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Did the Mormons’ president downplay a central teaching of Mormonism?


I heard that the current Mormon "prophet" gave an interview in which he waffled on the key teaching of Mormonism—that men can become gods. Is this true?


Yes, it is. Shortly after Easter 1997, the San Francisco Chronicle printed an interview with Gordon B. Hinckley, who has been the president and “prophet” of the Mormon church since 1995.

In the interview, he was asked: “[D]on’t Mormons believe that God was once a man?”

“I wouldn’t say that,” the prophet responded. “There’s a little couplet coined, ‘As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.’ Now, that’s more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don’t know very much about” (“Musings of the Main Mormon,” April 13, 1997, 3/Z1).

There’s something wrong here, as even Latter-day Saints admit. Hinckley appeared to dismiss the traditional Mormon belief that God was once a man by using the demeaning terms “little,” “couplet,” and “coined.” What he failed to point out was that the couplet, coined in the late 19th century by previous Mormon president and prophet Lorenzo Snow, was a succinct summary of the doctrine taught by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the founding theologians of Mormonism (see Doctrine and Covenants 130:22).

When asked how he receives divine revelation, to which he is supposedly entitled as God’s prophet on earth, Hinckley said, “[W]e have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don’t need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we’ve already received.”

Discussing abortion, Hinckley said his church permits it in several circumstances, including for the mother’s health. This is a change to a more liberal, politically correct position than what Mormonism has held to this point.

When asked about euthanasia, Hinckley declared that “no, at this point at least, we haven’t favored that” (emphasis added). Mormons may well wonder if this leaves the door cracked open to future divine permission to kill their sick and elderly.

Ultimately, the past doctrinal transformations of Mormonism give no confidence that there will not be equally drastic revisions to Mormon doctrine in the future. There may be more stages yet to come as Mormonism reinvents itself to fit the culture around it.

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