Mormon Exaltation in Light of Theosis


I call on any Latter-day Saints on the forums. What are some Patristic writings that you find favorable to the Mormon doctrine of deification/exaltation? If you could give specific examples, I’d appreciate it. Understandably, you may want to elaborate on what the Fathers are saying in those specific passages, but for now I’d just like what you consider to be “proof texts” for Mormon exaltation, and maybe a brief, 100 word elaboration. Let’s keep the argumentation to a minimum and our focus on Patristic writings, not scripture.



I’m not LDS but I do like studying LDS. That said I’m familiar with both the Mormon idea of exaltation and the traditional Christian idea of theosis. I feel like a woman’s claim of exaltation in light of the theosis is a bit of a stretch. We will see where this goes though



That is interesting and something I never thought of: what about the women? Whether or not a Latter-day Saint accepts Heavenly Mother, you wonder how she is also deified and why it’s different for her.

Let’s not go too far with this, though.



The King Follett discourse by Joseph Smith is a big one. That is when it was first introduced. Here is the lds view:

The third section speaks of Irenaeus, Clemet of Alexandria, Basil the Great and LDS interpretation on that.

Edit: I am not saying I support the beliefs, just giving information for discussion.



Well, I’m LDS, but I’m not familiar with the term “patristic writing”, or what you mean by “fathers”. Are these terms for people who opined about what scripture meant and had a significant influence in what eventually evolved into stuff Christians believe?

I looked through my old notes from when I used to debate this stuff more - here’s what I have. I’ve lost who compiled this list, or why they thought the names below would be considered important to people interested in what ancient Christians thought. I’ve never read these quotes in context, so I’m not even sure if they’re validly addressing the issue. But are you looking for something like this?

The first Orthodox Christians taught this doctrine clearly:
“Men are Gods and Gods are men.” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor 3:1

“We have not been made Gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length Gods…” Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4:38:4, in ANF 1:522

“…our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, became what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5: Preface, in ANF 1:526

“All men are deemed worthy of becoming gods, and even of having power to become sons of the Highest.” Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 124, in ANF 1:262
God “made man for that purpose, that from men they may become Gods.” Jerome, The Homilies of Saint Jerome, vol. 1 (FC 48), translated by M.L. Ewald, 106

“For as Christ died and was exalted as man, so, as man, is He said to take what, as God, He ever had, that even such a grant of grace might reach to us. For the Word was not impaired in receiving a body, that He should seek to receive a grace, but rather He deified that which He put on, and more than that, gave it graciously to the race of man.” Athanasius, Discourses Against the Arians 1:42, in NPNF Series 2, 4:330-331

Orthodox Christians “taught that the destiny of man was to become like God, and even to become deified” Prestige, God in Patristic Thought, 73

“One can think what one wants of this doctrine of progressive deification, but one thing is certain: with this anthropology Joseph Smith is closer to the view of man held by the Ancient Church than the precursors of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin were, who considered the thought of such a substantial connection between God and man as the heresy, par excellence.” Benz, E.W., Imago Dei: Man in the Image of God, in Madsen, ed., Reflections on Mormonism, 215-216

The Savior himself taught this doctrine when he was about to be stoned for claiming to be the Son of God. “Is it not written in your law, I said. Ye are gods?” The Lord said this was true (John 10:34-35).
“The psalmist declared, “I have said. Ye are gods and all of you are children of the most high” (Psalms 82:6).
“Thou Lord art high above the earth; thou art exalted far above all gods” (Psalms 97:9).
Paul said, “We are the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29). The scriptures also say: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords”” (Deut. 10:17)."
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 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 8:16,17




See the entry at the old Catholic encyclopedia.



I do not believe the LDS recognition that deification is in the Bible and in the writings of the ECF is in fact “proof texting.” I am not sure it was your intention to start this thread down an argumentative path or your desire was to “keep argumentation to a minimum.” I like you will try to not push us over the edge … at least not immediately <grin?
I have a huge list of ECF and modern Catholic who have clearly said that “men can become gods.” I will offer a few.

For my 108 words, let me say this:
Neither LDS nor Catholics have precisely and authoritatively defined what “men becoming gods” means in light of “there is one God” statements in scripture (including LDS specific scripture). I will merely say that the exchange formula, God "became what we are in order to make us what he is himself” is Christian truth taught by numerous ECF. The “God-man” who died on the cross for us was not just a little bit man, but fully human and I say that we are not to become just a little bit God, but fully gods. How that gets spliced in the particulars is something I have no ABSOLUTE certainty about.



Justin - 1st Ap. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue.(ANF 1.170).

Justin - Dial. 124 …thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming “gods”, and of having power to become sons of the Highest.(ANF 1.262).

Justin - Discourse To The Greeks 5 The Word exercises an influence which does not make poets: it does not equip philosophers nor skilled orators, but by its instruction it makes mortals immortal, mortals god. (ANF 1.272)

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 3.6.1 “God stood in the in the congregation of the gods, He judges among the gods.” He [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church. (ANF 1.419).

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 3.19.1 He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality.(ANF 1.448). [See also 3.6.1]

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 4.Pref.4/ 4.1.1 …there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption. Since, therefore, this is sure and steadfast, that no other God or Lord was announced by the Spirit, except Him who, as God, rules over all, together with His Word, and those who receive the Spirit of adoption.(ANF 1.463).

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 4.38.3-4 His wisdom [is shown] in His having made created things parts of one harmonious and consistent whole; and those things which, through His super-eminent kindness, receive growth and a long period of existence, do reflect the glory of the uncreated One, of that God who bestows what is good ungrudgingly. For from the very fact of these things having been created, [it follows] that they are not uncreated; but by their continuing in being throughout a long course of ages, they shall receive a faculty of the Uncreated, through the gratuitous bestowal of eternal existence upon them by God. …man, a created and organized being, is rendered after the image and likeness of the uncreated God… we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods…He shall overcome the substance of created nature. For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God, having received the knowledge of good and evil.(ANF 1.521-522).




Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 4.39.2 How, then, shall he be a God, who has not as yet been made a man? Or how can he be perfect who was but lately created? How, again can he be immortal, who in his mortal nature did not obey his Maker? For it must be that thou, at the outset, shouldest hold the rank of a man, and then afterwards partake of the glory of God. For thou dost not make God, but God thee. If, then, thou art God’s workmanship, await the hand of the Maker which creates everything in due time; in due time as far as thou art concerned, whose creation is being carried out.(ANF 1.522-523).

Irenaeus - Adv. Her. 5.Pref …the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.(ANF 1.526).

Theophilus - To Autolycus 27 Was man made by nature mortal? Certainly not. Was he, then, immortal? Neither do we affirm this. …He was by nature neither mortal nor immortal. For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God. … keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as a reward from Him immortality, and should become God.(ANF 2.105).

Clement of Alexandria - Exhortation 1 …the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.(ANF 2.174).

Clement of Alexandria - The Instructor 3.1 It is then, as appears, the greatest of al lessons to know one’s self. For if one know himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God…But that man with whom the Word dwells does not alter himself, does not get himself up: he has the form which is of the Word; he is made like to God…and that man becomes God, since God so wills. Heraclitus, then, rightly said, “Men are gods, and gods are men.”(ANF 2.271).

Clement of Alexandria - Strom. 4.23 On this wise it is possible for the [true] Gnostic already to have become God. “I said, Ye are gods, and sons of the highest.” (ANF 2.437).

Clement of Alexandria - Strom. 7.10 …they are called by the appellation of gods, being destined to sit on thrones with the other gods that have been first put in their places by the Saviour.(ANF 2.539).
Clement of Alexandria - Strom. 7.16 But he who has returned from this deception, on hearing the Scriptures, and turned his life to the truth, is, as it were, from being a man made a god.(ANF 2.551)

Tertullian - Adv. Hermogenes 5 Well, then, you say, we ourselves possess nothing of God. But indeed we do, and shall continue to do—only it is from Him that we receive it, and not from ourselves. For we shall be even gods, if we shall deserve to be among those of whom He declared, “I have said, Ye are gods,” and “God standeth in the congregation of the gods.” But this comes of His own grace, not from any property in us, because it is He alone who can make gods.(ANF 3.480).

Tertullian - Adv. Hermogenes 5 Well, then, you say, we ourselves at that rate possess nothing of God. But indeed we do, and shall continue to do—only it is from Him that we receive it, and not from ourselves. For we shall be even gods, if we shall deserve to be among those of whom He declared, “I have said, Ye are gods,” and “God standeth in the congregation of the gods.” But this comes of His own grace, not from any property in us, because it is He alone who can make gods. (ANF 3.480).

Some modern Catholic authors:
John Paul II - Jesus, Son and Savior This is the central truth of all Christian soteriology that finds an organic unity with the revealed reality of the God-Man. God became man so that man could truly participate in the life of God—so that, indeed, in a certain sense, he could become God. (P. 215 - Sept. 2, 1987 general audience address.)

Christoph Schonborn quotes from another Homily of John Chrysostom: “’God gave us a share in his throne. The sitting at the right hand is the greatest honor, with nothing to equal it. This statement holds true of us also: we too are to sit with him on thrones…. Think of where Christ sits on his throne! ‘Above all principalities and powers! And with whom are you to sit on the throne? With him!’” [in Schonborn, From Death to Life, op. cit., 39-40, quoting Homily on Ephesians 4.2. Once again, notice that the principalities and powers are subject to these deified mortals.]

And of course the text of the CCC 460:
“The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”
(which is a quote from Aquinas, and Schonborn was the editor of the CCC too).

The book Deification and Grace by Daniel Keating has many patristic and Biblical references to deification.

Hope that helps.
Charity, TOm



[quote=Joseph Smith]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 did; and I will show it from the Bible.

[quote=Doctrine & Convenants 76:58]Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—

[quote=Doctrine & Convenants 93:29]Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.

[quote=Doctrine & Convenants 121:32]*According to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal presence and into his immortal rest.

[quote=Encyclopedia of Mormonism]Gods and humans represent a single divine lineage, the same species of being, although they and he are at different stages of progress. This doctrine is stated concisely in a well-known couplet by President Lorenzo Snow: "As man now is, God once was: as God now is, man may be"

This is what Mormonism means by “men becoming gods” which is polytheism.



The Catholic understanding of this type of reflection is that one must go back to context.

Remember, these writings were close to the times of Christ. And the world was most dark upon His coming. He chose to come at that time, He was born in the Constellation of Aries the Ram…to come into the world as a poor infant born in a stable.

As a child, this means of coming into the world, had the most profound impact on me, and it showed to me His most profound love for us.

Likewise you go back to learn how people lived in the time of Christ, and of those who lived in slavery within the Roman empire, the bloody gladiator fights, the sexual exploitation of slaves that included young children, the subjects of Rome being fed and then directed to watch the games in coliseums to pass their time.

To become a new creation, a new person irregardless of one was still a slave…caused one to experience such closeness with God, to experience Christ’s kingdom within, yes, one was indeed made one with Him.

But never did any consider themselves gods.

We become adopted sons and daughters of Christ…experiencing this profound kingdom of Christ within our souls, that yes, one would express and use such language and those who converted in ancient times, and lived their lives in Roman Empire.

We become adopted sons and daughters of Christ, we partake in the life of grace in Christ, but we never become as gods.

The early Christian converts never had the posture of considering themselves as god or on equal plane with Christ, but rather anticipated and longed to be in communion with Him in the next life.

There is a great testimony given by SS Perpetua and Felicity around 200 AD in Carthage. S Perpetua’s testimony is done in such a way, that you experience Christ’s kingdom in contrast to the world in which she lived…a great testimony to the Holy Spirit Who comforted them on their way to martyrdom.

So dying to Christ and dying for Him puts us on a different plane than thinking we are anywhere equal to God and no church fathers ever believed in such.



No Latter-day Saint considers herself on an equal plane with Christ in this life. However, early Christians did believe that deification was possible at some point in the eternities as do Latter-day Saints today. Christian scholar G. L Prestige concluded that the ancient Christians “taught that the destiny of man is to become like God, and even to become deified”. Prestige, “God in Patristic Thought” (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 73


Catholic praying to Mormon Heavenly Father permitted?

What did they deification mean? Did it mean becoming equal to God who is immaterial and beyond the universe? Early Christians didn’t have the concept which Mormonism held to, that of a materially bound God but believe God to be the first principle, the very reason for every material thing’s existence.

My own Church has it’s theosis theology which is derived from many of the quotes given from the patristics above, but never to the point where it is suggestible that we will be equal with God on any level. In Mormonism it seems plausible that it is the case one can become equal with God, even though it is not a doctrine seemingly accepted. That seems the key difference between Christian deification and Mormon deification.



I have had one Mormon claim that Mormons are in this life what Christ was in his life.

Christians have NEVER believed or taught what Joseph Smith or Lorenzo Snow taught. Joseph Smith just made it up.



I disagree with the premise that all early Christians believed in an immaterial God. In the Clementine Homilies, Peter is quoted as saying that man is in the image of God: “And Simon said: ‘I should like to know Peter, if you really believe that the shape of man has been moulded after the shape of God.’ And Peter said: 'I am really quite certain, Simon, that this is the case… It is the shape of the just God.” (The Anti-Nicene Fathers 8:316)

Origen said the issue wasn’t settled in his day. “For it is also to be a subject of investigation how God himself is to be understood, --*** whether as corporeal and formed according to some shape, or of a different nature from bodies, – a point which is not clearly indicated in our teaching***, and the same inquiries have been made regarding Christ and the Holy Spirit”. (The Anti-Nicene Fathers 4:241)

Origen also named Melito, bishop of Sardis in the late second century as one of the Christians who believed God to have a material body in human form. (David L. Paulsen, “Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses,” Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990):111-112)



Granted that there were some small voices, though it seems impossible to actually judge Melito as believing God had a corporeal body. We only have a small portion of his works and perhaps Origen should be regarded with suspiscion with regards to his sayings about Melito. Though if you have anything from Melito proving he viewed God having a body, please provide it.

Though I think the great majority of early fathers when they spoke about the issue made it clear God is not material. St Ireneaus was quoted, look what he says here against mormon theology.

“Far removed is the Father of all from those things which operate among men, the affections and passions. He is simple, not composed of parts, without structure, altogether like and equal to himself alone. He is all mind, all spirit, all thought, all intelligence, all reason . . . all light, all fountain of every good, and this is the manner in which the religious and the pious are accustomed to speak of God” (Against Heresies 2:13:3)

There are also clear indications from other writers of the same period, namely Tatian and Athenagoras. Other patristic authors can be seen here:

One of the important things to note is that it was that the Church fathers did not reject the language of Theosis, becoming gods, but within their theology they used it to emphasize how God had and will bring about the redemption of human beings. Certaintly later writers who use theosis language, “God became what we were that we might become gods,” or “That which has not yet been assumed has not been saved,” is best understood as Christians understand it. Not as Mormons do.



Catholics and Mormons do not differ at the level of what the Early Church Fathers said about theosis. We just have different opinions on what it means to partake in the divine life. Given humans’ evolution into its modern species, Catholics and Orthodox simply reconcile man’s image with God’s in the sense that we’re morally free. Did God descend from prokaryotic cells also? Or is He something more self-operating and consuming than that? Is the “image” which scripture and the Fathers discuss speaking more deeply than morphology? I argue it is, and a traditional Christian understanding of theosis is the only satisfying expression of what it means to be complete in God’s love; it’s not a formula for how to be made complete in our own divine inherences.



Well … gods = the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption.

Stephen, is that polytheism in your book? I find plenty of room to say it is not polytheism. What say you?
Charity, TOm



LDS like early Christians do not consider ourselves gods. If you analyze LDS on this matter (and ECF thought on this matter) there is ALWAYS a post mortal completion to our deification. We are not gods.

Kathleen, we have not been made gods from the beginning, but at first merely men, then at length gods. Can you believe this? This is the LDS position and this is the position of the Early Church.
Charity, TOm



Gazelam has already pointed to a few voices from the early church who do not hold to the modern Christian view of an immaterial God. There is also a profound disconnect in this area between Eastern and Western (non-LDS) Christians which I will mention shortly.
What I want to first cover is the concept of “becoming equal to God.” Joseph Smith specifically taught that we would not become equal to God. So there is another solid point of connection between LDS, the ECF, and indeed the rest of Christianity. I think we can celebrate such a truth!
Charity, TOm


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