Mormon Exaltation in Light of Theosis


I may see the problem. You may see in Paulsen’s words, “gods in embryo” something that is not there. OR you may see an absence in my words the concept that ontologically we are the same species as God. I cannot be blamed for the first, but if it is the second, let me correct it.

First, Paulsen. If you think “gods in embryo” means that like a baby human raised by wolves becomes genetically an adult therefore such a human was a “human in embryo” to become a full human and that this is what Paulsen means when he says “gods in embryo;” this is inconsistent with numerous passages in Paulsen’s essay (some of which I quoted). There is no natural growth without divine intervention that leads to man’s deification. “Gods in embryo” does not mean we have within us the ability to grow to be gods without: 1.God lifting us up. 2.Uniting with God into the divine community. 3.The atonement (both as a “price” for our sins and as an “at-one-ment”).

Now, for my position.
In the last few days, I have claimed that the homoousian clause from Nicea is something a LDS could embrace if they understood it as it was understood by Eusebius of Caesarea (or by the Council of Chalcedon). But that this common –ousia (same substance, consubstantial) is of really no consequence in my thoughts of divinity as such. In a thread where you participated about 5 years ago I said:

Personally, I would say we are generally ontologically the same species (but that species has nothing to do with divinity as such). We are not part of the communed/perfected-love nature that God has eternally been. Also, it is not a matter of “growing up” to be gods. Instead it is in and through God that we are raised to become gods. It is neither naturally accomplished nor within our power to bring it about.

How about this; what specifically do you believe Paulsen embraces in his essay (again I had a very small part in it) that I have rejected today? I read over the deification section again quickly and I do not see it.
Charity, TOm


The first time I became aware of 460 of the Catholic Catechism was on Catholic Answers Forum when a Mormon pointed it out claiming, “Look Catholics believe what Mormons believe.” A Catholic’s first reaction would be to reject it. Not what the Catechism said, but the Mormon interpretation of it.

I knew that the Christian understanding of “make men gods” is different from the Mormon understanding. This started a discussion WHAT it means to Catholics and Mormons to be made a man god.

As I pointed out in Post #25, and David Paulsen agreed, is Mormons believe they are “gods in embryo.” Someday they will become just like God is now and God was once just like us. Which is different from Catholic and therefore, ancient Christian belief, as I pointed out in post #54 and again in post #70. This is the difference in WHAT is means to become god.

In Post #21, Tom claims because Catholics believe we will see the essence of God in heaven, that we therefore, believe we will come that essence (God). This makes no sense as I pointed out in post #54.

Now Tom is claiming that Catholics and Mormons agree on HOW we become god, therefore, we agree on WHAT it means to become god. This is not true and David Paulsen agrees.

Mormons cherry pick the early church fathers but none of the fathers taught what Joseph Smith taught about theosis.


Perhaps there is hope and our list is getting shorter.
In post #21 I was not trying to suggest that “because Catholics believe we will see the essence of God in heaven, that we (you) therefore, believe we will come that essence (God).” In post #21 I was pointing out that Catholics and Orthodox (at least in their Aquinas and Palamas exposition) are very far apart. Orthodoxy who have maintained the teaching on deification at the forefront of their liturgy have done so with the understanding that God’s essence is so radically other that there is no experience of it by humans in this life or the next. Thus Orthodox theosis is the participation in God’s energies not essence. A very complete and full communion, but not such that God’s essence is anything but wholly other and unattainable. Catholics spoke very little of theosis and deification, and when they recognized this, MANY have adopted Orthodoxy’s terms. This IMO is a mistake and is a product of the neglect this doctrine received for so long in Catholic circles.

Now, when the author of the Bible says, “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” that IMO is talking about God’s nature. But, I believe the Catholic church and the Bible authors understand these verses differently (I am sure this is shocking).

I do not think I am claiming that Catholics and Mormons agree. I claim that LDS and ALL ECF before the fourth century believe that men are completely deified. That Christ became what we are completely, and we are to become what He is/was completely. Christ did not derivatively / partially participate in our human nature and we will not just partially, but FULLY participate in His nature. LDS and all ECF before the first century agree here. Modern Catholic have DEPARTED from the ECF in this.
So, I agree with David Paulsen that modern Catholics are wrong and LDS are right. Paulsen goes to great lengths to show one of the POSSIBLE seeds for the Catholic / West’s departure from the truth. He explains that Augustine in his anti-Pelagius writings specifically steered the Catholic faith away from deification. So, while I am not sure exactly what Paulsen believes concerning the alignment of the ECF and the LDS on deification, his assertion that modern Catholics and LDS together with his tracing of Augustine’s changes make it quite plausible that he agrees with me that the ECF’s view of the FINAL STATE of deified man was much closer to the LDS view than to the modern Catholic view.
Now, I should note that Justin Martyr was the last ECF who wrote clearly about his rejection of creation ex nihilo. Irenaeus shortly after this wrote clearly on his acceptance of creation ex nihilo. The bulk of the deification language in the early church does not BEGIN at the same place as the LDS deification language. LDS have never embrace the radical creator / creature dichotomy that comes with creation ex nihilo.

Justin Martyr did not believe in creation ex nihilo and did believe in deification (though we have less of his material on it than we do for many other Fathers.
Irenaeus believed in creation ex nihilo, but he continued to speak of men’s deification without offering the types of qualified deifications that would exist 2+ centuries later.
Augustine was doubtful that deification was full and complete, but he still spoke of deification.
After Augustine, the doctrine of deification in the west was very seldom mentioned, but this is beginning to change.

It should be noted that the exchange formula has roots in the Bible and was very important for many ECF Irenaeus being a prime example. Below I will reproduce what I consider to be an unfortunate agenda driven overlay to the exchange formula by a modern Catholic author. No ancient Catholic author hinted that they would embrace this overlay. The modern Catholic author IMO takes extraordinary and unwarranted liberty in his diametrically opposed reading of a simple phrase. This is FAR worse than anything a LDS might do with these ECF writings. I will try to show you what I mean in the next post.


This is from a LDS review of Daniel Keating’s book, Deification and Grace. The quotes inside the quotes are from the book with page references.

[quote] In the thought-world of the Fathers, “participation”
and its cognate words (participate, partake, share, etc.) had a more definite
meaning than they do for us today. They inherited a common philosophical
understanding of these terms—derived from Plato, Aristotle, and the
Neo-Platonists—and they re-fashioned them to describe a specifically
Christian understanding of God, creation, and redemption in Christ. The concept
of participation was used philosophically in two main senses. First, it
described how different particulars all share some common element. For example,
all individual human beings share a common humanity, and so “partake”
of a common nature. In this case each human being shares in this nature
equally. Second (and crucially for our purposes), the concept of participation
was used to describe the unequal relationship between what is essential and
what is derivative. If a king is understood to have authority in himself, then
his first minister would participate in that authority. More significantly, if
God is the source of all being, then we as creatures participate in his being.
We do not share or participate in the divine being as God himself possesses it.
Rather, we share in his being in that he gives us our created being by bringing
us into existence. He has it essentially; we have it derivatively and by
participation. He is being; we participate in being. Participation is a way of
speaking about how “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts
17:28). (p. 97)

From the above understanding of the word participate, it seems that Keating could suggest that Christ participates in the human nature derivatively and that deified humans thus participate in the divine nature derivatively as well. This would be a consistent way to read the exchange formula even though Irenaeus and the Bible seem to indicate a stronger form of participation/partaking.

This, however, is not Keating’s point. …

Keating offers a remarkable proposal. The exchange formula evidenced in the Bible and in patristic writings before the fourth century should be read with two different meanings for the concept of partaking/participating—namely, when Christ participated in our nature (i.e., became man), that transformation was complete and full; but when we participate in his nature, that process is derivative and does not involve a change in our created nature.

It is noteworthy that both parts of the “formula of exchange”—the
Son became like us, so that we might become like the Son—are expressed in
the New Testament in terms of participation. In Hebrews 2:14 the Incarnation
itself is depicted in the language of participation: “Since therefore, the
children share (koinōnein) in flesh and blood, he himself
likewise partook (metechein) of the same [nature].” Here we have an
example of the first sense of participation, namely, sharing in a common
nature. In order to redeem us and “to bring many sons to glory” (Heb
2:10), the Son of God came to share fully in our nature, that is, he became a human
being. But the goal of the Son sharing in our nature is also stated in participationist
language. We are told in 2 Peter 1:4 that God’s divine power at work in us is
brought to completion by our becoming “partakers (koinōnoi)
of the divine nature.” Here we have in bold and demonstrative language the
promise that the Father has sent the Son to deliver us from sin and to cause us
to become sharers in the divine nature itself. But in 2 Peter 1:4 we have an
example of the second sense of participation, the unequal and derivative
sharing by the creature in the infinite Creator. In this case, we as partakers
never become, strictly speaking, what we partake of. We partake of the divine
life, but do not become God by nature. And so we can rephrase the formula of
exchange (“the Son of God became the Son of Man, so that the sons of men
might become sons of God”) in terms of the two senses of participation
found respectively in Hebrews 2 and 2 Peter 1. The Son of God partook of our
nature and became fully what we are (human beings), so that we might partake of
the divine nature and become by grace and participation what he is by nature.
To put this in the creedal terminology of the Council of Chalcedon (a.d. 451): The eternal Word of God,
consubstantial with the Father, became fully a human being, consubstantial with
us in our nature, so that we might become partakers of his divinity. But we
never become consubstantial (one in being) with the Father as he is; rather, we
are inserted by grace into the divine communion of Persons. This is what it
means to become “gods by grace.” (p. 101)

For those who embrace the idea of limited deification and wish to reconcile it with the witness of the Bible and the early church fathers, Keating’s approach may provide a way out. Nevertheless, there is no evidence to suggest that the biblical authors (and almost no evidence for Irenaeus) would have been so blatantly inconsistent in the course of two halves of one sentence.

I think Keating deals with the exchange formula in one way available to him, but his position that the ECF spoke using one meaning from partake/participate when speaking about Christ taking human nature (and in the same sentence using the same word) used a different meaning for partake/participate when it comes to our connection with the divine is tortured IMO. It is much more egregious of an infraction against the ECF than your purported “cherry picking.” It is the creation of a discontinuity in their thought they never acknowledge or explained despite their regular use of the exchange formula.
Charity, TOm


So I hope I have been somewhat clearer.

A. LDS (as explained by Paulsen {who Stephen thinks does a good job of defining the CoJCoLDS} and by Ostler and by Tom) SHARE with Catholics the following three things concerning deification:

  1. The need for a redeemer to elevate us to God so that we can become gods:

Thus, through the sanctifying influence of the Holy Ghost, Christ’s atonement makes it possible for man to transcend his fallen state and become a partaker of the divine nature.

  1. A large component of deification is the entering into the relationship of God and uniting with God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit):

Finally, Joseph realized that an essential property of divinity is a relationship of sacred and intimate unity with the persons of the Godhead. As Joseph stated in an 1833 revelation:

[quote]{Christ} received a fulness of the glory of the Father; and he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him, and it shall come to pass that if you are faithful . . . you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace (D&C 93:16–17, 20; emphasis added).

The stunning reality, according to Joseph Smith, is that the very purpose of human life consists in the fact that humankind has been invited “into” this relationship through the atonement of Jesus. God wants to relate to us just as the divine persons relate to one another; God wants us to be one in the Father and the Son as they are one in each other. God desires to be “at-onement” with persons.

  1. Men will never be equal to God and will always be subordinate to God:

Although Joseph taught a very lofty view of man’s eschatological potential in asserting that man has the potential to become a god and enter into close association with the Godhead, he also made clear that those who become gods will be forever subordinate to the Godhead. As we progress and attain God’s present glory, God progresses also to reach a higher exaltation and remains our God.

B. LDS share with the very early church (St. Justin Martyr and earlier) the rejection of Creation ex Nihilo, but later Fathers and modern Catholics believe in Creation ex Nihilo.

C. LDS share with ECF before the 4th century the exchange formula such that Christ became completely what we are so that we might become completely what He is/was. Modern Catholics and post 4th century ECF put limits on the final state of deified men (though they continue to insist that Christ became homoousian completely with humans, just the other half of the exchange formula is disconnected by the introduction of a different meaning for the same word across two halves of the same sentence).

For point of absolute clarity let me also mention that I do not know where David Paulsen stands on this next thing, but I do know that Daniel Peterson (and many LDS) do not agree with Blake Ostler and me.

D. God the Father was once like us just as Christ was once like us. But, it is my position and Ostler’s position that this does not mean that God the Father was more like us than Christ. A common position within the CoJCoLDS is that God the Father once lived and worshiped His God the Father. I disagree with this and follow Ostler’s view that Joseph Smith was instead teaching that God the Father became a man like Christ became a man, not like we were/are men. A point of support in this belief is the way Joseph Smith always taught this doctrine. Another point of support is the almost complete refusal to claim that God the Father ever SINNED. And it should be noted that less than 25% of folks in the CoJCoLDS are like Ostler, Peterson, and TOm. The bulk of the church doesn’t even consider the question and thus they do not believe that God the Father had a Father. Among those who consider it however the Ostler/TOm view appears to be in the minority. I will also mention that Irenaeus seems to offer the same advice that the CoJCoLDS follows (and I am not following as well as I should BTW) when he says:

The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge; for this reason, that we, too, as long as we are connected with the scheme of things in this world, should leave perfect knowledge, and such questions {as have been mentioned}, to God, and should not by any chance, while we seek to investigate the sublime nature of the Father, fall into the danger of starting the question whether there is another God above God.

Anyway, I hope I have clarified where I think LDS agree and disagree with modern Catholics, where I think LDS agree and disagree with the ECF, and that I think the LDS are right, the ECF are more often right than modern Catholics and ….
Charity, TOm


[quote=St. Irenaeus]For the Uncreated is perfect, that is, God. Now it was necessary that man should in the first instance be created; and having been created, should receive growth; and having received growth, should be strengthened; and having been strengthened, should abound; and having abounded, should recover [from the disease of sin]; and having recovered, should be glorified; and being glorified, should see his Lord. For God is He who is yet to be seen, and the beholding of God is productive of immortality, but immortality renders one near unto God.

[quote= S. Athanasius]He said that God had made all things out of pre-existent and uncreated matter, just as the carpenter makes things only out of wood that already exists. But those who hold this view do not realize that to deny that God is Himself the Cause of matter is to impute limitation to Him, just as it is undoubtedly a limitation on the part of the carpenter that he can make nothing unless he has the wood. How could God be called Maker and Artificer if His ability to make depended on some other cause, namely on matter itself?

[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 Himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.

[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”

The teachings of Irenaeus gives us the final state of man. Athanasius tells us why there can only be one God. Now all a Mormon has to do is find an ECF that states that God the Father was once a man.

Answering Mormon Objections
Answering Mormon Objections

I’m saying I know a Mormon lesson on exaltation when I see it. All Mormon lessons on exaltation have a root aspiration for becoming a god. All Mormons are motivated by the Mormon church teachings to be ambitious towards their own deification.


Isn’t the Irenaeus quote somewhat lacking from a Catholic POV given that Catholics believe God is invisible? And isn’t immortality given freely to all, even to Judas Iscariot, Hilter, Stalin, and bin Laden? Perhaps the quote was mistranslated, but shouldn’t the goal be something along the lines of eternal life as opposed to immortality?


The OP only asked for patristic quotes that LDS “find favorable” to LDS belief regarding man’s ability to become like God and they were provided. It doesn’t mean LDS believe that every last aspect of that doctrine can be justified by a patristic quote, or even needs to be.

As an aside the LDS website here: states that “What exactly the early church fathers meant when they spoke of becoming God is open to interpretation

Then footnote 15 of that post says this:

There are likely important differences as well as similarities between the thinking of the church fathers and Latter-day Saint teachings. For a discussion of similarities and differences between exaltation as understood by Latter-day Saints and modern Eastern Orthodox understanding of statements by church fathers on deification, see Jordan Vajda, “Partakers of the Divine Nature: A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization,” Occasional Papers Series, no. 3 (2002), available at


[quote=Oxford Dictionary]Immortality is the ability to live forever or eternal life


The doctrine relies on the definition of God. It is clear the belief of who God is has differed between the early church and Joseph Smith. That is why Mormons cannot find patristic quotes which mirror Joesph Smith’s understanding of God.


Certainly in a secular sense immortality and eternal life could have the same meaning.

In LDS vernacular immortality just means living forever, but Eternal Life means living the life God lives. Here is a brief talk distinguishing between the

Now I’m not Catholic but I bet Catholics have a way of distinguishing between just living forever (regardless of whether in Heaven or Hell), and living forever in Heaven

Regarding immortality, New Advent ( states:
By immortality is ordinarily understood the doctrine that the human soul will survive death, continuing in the possession of an endless conscious existence.

and a bit later states:

The doctrine of immortality, strictly or properly understood, means personal immortality, the endless conscious existence of the individual soul. It implies that the being which survives shall preserve its personal identity and be connected by conscious memory with the previous life.

CCC 1022 states: Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, – or immediate and everlasting damnation.

CCC 1023 states: Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ.

CCC 1035 states: The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

I’m guessing those in the CCC 1035 category are not experiencing eternal life as described CCC 1023 even though they are immortal.


[quote=St. Irenaeus]For the Uncreated is perfect, that is, God. Now it was necessary that man should in the first instance be created; and having been created, should receive growth; and having received growth, should be strengthened; and having been strengthened, should abound; and having abounded, should recover [from the disease of sin]; and having recovered, should be glorified; and being glorified, should see his Lord.** For God is He who is yet to be seen, and the beholding of God is productive of immortality, but immortality renders one near unto God.**


As Mormons are not Trinitarian, do not recognize Christ as God, the visible face of God the Father.

And the CCC’s never point to anything other than the one true God.

About Catholics living forever, just that concept in itself is foreign. It is rather I can be in heaven because I am nice, but it depends upon what one thinks is nice, because there are those who are cafeteria Catholics, and that in itself can mean many different things.

The soul is immortal. But it is not premortal.

One’s existence depends on God with the couple conceiving a human being. One cannot decide for himself in a premortal existence if he wanted to come here or not. This is not in Judeo Christian thought…over 5,600 years.


I agree and the doctrine of theosis depends on the definition of God. All other claims Mormons make about the early church father’s teachings on theosis/exaltation are void without showing the early Church and the Mormon Church have the same understand of who God is. God is the primary term in the discussion.

It is clear the God of Mormonism is different from the God of Christianity; different from what Christians have ever believed.


Ha! I knew there was a theological difference between immortality and eternal life. Romans 2:6,7 (straight from the USCCB I might add) states: who will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works


“Eternal Life” comes from the greek “zōēn aiōnion”. “Immortality” comes from the greek “aphtharsian”.

See for the translation of the entire verse.

The Irenaeus quote has issues.


[quote=Romans 2:5-8]By your stubbornness and impenitent heart,d you are storing up wrath for yourself for the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God,
who will repay everyone according to his works:*
eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works,
but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness.

Immortality is the ability to live forever or eternal life as used in scripture and by Irenaeus. If there was a theological difference, you would be able to tell us what the theological difference is, but you have not. And you would have given quotes that show how the early church believe God was as Joseph Smith described him, but you have not.

You are making a distinction without a difference; a logical fallacy.


1 Corinthians 15:22 (KJV) For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
All of us will receive the gift of immortality, i.e. living forever.

John 17:3 (KJV) And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Eternal life is reserved only for those who come to know the Father and the Son.

A clear distinction with a difference.


[quote=St. Irenaeus]For the Uncreated is perfect, that is, God.

[quote=David Paulsen]Indeed, Joseph boldly proclaimed that humans are of the same origin and species as God: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!”

Christianity has always believed God is the uncreated creator.

Mormons believe God is a created being like man.

Therefore, When a Christian claims to become god, we mean to share in his divinity like a poker shares in the heat of the fire without becoming the fire. A Mormon believes they will become the fire because Mormons believe man is God in embryo.

[quote=St. Irenaeus]Now it was necessary that man should in the first instance be created; and having been created, should receive growth; and having received growth, should be strengthened; and having been strengthened, should abound; and having abounded, should recover [from the disease of sin]; and having recovered, should be glorified; and being glorified, should see his Lord. For God is He who is yet to be seen, and the beholding of God is productive of immortality, but immortality renders one near unto God.

And we will be with God forever.

Irenaeus tells us that God is uncreated, man is created. If we are free of sin, we will live with God forever. So the final state of man is to be with God forever, NEVER to be God. We can never be God because we are created and there is only one creator of all things as St. Athanasius wrote.

[quote=Joseph Smith]My Father worked out His kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to My Father, so that He may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt Him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take His place, and thereby become exalted myself.

The early church fathers NEVER believed that God was once a man and men are Gods in embryo as taught by Joseph Smith and believed by Mormons.


[quote=Joseph Smith] We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.

[quote=Joseph Smith]My Father worked out His kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to My Father, so that He may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt Him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take His place, and thereby become exalted myself.

Yes that is the Mormon teaching ©1844. Rejecting Christian teaching that God is uncreated, always was God and always will be God. The teaching described in post #70.

This would be a new teaching ©2001; a teaching closer to Christianity.

The Mormon Church has rejected the teachings of Joseph Smith before, so I’m sure it is possible that this new teaching could someday be a dominate teaching within Mormonism.

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