Mormon Beliefs: Why are Mormons called “The Godmakers”?
Mormons have been called the “Godmakers” in libelous writings and films. These films have been denounced by the National Council of Christians and Jews. Is there then any truth in the term “godmakers” when it is used to describe the Mormon Church? There is.
Theosis is the Greek term that denotes the ability of man to attain to the qualities of deity. In the Bible, there are many scriptures that urge us to become more like God, which is a process of learning His attributes and emulating them. Matthew said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
Note that in the doctrine of theosis, by God’s grace, human beings may be brought to be as He is, brought to be like God—though never to be his equal.
All Christian religions preach that those who attain the heavenly realm will be heirs of Christ and with Christ. What is it that they shall inherit? What is the inheritance that we visualize? Is it mansions in heaven, streets paved with gold? Visualizing a physical inheritance is a worldly view not suitable for the eternities. Paul said, “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” (Romans 8:17).
John said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). In order to truly know God the Father and Jesus Christ in the eternities, we must be like them. To be heirs of Christ in the eternities is to inherit His attributes. In that sense, we can become “gods.” This principle does not diminish God or Christ in any way.
Said the Church when asked about this doctrine:
The Father is the one true God. This thing is certain: no one will ever ascend above Him; no one will ever replace Him. Nor will anything ever change the relationship that we, His literal offspring, have with Him. He is Elohim, the Father. He is God. Of Him there is only one. We revere our Father and our God; we worship Him (Boyd K. Packer, “The Pattern of Our Parentage,” Ensign, November 1984, 69).
A belief in human deification does not mean that the LDS believe their worship is or will be properly directed at anyone but God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes (Fox News, “21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith,” 18 December 2007).
Critics insist that the doctrine of theosis is unBiblical and unChristian. Unfortunately for the critics, a review of Christian history illustrates that this doctrine was and is a common belief of many Christians; modern critics are perhaps the exception, rather than the rule.
Saint Irenaeus (ca. 115-202 A.D.), who may justly be called the first biblical theologian among the ancient Christians, was a disciple of the great Polycarp, who was a direct disciple of John the Revelator (Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers). Irenaeus is not a heretic or unorthodox in traditional Christian circles, yet he shares a belief in theosis: “We were not made gods at our beginning, but first we were made men, then, in the end, gods. How then will any be a god, if he has not first been made a man? How can any be perfect when he has only lately been made man? How immortal, if he has not in his mortal nature obeyed his maker? For one’s duty is first to observe the discipline of man and thereafter to share in the glory of God.Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, of his boundless love, became what we are that he might make us what he himself is.”
Clement of Alexandria (150-215 A.D.) said the following:
“…yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god. Those who have been perfected are given their reward and their honors. They have done with their purification, they have done with the rest of their service, though it be a holy service, with the holy; now they become pure in heart, and because of their close intimacy with the Lord there awaits them a restoration to eternal contemplation; and they have received the title of “gods” since they are destined to be enthroned with the other “gods” who are ranked next below the savior.”
Origen (ca. 185-251 A.D.) said, “The Father, then, is proclaimed as the one true God; but besides the true God are many who become gods by participating in God.”
Justin Martyr, who died in A.D. 163, said, “…to prove to you that the Holy Ghost reproaches men because they were made like God, free from suffering and death, provided that they kept His commandments, and were deemed deserving of the name of His sons… in the beginning men were made like God, free from suffering and death, and that they are thus deemed worthy of becoming gods and of having power to become sons of the highest….”
Similar statements were made by Hippolytus, Athanasius, St. Augustine, and Jerome. According to Christian scholar G.L. Prestige, the ancient Christians “taught that the destiny of man was to become like God, and even to become deified” (G.L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought, London Press, 1956, 73). One might fairly ask why modern Christians do not believe that which the ancient Christians insisted upon?
The Mormon Church is not a new church, but the restoration of the ancient, true Church of Christ. Theosis is not a new philosophy, but was taught by Christ and understood and taught by the Apostles and early leaders of the Church. It is a biblical principle, taught by John and Paul and referred to in Psalms. As such, Joseph Smith received the doctrine directly from God, the same source the original apostles went to. The original apostles taught the doctrine to early Christian leaders, but it was lost by the time of Joseph Smith. This is one more evidence that Joseph Smith was a true prophet.
Mormon scholars offer further insight about the nature of man’s eternal nature and his eternal relationship with God.