Mormanism and “Ye are ‘gods’ “

John C. Rankin

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints, aka the Mormons, one central doctrine is the belief that all true Mormons will one day become “gods” equal to God the Father and Jesus. They believe that they too will evolve upward as they say the Father and the Son did likewise earlier.

The proof text is from Psalm 82:6: “I said, ‘You are gods'; you are all sons of the Most High.” The Mormons only use the 1769 edition of the King James Bible (first published in 1611), and its language here is: “Ye are gods.”

But this “revelation” came through the person of their nineteenth century prophet Joseph Smith, and does not square with the Bible on its own terms. First, let quote the whole psalm in context, from the NIV:

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A psalm of Asaph.

God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods”:

“How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?    Selah

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.

“Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

“They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’

“But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

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The “gods” are here judged by God in the great assembly (the heavenly court with the holy angels), for defending the unjust and wicked over and against the weak, fatherless, poor, oppressed and needy. Thus, they will die like “every other man,” and “fall like every other ruler.”

How then does Mormon doctrine square with the biblical text? And, what are the “gods?” In the ancient near eastern world, human rulers called themselves “gods,” and their heirs were called “sons of god.” It was a pretense, and exactly what is happening in Genesis 6, where the “sons of god” were the “royal” young men who chose as many women as they wanted as wives, that is, each building their own harems. This reification of women was central to the wickedness of that age that was judged by the Flood. The same wickedness is in place in Psalm 82, and these “sons of god” are judged to die just like all men and other rulers.

The text of John 10:34-37 quotes Psalm 82:6. What does it mean? The NIV says:

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Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’?  If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came – and the Scripture cannot be broken –  what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.

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Jesus is being opposed by Jewish religious elitists who want to kill him for calling himself the Son of God. In their banter with Jesus – across the Gospels – Jesus is always both innocent toward them in terms of wanting them to see and embrace the truth, and shrewd in not putting up with their entrapments and deceit. So here Jesus challenges them to be biblically literate, using due irony and satire. Namely, they object to him being called the Son of God, yet they are those who behave just like those “gods” or “rulers” in Psalm 82. And yet, Jesus then gives them an escape hatch — they are free to disbelieve him if they do not see him doing what the Father does. Namely a contrast between false sons of God and the true Son of God. They do not attempt to give answer, but try instead to seize and kill him. They cannot measure their pretense with his authenticity.

Thus, a central anthropological doctrine in Mormonism is a non-biblical assertion. Instead of elevating Mormons to being equal to God, it actually brings them (and any of us who believe and act likewise) under judgment instead.

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