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God Was Once A Man - As Shown in the Bible

Joseph Smith said, on April 6, 1844, at a conference held near the Temple in Nauvoo, that God the Father revealed that he was once a man (mortal) just like us and progressed his way to exaltation (Godhood). Joseph Smith said he was able to prove this by the Bible. I researched the Bible and there is nothing specific that stated this doctrine, but there is a pattern of spiritual events in the Bible that supports this doctrine as true. To begin, here is a short excerpt of one of Joseph Smith's talks speaking on the doctrine that God was once a man.

I will go back to the beginning, before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth; for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why he interferes with the affairs of man.

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. That is the great secret. If the vail was rent to-day, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him to-day, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves, in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image, and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked, and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.

In order to understand the subject of the dead, for the consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary that we should understand the character and being of God, and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the vail, so that you may see.

These are incomprehensible ideas to some; but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.1

This is a deep doctrine, one that is not easily seen within the scriptures if the person is a novice or without any help from the Holy Ghost. To see patterns of God's work, how his truth manifests and works in this world, is a skill requiring faith, sincerity and honesty, where a person must be willing to accept God's truth. For many Christians in this world, such a task is formidable, because they have trouble accepting obvious truths within the Bible, let alone from Mormons. Suffice to say, I will explain what Joseph Smith was talking about, from the Bible.

This Latter-day Saint (LDS) doctrine that God was once a man has brought quite a lot of attention. Many books and articles were written to denounce this doctrine claiming that it is not of the Bible and accordingly, it was declared by other Christians as a false doctrine and force their label onto the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that it is a false church with false prophets. But, in truth, this is not a false doctrine and this doctrine is shown by a pattern of God "in the Bible", and this pattern was shown by Jesus Christ!

To begin, I go to the Old Testament where it reveals a God that created the earth and all things on it and this same God is the one that spoke to Moses and the other prophets. This God of the Old Testament was named “Jehovah” or “Yahweh”.

Exodus 6:3
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

Psalms 83:18
That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.

Isaiah 12:2
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

Isaiah 26:4
Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

The nature of God in the Old Testament was an eternal and everlasting God,

Deuteronomy 33:27
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.

Genesis 21:33
And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God.

Psalm 90:2
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

It is also clear from the Old Testament scriptures that God Jehovah was also the Lord Saviour. The Old Testament was the first to indicate that Jesus Christ was also Jehovah.

Isaiah 43:3
For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

Isaiah 49:26

And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

These scriptures establish the Old Testament God, Jehovah, as an eternal everlasting God, one who was also the Lord Saviour to mankind, but how does this prove that God was once a man? It doesn't yet because the pattern is still incomplete. Let us now move to the New Testament, to speak about Jesus Christ. The following scriptures in the New Testament declare Jesus Christ as the Old Testament God Jehovah.

John 1:1-17
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.
16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.
17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

John 8:56-59
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.
57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

The scriptures of John 1:1-17 are all necessary to complete the understanding and show that Jesus Christ was the Old Testament Jehovah, the same Old Testament God that made the earth and heavens. John 1:1-2 says that Jesus (the Word) was with God in the beginning and all things were made by the "Word" referred to as "him". This connects the "Word" to the Old Testament God named Jehovah who made the earth and all things on it. Passages 2-14 connects the "Word" as Jesus as the light for all mankind and this light became flesh. This confirms that the "Word", being Jehovah who made all things, as also the light for all men, incarnated into mortality. This is the birth of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist was the one who bore witness that this was Jesus Christ, the Saviour, the light for all mankind.

What we have so far is the confirmation and connection that Jesus Christ was originally in spirit with God the Father, having no body of flesh and bone, at the beginning of the earth and heavens. God the Father had the earth and universe made by and through Jesus Christ. The God in the Old Testament was Jesus Christ under the name of Jehovah or Yahweh. We have established that Jehovah was confirmed as an eternal and everlasting God, who was also Lord and Saviour. Yet this same God left his everlasting and eternal state to incarnate into mortality, becoming mortal, to become the Saviour of all mankind. This means that the eternal and everlasting state of existence for God applies only to the spiritual nature of him, not the mortal body and proves, by the Bible, that God can incarnate into mortality, meaning born into mortality as we are. This incarnation can only happen if God has no body of flesh and bone, which Jehovah did not have prior to his incarnation as Jesus Christ.

Further confirmation in the Bible that Jesus Christ was Jehovah was established by Jesus himself in John 8:56-59 above, where he told the Pharisees that he was with Abraham in the Old Testament times and was the great "I AM" by his passive reference of "I am". Then in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 above, where Paul the Apostle confirmed that the "Rock" that followed the brethren in the Old Testament was Jesus Christ and there is only one rock.

The pattern continues.

The "Word" or Jehovah or Jesus Christ, having created the earth and universe, incarnated into mortality to obtain a human body of flesh, bone and blood, died on the cross and gave his spirit to the Father in heaven (Luke 23:46). Giving his spirit to the Father in heaven confirms that before Jesus (Jehovah) incarnated, he was a "spirit" and a "spirit" has no flesh and bone as Jesus so carefully explained in Luke 24:39. This establishes Jehovah (Jesus Christ) had no body of flesh and bone prior to his incarnation, but gained one through incarnation (mortal birth) through the virgin Mary. The scripture of Luke 24:39 also established that after his mortal death and giving up his spirit to God the Father, he regained a body of flesh and bone after his mortal death. This is called a resurrection, after which Jesus Christ returned to his disciples to show he gained a tangible body of flesh and bone, minus the blood. After Jesus remained with his disciples (apostles) for many days, eating with them, he returned to God the Father in heaven to be on the right hand of the Father as an exalted man. There is no scripture that claims he shed the flesh and bone body to be with the Father in heaven, in fact he confirmed that he retains this flesh and bone body in Luke 24:36-40 (see below). The scriptures that show this are as follows,

Jesus gained Exaltation

Acts 2:32-33
32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

Acts 5:31
30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.
31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Exaltation is equal to God the Father with Flesh and Bone

Philippians. 2:5-9
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

Flesh and Bone

Luke 24:36-40
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.

What have I established? I have established the following:

  • Jesus was the God Jehovah in the Old Testament
  • Jehovah was an eternal God and everlasting, which means no end and no beginning
  • He created the earth and all things on it
  • Jehovah was the Lord Saviour (Old and New Testament)
  • Jesus, as the God Jehovah, descended to the earth and was born into a mortal body to become a mortal man (God became a man)
  • Jesus (Jehovah) suffered mortality as any man
  • Jesus (Jehovah) progressed as a mortal man (from grace to grace – see John 1:17)
  • Jesus (Jehovah) was mortally killed on the cross
  • Jesus (Jehovah) resurrected and returned with a tangible body of flesh and bone
  • Jesus (Jehovah) returned to God the Father in heaven and became exalted, meaning he became an exalted man.
Do you see the pattern here? Let me simplify the explanation,
  • God (Jehovah) was an eternal God, everlasting, no end no beginning
  • He came to the earth and left his eternal state to become mortal
  • He died as any mortal man
  • He resurrected and gained a body of flesh and bone
  • He became an exalted man.

Does this not say the same thing as the doctrine of "God was once a man like us", as Lorenzo Snow said, “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be”?

Let me say it again. We have a God who was eternal and in spirit with no flesh and bone, who then became mortal, just like us, a mortal man, who died, regained a body of flesh and bone and became an eternal exalted man with a body of flesh and bone. The very same thing that the LDS doctrine proclaimed God the Father had also done.

Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father in Heaven proved to everyone that just because he was eternal and everlasting does not mean he cannot become mortal as we all are and progress to become exalted and exaltation occurred because of obedience. Since Jesus Christ paved the way for us, he also showed, by his example, a pattern that God the Father had already established. Can this be true, that Jesus Christ had done something that God the Father had already established? Of course, see this Bible scripture,

John 5:30
I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just;
because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

John 6:38-40
38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing,
but should raise it up again at the last day.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him,
may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up cat the last day.

Since Jesus was not exercising his will, he was doing the will of the Father in heaven whose method he followed and obeyed. That clearly said that the Father in heaven had already established the means to enter mortality from a God state, be mortal, die and become exalted. Jesus Christ showed by example what that pattern was and how it was done. Since he was doing the will and method of God the Father, this says that this method of being a man like us is not an unusual doctrine, because it was the Father in heaven who had done it before and Jesus showed us by his example as it was clearly revealed by the Bible.

John 5:19-20
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

In passage John 5:19, Jesus states that he could do nothing by himself, but what he sees that Father in heaven do or has done and whatever the Father in heaven does, so can Jesus do also. This confirms that God the Father had shown Jesus Christ the truth of becoming exalted and that he, that Father, was once like us. This confirms that since Jesus can only do what the Father has already done. It confirms, by the pattern that Jesus Christ followed, that he incarnated from spirit into mortality, lived and progressed grace by grace, died, regained a body and lives as an exalted man in heaven in the same place as the Father in heaven, and this is exactly what God the Father has also done, also confirming that God the Father has his own body of flesh and bone as tangible as ours as does Jesus Christ.

"God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens ~ Joseph Smith."


Footnotes / References
(Note: some linked references may require a membership account)
  1. Smith, Joseph, Journal of Discourses, Vol 6, pg. 3-4

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