122..

John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology, p. 69

The author of the anti-Mormon book Becoming Gods says the following:

"As for the sexual aspect of this event, LDS apostle John A. Widtsoe explained, 'Sex Among the Gods. Sex, which is indispensable on this earth for the perpetuation of the human race, is an eternal quality which has its equivalent everywhere.'" (p. 392, n14)

Upon reading the quote above, it does indeed sound as if Widtsoe is talking about a “sex act” among gods. It must be noted, however, that Widtsoe referred to "sex" as a "quality" rather than a "practice." Of course, the fact that two genders exist at all implies that it somehow takes both to accomplish the creation of spirit children. Looking at Widtsoe’s quote in context, we learn that he is not speaking about the sex act, but about gender:

Sex Among the Gods.
Sex, which is indispensable on this earth for the perpetuation of the human race, is an eternal quality which has its equivalent everywhere. It is indestructible. The relationship between men and women is eternal and must continue eternally. In accordance with Gospel philosophy there are males and females in heaven. Since we have a Father, who is our God, we must also have a mother, who possesses the attributes of Godhood. This simply carries onward the logic of things earthly, and conforms with the doctrine that whatever is on this earth is simply a representation of spiritual conditions of deeper meaning than we can here fathom.

Would a “sex act” be considered a “quality” that was “indestructible?” Critics rely on contextual presentism by quoting the term "sex" without the context that makes its meaning clear. It is more reasonable to consider “gender” a “quality” that is “indestructible.” Consider the following quote from James E. Talmage.

“We affirm as reasonable, scriptural, and true, the eternity of sex among the children of God. The distinction between male and female is no condition peculiar to the relatively brief period of mortal life. It was an essential characteristic of our pre-existent condition, even as it shall continue after death, in both disembodied and resurrected states .... [The] scriptures attest a state of existence preceding mortality, in which the spirit children of God lived, doubtless with distinguishing characteristics, including the distinction of sex, "before they were [created] naturally upon the face of the earth." ("The Eternity of Sex," Millennial Star (24 August 1922): 530.)"

Note the phrase “the distinction of sex.” Talmage is not talking about a “sex act,” but rather the distinction between the two sexes or genders.


Notes

  1. Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods, 154. Abanes uses as his reference Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 750. GL direct link
  2. "Becoming Like God," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (February 25, 2014)
  3. Alyson Skabelund Von Feldt, "Does God Have a Wife? Review of Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient Israel," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 81–118. off-site wiki
  4. See Daniel C. Peterson, "Nephi and His Asherah: A Note on 1 Nephi 11:8–23," in Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World: Studies in Honor of John L. Sorenson, edited by Davis Bitton, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998). [191-243] direct off-site A shorter version of this article is also available in Daniel C. Peterson, "Nephi and His Asherah," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/2 (2000): 16–25. off-site wiki
  5. Elaine Anderson Cannon, "Mother in Heaven," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), :961. off-site
  6. This is Hymn #292 in the current LDS hymnal ("O My Father"). Written at Joseph Smith's death, the poem was originally published as Eliza R. Snow, "Invocation," Times and Seasons 6 no. 17 (15 November 1845), 1039. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) (See Terryl L. Givens, People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture (Oxford University Press, 2007), 168. ISBN 0195167112. ISBN 978-0195167115.)
  7. Messages of the First Presidency, edited by James R. Clark, Vol. 4, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1970), 205–206. GL direct link (italics added). Originally in First Presidency, "[Evolution:Primary_sources:First_Presidency_1909 The Origin of Man]," Improvement Era 13 (November 1909), 61–75.
  8. The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," Ensign (November 1995), 102. (Statement issued by President Gordon B. Hinckley on 23 September 1995.) off-site