The LDS Church has just released a new manual in its series on the teachings of its president-prophets, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. As are the other publications in this series, TPC:LS is an official curriculum manual of the LDS Church intended to be the basis of instruction in Mormon congregations worldwide.
This manual is of special interest because Snow was the author of a two-line saying (commonly dubbed Snow’s “couplet”) that epitomizes what is distinctive about LDS theology. As one would expect, it is quoted in the manual (p. 83):
As man now is, God once was;
As God now is, man may be.
As the manual reports, Snow actually formulated this couplet in 1840 and believed it to have been a “sacred communication” (i.e., a divine revelation), but did not teach it publicly until after Joseph Smith taught the same doctrine (83). Indeed, Joseph’s famous 1844 King Follett Discourse actually uses language that closely matches the first line of Snow’s couplet:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! …Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you… (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-46).
The TPC:LS manual reports that Snow frequently “testified” to this doctrine, “making this truth a theme for many of his sermons” and even “adopted it as the theme for his life” (83). The manual goes on to quote at length from Snow’s own exposition of the meaning and significance of the doctrine. According to Snow, we have “the nature of deity” undeveloped within us, including God the Father’s “capabilities, powers and faculties,” just as an infant child does the faculties and powers of its parent (84). We have “the capacity for infinite wisdom and knowledge” in the “divinity” that lies within us albeit “in an infantile state.” As such, we are uncreated beings who “have divinity within ourselves” and “will live from all eternity to all eternity” (84).
Through a continual course of progression our Heavenly Father has received exaltation and glory and he points us out the same path and, inasmuch as he is clothed with power, authority and glory, he says, “walk ye up and come in possession of the same glory and happiness that I possess” (85).
Our “high destiny” if we are faithful is “becoming like unto Him in every particular” (86, my emphasis).
It would be interesting to know what Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary (my alma mater from 1981!) and the author of the recent book Talking with Mormons, would say about this recent publication. Mouw infamously claimed in late 2004 that Snow’s doctrine has “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine.” In 2006 evangelical scholar Ronald V. Huggins published an excellent article responding to Mouw, documenting that Snow’s couplet epitomizes a doctrine “that still lives at the heart and logical center of the whole Mormon religious system.” Six years later, we have yet another piece of evidence showing that assessment to be correct.
Tags: couplet, King Follett Discourse, LDS Church, Lorenzo Snow, Richard Mouw