On Polygamy

Below is a post from my old blog.  It was, by far, the most controversial post.  I was surprised by the attention it got, including a public response on a polygamist blog. I have kept in contact with “Kristi” up until the present time. She has made some painful decisions, but all is working out in her and her own children’s best interests:

My wife and I bumped into a young lady (“Kristi”) with children at deseret book today. She related to us that her husband is associating with a polygamist sect and that she was looking for something to try to help the situation. A conversation ensued, we exchanged email addresses, and I sent her the following email. What would you add?

———————————-

Kristi,

My wife and I enjoyed meeting you and your children today at Deseret Book. I have thought long and hard about what book or material might give you the information you seek. What mostly comes to mind, however, are bits and pieces of stuff from here and there. I do not wish to intrude or violate your privacy in any way, but I wish to be as helpful as I can be in any way.

By way of disclaimer, I do not pretend to have the answers to everything nor do I believe I have any right to tell you what to think or what to do except as you give me permission. You and your priesthood leaders are entitled to receive revelation and direction for you and your family while I am not. However, I sincerely believe the Lord often puts people in our path who needs our help or who we can help. So, I will try to offer any help I can if it be agreeable with you and the Spirit.

Also, I do not believe I know more than you or am more informed in anyway. I do not wish to ever give you the impression that I’m talking down to you in any way. If I ever come across strongly, it’s not meant to offend in any way.

I know there are about a thousand things you’re thinking about and trying to understand. Out of all of them, what would you say is the most troublesome?

While thinking about “Mormon fundamentalism” (a total misnomer!) and the situation you find yourself in, I have had the following thoughts. Please forgive any typos or grammar problems

Testimony.
As you research and study, you will uncover things you may not understand. That’s okay! I’ve found that often I have much to learn and understand. Don’t be afraid of new knowledge. However (and this is very important!), don’t discard what you do know because of what you don’t know. I image that you, like myself, have read the Book of Mormon and have come to a conviction that it is indeed true. I imagine you have received a witness that The Church of Jesus Christ of LDS is Christ’s true Church. Don’t ever betray those things in a moment of uncertainty. This is the most important thing I could ever say to you on the topic.

Authority. A basic and essential part of the gospel of Jesus Christ is priesthood authority. Priesthood authority comes by revelation and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority before a person can administer the ordinances of the gospel (Article of Faith 1:5). D&C 42 is termed “the law of the Church.” It defines church organization, practice, discipline, and so forth. One important, emphatic verse reads “Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church” (verse 11). This verse alone should destroy all pretense to authority for the splinter groups. “it shall not be given..” means not now, not then, not ever. All splinter groups claim authority from some secret ordination by a man or an angel when the Lord himself has said it cannot happen that way! One must receive priesthood authority from those who have been “regularly ordained by the heads of the church” not by some back room secret ordination. No matter what any one says, that is what our scriptures say and is the truth!

Keys of Sealing Power. The keys of sealing power are held only by one person, the president of the church. D&C 132:7–“And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.”

Several things in this verse stand out to me. First, there is only one person who holds the keys of this power. It was Joseph Smith while he was alive. Today it is President Monson. No one else holds the keys! Second, it must be “by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed [the president of the church].” Plural marriage can only be performed if a commandment comes from God to do so by revelation to the president of the church. That revelation came to Joseph Smith. The revelation to end it came to Wilford Woodruff and was confirmed and completed by Joseph F. Smith. If the practice were to return, it would be by revelation to the living president of the church who holds the keys.

The Church not to Apostatize.
Most splinter groups insist that the church has apostatized in some form or another. This contradicts the revelations of God, however. First of all, the dream recorded in Daniel 2 saw the coming forth of the Kingdom of God in the last days. It says “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (verse 44). The Church, according to this prophecy, will not be destroyed nor given to another people until the Millennial day which is approaching.

Most members of the Church are well aware of President Woodruff’s statement found in the appendix to the Doctrine and Covenants: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” I believe that statement, although it can’t be used to convince a splinter group. Why? Because they believe Wilford Woodruff had already led the church astray and therefore could be lying in this statement. The funny thing is that this concept did not originate with Wilford Woodruff, but with Brigham Young:

“Brother [Heber C.] Kimball says you must keep alive, and give nourishment and vitality to the body, comparing the Church to a tree; that you must help your Prophet and Revelator and keep that portion of the tree alive. God keeps that alive, brethren and sisters. I thank you for your prayers, your integrity, &c., but I feel to-day as I did in Nauvoo, when Sidney Rigdon and others intended to ride the Church into hell. I told them that I would take my hat and the few that would go with me and build up the kingdom of God, asking no odds of them. If you support me, you support yourselves; if you do not choose to do this you will dry up, blow away and be damned….The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth.” (Brigham Young in Journal of Discourses, 9:289).

In other words, God would sustain and “keep alive” the heads of the church without the help of the members. Further, He will not permit them to lead the church astray “if you are found doing your duty.” Well, with polygamy, the church did it’s duty. The brethren and sisters suffered great persecution, went to jail, struggled and toiled while defending that principle. It would be incredibly uninformed for someone to accuse them of not doing their “duty” when the Lord ended plural marriage.

So why did plural marriage cease? “Wherefore I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good” (D&C 56:4). “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings” (D&C 124:49). The Lord gives and repeals commandments as his will according to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Many examples of this could be given. Let me know if you’d like a few.

Not all statements by the Prophet are “prophetic.” Joseph Smith said a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such. A friend of mine says “Catholic doctrine says that the Pope is infallible, and no catholic believes it. Mormon doctrine says the prophet is not infallible and no Mormon believes it!” The truth of the matter is that the president of the church is just as much human as you or I. While entitled to revelation for the church and although he holds the keys of the priesthood and kingdom of God, God doesn’t give him a new brain, a new personality, or new philosophies when he becomes president of the church. So, if you study hard, you’ll find that the prophets sometimes contradict each other and even themselves on some issues that are not core doctrines or principles of the gospel. This shouldn’t bother any latter-day saint any more than seeing differences in opinion, personalities, and philosophies of our bishops, priests, elders, stake presidents, or anyone else. It’s the same for the president of the church.

Scriptures are the Standard Works.
The scriptures are the standard works. They are the measuring stick (that’s what “canon” means!) whereby to judge the doctrines and teachings of the church. If there is a conflict between the clear teaching of scripture and the views of a leader of the church, the scriptures take precedence. “It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.” (Joseph Fielding Smith in Doctrines of Salvation, 3:205)

Monogamy is the norm, not Polygamy. Lehi didn’t practice polygamy. Neither did Nephi, Alma, Mosiah, Mormon, Moroni, Abinadi, Jacob [Nephi’s brother], etc. The Lord actually forbade most polygamy among the Nephites (see Jacob 2). Paul forbade polygamy for elders and bishops (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:5-6). However, Jacob 2:30 makes clear that the Lord may command it under certain circumstances. So, polygamy is not the norm, it is the exception. That is the scriptural fact, and that takes precedence over the opinions of any person.

Polygamy not required for Exaltation. It follows that if many prophets and even whole dispensations did not practice polygamy, it can’t be required for exaltation. Further, D&C 132:19-20 makes it clear that polygamy is not part of the formula for exaltation. “And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood…they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”

“A man” sealed to “a woman” can be exalted, not a man sealed to “two or more women” [only].

Kristi, I hope some of this helps. We can’t ever force another’s beliefs, but we should do all we can to bring the truth to light (D&C 124:11-16). The only person’s belief you can ultimately control is your own. I hope these things I have mentioned will help you first and foremost.

So, what are the most troubling issues you are confronting?

Sincerely,
Andrew

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Eternal Life Here and Now?


Lehi saw a vision of the Tree of Life (See 1 Nephi 8). In his vision he saw some pressing forward until they arrived at the tree and tasted its fruit. Some of them “after they had tasted of the fruit…were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:28).

Nephi, the son of Lehi, wished to “know the things that [his] father had seen” (1 Nephi 10:1) and then had a glorious vision recorded in 1 Nephi 11-14. After his vision, he explained the vision to his brothers in 1 Nephi 15. At the close of his explanation of the vision he had something quite remarkable to say:

Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it [i.e., the fruit] is the greatest of all the gifts of God (1 Nephi 15:36).

This should make any LDS seminary graduate to raise his eyebrows. What is the greatest of all the gifts of God?

The Doctrine and Covenants states that “eternal life…is the greatest of all the gifts of God” and also that “there is no greater gift than the gift of salvation” (14:7; 6:13). So salvation or eternal life is the greatest gift a child of God can receive, and this is synonymous with the fruit of the tree of life!

So, apparently some can partake of the fruit of the tree of life (which is eternal life or salvation) and then fall away. Since this life is the time to prepare to meet God, and since salvation cannot be lost after death, in what ways can we partake of eternal life and salvation in this life?

Or, am is there more to this that I’m not seeing?

PS. There are a few Biblical references to having “eternal life” in this life. I won’t point them out to you specifically, but they’re there.

Good Cross References that Aren’t There

On a message board that I frequent someone started a post asking for people to give good cross references that are not in the LDS edition of the scriptures. I added a few of my own and found some of the others really interesting. I add them here for your enjoyment.


1 Nephi 4:13
(Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief).

and

Matthew 5:29
(And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.)

—————
Jacob 1:19 (And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.)

and

Ezekiel 3:18 (When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.)

————–
Hebrews 10:26-27 (26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.)

with

Mosiah 2:36-37 (36 And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—
37 I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.)

————

2 Nephi 25:23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

with

Alma 24:11
And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—

—————

Below are the cross references I contributed to the list:


Matthew 5:48
–Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

with

Luke 6:40
–The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.

—————–
John 5:29–And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

with

D&C 76:15-18–For while we were doing the work of translation, which the Lord had appointed unto us, we came to the twenty-ninth verse of the fifth chapter of John, which was given unto us as follows—
16 Speaking of the resurrection of the dead, concerning those who shall hear the voice of the Son of Man:
17 And shall come forth; they who have done good, in the resurrection of the just; and they who have done evil, in the resurrection of the unjust.
18 Now this caused us to marvel, for it was given unto us of the Spirit.

————

John 6:44, 65
—No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day…And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

with

2 Nephi 26:24-28, 33
—He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
25 Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.
26 Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
27 Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.
28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
….For none of these iniquities come of the Lord; for he doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.

&

John 12:32
–And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

&

3 Nephi 27:13-15
–13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.
14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

———-
2 Corinthians 3:18–But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

with

2 Corinthians 4:4
–…the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God,…

and

Col. 1:14
–[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature

———

Philippians 2:6— [Christ], being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

with

John 5:18–Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

———–
Revelation 22:18-19— For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

with

Revelation 1:1-3,11
–The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.
3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand…
11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia;

———

John 3:16–For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

with

D&C 34: 1-3
–My son Orson, hearken and hear and behold what I, the Lord God, shall say unto you, even Jesus Christ your Redeemer;
2 The light and the life of the world, a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not;
3 Who [Jesus Christ] so loved the world that he gave his own life, that as many as would believe might become the sons of God.

Closed Canon–Extra-canonical?

Catholic and Protestant doctrines teach that the culminating revelation was Jesus Christ himself. After his coming, the need for revelation has ceased. All truth necessary for salvation is found in the Bile and the scriptural canon is closed. The Catholics, ironically, reluctantly admit that the revelation given thus far “has not been made completely explicit” (see below).

On the other hand, LDS believe that there can be no salvation without current revelation, that the canon of scripture will always be open (at least in mortality), and the Bible does not contain every essential word spoken by God. Further, the Bible cannot replace modern revelation.

Catholic Doctrine

” ‘…no new revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Yet even if revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries….Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the revelations of which Christ is the fulfillment, as in the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such ‘revelations.’ ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church. [New York: Doubleday, 1995], pp. 27-28 paragraphs 66-67).

In other words, it took time “over the course of the centuries” to develop “Christian faith” since the completed revelation of ancient prophets and apostles “has not been made completely explicit.” However, there will be no more revelation to clarify this confusion. Therefore, beware of any claiming to have more revelation (like the LDS)!

Protestant Doctrine

“Since the completion of the biblical books, there is no further divine inspiration for the writing of Scripture….Jesus Christ has done all that he can do in his redemptive purposes until his return to the earth. And in the available canon we have all the truths necessary to acceptance with God and for an abundant life. All the noncontradictory teachings of alleged recent revelations together do no add anything significant to scriptural teachings on God, mankind, sin, salvation, the church, and things to come. The commission of the apostles was unique and norepeatable…All the alleged revelations of spiritists, Latter-Day Saints, Christian Scientists, and others put together do not add anything significant to the teaching of Scripture…What people need nos is not more revelations but more faithfulness to the Spirit-illumined applications of biblical principles to specific situations” (Lewis, Gordon R., & Demarest, Bruce A., Integrative Theology. [Grand Rapids: Zondervan]. 1:116-117).

These authors would have us believe that:

1. There can be no more apostles.
2. There can be no more scripture other than what is in the Bible.
3. Jesus Christ can do no more for man’s salvation than what he has already done.
4. LDS revelation does not add “anything significant” to our understanding of God.
5. et cetera

The message is clear: We are not to expect God to speak anymore to lead us to salvation. We have “scholars” who can do that for Him based on their interpretation of the Bible.

Mormon Doctrine

“From what we can draw from the Scriptures relative to the teaching of heaven, we are induced to think that much instruction has been given to man since the beginning which we do not possess now. This may not agree with the opinions of some of our friends who are bold to say that we have everything written in the Bible which God ever spoke to man since the world began, and that if He had ever said anything more we should certainly have received it. But we ask, does it remain for a people who never had faith enough to call down one scrap of revelation from heaven, and for all they have now are indebted to the faith of another people who lived hundreds and thousands of years before them, does it remain for them to say how much God has spoken and how much He has not spoken? We have what we have, and the Bible contains what it does contain: but to say that God never said anything more to man than is there recorded would be saying at once that we have at least received a revelation: for it must require one to advance thus far, because it is nowhere said in that volume by the mouth of God, that He would not, after giving what is there contained, speak again; and if any man has found out for a fact that the Bible contains all that God ever revealed to man he has ascertained it by an immediate revelation, other than has been previously written by the prophets and apostles” (Joseph Smith, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976], pp 61-62).

“Now I will give my testimony. I care not for man. I speak boldly and faithfully and with authority. How is it with the kingdom of God? Where did the kingdom of God begin? Where there is no kingdom of God there is no salvation. What constitutes the kingdom of God? Where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God gives his oracles, there is the kingdom of God; and where the oracles of God are not, there the kingdom of God is not…The plea of many in this day is, that we have no right to receive revelations; but if we do not get revelations, we do not have the oracles of God; and if they have not the oracles of God, they are not the people of God. But say you, What will become of the world, or the various professors of religion who do not believe in revelation and the oracles of God as continued in His Church in all ages of the world, when He has a people on earth? I tell you, in the name of Jesus Christ, they will be damned; and when you get into the eternal world, you will find it will be so, they cannot escape the damnation of hell” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976], p. 271).

The irony is obvious. The idea of a closed canon, i.e. all necessary truth is already found in the Bible, is extra-Biblical. Logically, if a person proclaims that doctrine and belief must be derived from the Bible alone (sola scriptura), shouldn’t the Bible say so? Further, if revelation was supposed to cease, how shall we know it without a revelation saying so?

Final Thoughts

This is clearly one of the biggest differences, if not the biggest difference, between LDS and mainstream Christian beliefs. I must here admit, I have never found any arguments against modern revelation or a closed canon convincing. While it is one thing to argue that Joseph Smith didn’t receive true revelations (in actuality), it is another to argue that he couldn’t have received revelation (in theory).

Further Reading

For those who are interested, I recommend:

1. Elder Holland’s recent General Conference talk: “My Words…Never Cease”
2. 2 Nephi 28:3-6, 26-31
3. 2 Nephi 29:6-11
4. Joseph Smith–History 1:12

1 Cor. 8:5-6, Plurality of Gods, and Exaltation

It is well known that Joseph Smith quoted 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 as evidence of a plurality of gods.

Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many. I want to set it forth in a plain and simple manner; but to us there is but one God—that is pertaining to us; and he is in all and through all. But if Joseph Smith says there are Gods many and Lords many, they cry, “Away with him! Crucify him! Crucify him!” Mankind verily say that the Scriptures are with them. Search the Scriptures, for they testify of things that these apostates would gravely pronounce blasphemy. Paul, if Joseph Smith is a blasphemer, you are.
I say there are Gods many and Lords many, but to us only one, and we are to be in subjection to that one, and no man can limit the bounds or the eternal existence of eternal time. Hath he beheld the eternal world, and is he authorized to say that there is only one God? He makes himself a fool if he thinks or says so, and there is an end of his career or progress in knowledge. He cannot obtain all knowledge, for he has sealed up the gate to it. Some say I do not interpret the Scripture the same as they do. They say it means the heathen’s gods. Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many; and that makes a plurality of Gods, in spite of the whims of all men. Without a revelation, I am not going to give them the knowledge of the God of heaven. You know and I testify that Paul had no allusion to the heathen gods. I have it from God, and get over it if you can. I have a witness of the Holy Ghost, and a testimony that Paul had no allusion to the heathen gods in the text” (Joseph Smith, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. p. 370-371).

As you can see, he believed the passage referred to real gods that exist. This, however, does not negate the fact that we only have one God the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ. He also made clear that he knew his critics believed that the passage had reference to heathen or false gods. He denies that saying he received by revelation the fact that it didn’t have reference to them.

The criticism he mentioned is still the same today. I quote from CARM:

The key to understanding this scripture is the term “so-called.” Paul is teaching us that there are not many gods. Rather, he is teaching us that there are many that are “called” gods but are not really gods. We can see this elsewhere when Paul says in Gal. 4:8, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods.” We can see that the Bible teaches that there is only one God, yet people believe in other gods. In reality these other gods do not exist.

What is so interesting about this debate for me is the fact that the renowned scholar, disciple, and Christian Origen (185-251 AD), like the LDS, believed the passage had reference to real gods.

There are some gods of whom God is god, as we hear in prophecy, “Thank ye the God of gods,” and “The God of gods hath spoken, and called the earth.” Now God, according to the Gospel, “is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Those gods, then, are living of whom God is god. The Apostle, too, writing to the Corinthians, says, “As there are gods many and lords many,” and so we have spoken of these gods as really existing. Now there are, besides the gods of whom God is god, certain others, who are called thrones, and other called dominions, lordships, also, and powers in addition to these.(In Ante-Nicene Fathers [ANF] 9:315)

This divinity of mankind is made possible through Jesus Christ (the “first-born of all creation”). He was the first to become divine.

And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him, of whom God is the God, as it is written, “The God of gods, the Lord, hath spoken and called the earth.” It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is “The God,” and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype. (ANF 9:323)

Apparently some landed the criticism that this doctrine would somehow demote God and make him less than what He is (much the same way the LDS have been ridiculed for “demoting” God). Origin responded:

Now it is possible that some may dislike what we have said representing the Father as the one true God, but admitting other beings besides the true God, who have become gods by having a share of God. They may fear that the glory of Him who surpasses all creation may be lowered to the level of those other beings called gods. (ANF 9:323)

I find it interesting that this concept of “thrones,” “dominions,” “powers,” etc also appear in LDS scriptures, but not in the Bible, especially in the context of the plurality of gods and/or exaltation.

For example

A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest. All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the gospel of Jesus Christ. (D&C 121:28-29)

And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood; and it shall be said unto them—Ye shall come forth in the first resurrection; and if it be after the first resurrection, in the next resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths—then shall it be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that he shall commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, and if ye abide in my covenant, and commit no murder whereby to shed innocent blood, it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.
Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have call power, and the angels are subject unto them. (D&C 132:19-20)

A search of the Bible does not turn up such terminology: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/search?type=words&last=%22thrones%22%2C+%22gods%22&help=&wo=checked&search=thrones%2C+dominions&do=Search&iw=scriptures&tx=checked&af=checked&hw=checked&sw=checked&bw=1 except in Col. 1:16 which does not mention gods or exaltation.

Irenaeus also had something to say about the issue of exaltation and uses terminology also found in D&C 132.

For there is the one Son, who accomplished His Father’s will; and one human race also in which the mysteries of God are wrought, “which the angels desire to look into;” and they are not able to search out the wisdom of God, by means of which His handiwork, confirmed and incorporated with His Son, is brought to perfection; that His offspring, the First-begotten Word, should descend to the creature (facturam), that is, to what had been moulded (plasma), and that it should be contained by Him; and, on the other hand, the creature should contain the Word, and ascend to Him, passing beyond the angels,and be made after the image and likeness of God. (ANF 1:567)

It would seem that this is a repeat of the doctrine that the Word became man so that men may become gods (or “Words”). Interestingly, we must “pass beyond the angels” in the process. This is similar to the terminology in D&C 132:19-20.