False Dilemma of Aaron Shafovaloff’s ‘Dilemma of Mormon Exaltation’ – Subordination vs. Independence between gods

Photo by Bob Ward from Pexels

What is a false dilemma logical fallacy? Richard Nordquist writes this definition:

The false dilemma is a fallacy of oversimplification that offers a limited number of options (usually two) when in reality more options are available. Also known as the either-or fallacy, the fallacy of the excluded middle, and the black and white fallacy.

Either-or arguments are fallacious because they tend to reduce complex issues to simplistic choices. 

The Fallacy of the False Dilemma

Nordquist continues to with this:

false dilemma arises when we allow ourselves to be convinced that we have to choose between two and only two mutually exclusive options, when that is untrue. Generally, when this rhetorical strategy is used, one of the options is unacceptable and repulsive, while the other is the one the manipulator wants us to choose. Whoever succumbs to this trap has thus made a choice that is forced, and as such, of little value…

This is quite evident in Aaron Shafovaloff’s recent article Dilemmas of Mormon Exaltation. This article was published at Mormon Research Ministry’s website. In this brief content, Shafovaloff attempts to manipulate the reader into accepting the position he presents as a more reasonable and logically sound choose over that which may appear repulsive and unacceptable. And it is quite disappointing there are no scriptural back up for such assertions.

Since it is the constant request of Evangelical Christians to ask Mormons to research the truth – we will do just that. Research to see if Shafovaloff’s presentation is one of sound reason and logic. If it is not, then we must disregard his understanding as another failed attempt to reason with the Mormons.

The first thing he asks the reader to do is to consider the following in light of both halves of the Lorenzo Snow coupletas man is God once was; as God is man may become. Shafovaloff jumps right into the first point of contention: Subordination vs. Independence of between gods. Second point of contention appears to focus on: Expanding Godhead vs. Overlapping Godhead. Third, he presents this contention: Shared vs. independent dominion between gods. Finally, he contends this observation: Exhaustible vs. Infinite pool of co-eternal intelligences.

Lorenzo Snow (April 3, 1814 – October 10, 1901) was an American religious leader who served as the fifth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1898 until his death. Snow was the last president of the LDS Church in the 19th century and the first in the 20th.
Lorenzo Snow’s Famous Couplet

To understand the famous couplet one ought to consider the context of how such a simple statement became a thorn in the side of modern Evangelical Christians. From historical accounts. Lorenzo Snow was preparing to serve a mission for the church. He visited a friends home (Henry G. Sherwood) and requested an explanation of a particular passage. Snow recalled:

While attentively listening to his explanation the spirit of the Lord rested mightily upon me – the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the pathway of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation, as it was shown to me. As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.

The Grand Destiny of the Faithful – Chapter 5; Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow

The account continues to share that Lorenzo snow felt this to be a sacred communication and did not openly preach about it until the Prophet Joseph Smith began preaching on the same subject. It not only impacted him as a sacred and personal revelation, it set the tone for how deeply he lived his life for the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Not only did this spiritual truth establish a way of life for Lorenzo Snow, it opened up the understanding and spiritual truth of our own Divine Heritage. I reflect upon this in an early article Our Divine Heritage.

Our identity is important to us. It is how we define ourselves within the context of society. We are either proud of who we are, or are ashamed of what we are and have become. Either way, we allow our identity to define our reality.

Therefore, our trust is in the Sovereign God who created each one of us to bear His image, His own likeness – which is that very image and likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ (see,  Colossians 1:15). In essence, our trust in God and Christ begins the process of transforming our fallen and natural image to that of a Holy and righteous image of God and the Savior.

In another article, I expound upon the thoughts and teachings of Brigham Young’s sermon on seeking after salvation and Exaltation (as published in the Journal of Discourses, Volume One).

In a three part essay – I delve even deeper into the subject of God, Masculinity, Feminity, Gender Roles, Marriage, Creation of Man and Woman, and even the Symbolisms tied to Heavenly Mother. These three essays were a response to an article posted at a website called Biblical Gender Roles and goes into great detail, Scriptural authority, and scholarly literature.

One thing Brigham Young observed is that we are subjected to law, order, rule, and government. This is evident through the Old and New Testament, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The doctrine of Theosis or Exaltation is based on God’s law, order, and rule.

While Shafovaloff contends that such teaching and doctrine is anathema to the Bible; the truth still stands – humanity does not only possess a divine heritage through creation – we have a divine destiny of exaltation. This will be quite evident when a person honestly takes the time to see what Christ taught on the subject. What the Apostle Paul wrote about in his epistles. What John saw in Revelation and wrote about to the 7 Churches.

What Latter-day Saint Christians Believe about Salvation and Exaltation
What Latter-day Saint Christians believe regarding Death, Resurrection, and Exaltation
The Plan of Salvation answers the questions: Who we are, why we are here, and where we are going to go
Subordinate and Independent = interdependence

Shafovaloff presents the first false dilemma fallacy by showing there is only two possible choices. One either maintains a relationship that is subordinate or they evolve and move to a state of independence. He goes on offers the Evangelical Christian perspective where he states that God is not subordinate but that he is independent. He concludes that humanity is to remain forever dependent upon and subordinate to God.

(a) If we will forever be dependent on and subordinate to our God, then it stands to reason that God himself remains dependent on and subordinate to his own God (our Heavenly Grandfather).

or (b) If God is no longer dependent on or subordinate to his own God, then it stands to reason that we can someday become gods who are independent of, and no longer subordinate to, our own God.

Yet the Christian conscience affirms:

(c) God is independent of, and not subordinate to, any other gods.

(d) We will forever remain dependent on, and subordinate to, our God.

The problem with this assumption is that Jesus Christ consistently affirmed his very own subordination and independence when it came to His relationship with the Father. One sees this clearly in the Garden of Gethsemane:

In Luke 22:42, we read:

Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

In Matthew 36:39, we read:

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

And in Mark 14:35-36 we find this:

And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

The significance of this shows that Christ submitted himself to the Authority of the father. There is a real significant understanding for us today. In my article The Suffering Servant: Christ in Gethsemane and the significance of the Cross:

The Savior of humanity suffered in agony in the Garden. He prayed that the cup he was about to partake of be removed from him (Why did Jesus Ask God to “Let This Cup Pass From Me”?). Yet, he submitted himself over to the will of the Father. And, the will of the Father focused on Christ as the redeemer of humanity. Through Christ, he took on our sins, bore them, faced a trial, was scourged, crucified, and only to rise again the third day. As the scripture teaches, what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane focused on Christ fully realizing his mission and purpose to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of all mankind (See, Moses 1:39). 

I also take a more applicable approach in how this relates to each of us toward a meaningful spiritual transformation in our lives – Having a Gethsemane Experience Toward Spiritual Transformation. Here is the observation:

The agony, the choice before Jesus Christ, the prayer of respite from the bitter cup that he was to drink from. All of this pressed down upon him. The weight of the world upon his very shoulders. And, his very question Let this cup pass before me, not my will, but thine be done center’s our focus on the very heart of surrender and obedience. Was there any other way that such a sacrifice be accomplished? 

Not only do the Gospels record Christ’s humble submission over to the will of the Father in the Garden; they also write and record numerous statements he has made to his disciples. For instance, John 6:38 says: For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. He also says this in John 4:34, John 5:19, and John 5:30.

In John 171-5, we further see the submissiveness and subordination of Christ to the Father:

…Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:  As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.  And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

Not only does John 17 (known as the High Priestly Prayer of Christ) show us the subordination of Christ to the Father, it shows the subordination of the disciples, and then extending toward those who follow the teachings of the Disciples (cf John 17:6-26).

John 14 is another chapter that reflects this idea of subordination between Christ and the Father; as well as extending to those who keep my commandments and follow me. It also opens up where Christ reveals that he goes and prepares a place for the disciples as His Father’s house has many mansions.

Jesus also reveals that after His resurrection (or as the Biblical passages reveal) that the Son is seated to the right hand of the Father (cf, Hebrews 1:3, Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62, Luke 22:69; Acts 5:31). It is interesting to note that within a monarchial government, you have the King, next to him is the Queen (a subordinate position of authority) and then the Prince (who is usually placed at the right hand of the King).

Scripture also reveals that the Father bestowed the kingdom to the Son, and then the Son, in turn, will bestow the Kingdom unto his disciples (cf Luke 22:29).

One of the most interesting conversations the Savior has with someone:

Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him (cf Matthew 20:20-23):

And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

What we notice is that Christ asked if the two sons are willing to be baptized with the same baptism Christ was baptized with and drink of the cup that I shall drink of. This is referring to the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, and the bitter cup of suffering Christ endured in the Garden of Gethsemane – a place of humility and submission. He then stated that the authority to grant them to sit on his left or right is not his to give – but the Father will give such authority to those whom are prepared for it.

Another interesting aspect of this is when we go to Revelation 3:21 where we read that Christ reveals to John that whoever overcomes as Christ had overcome, to them he will grant permission to sit on His throne as He is seated on the throne with the Father.

These passages of scripture within the Biblical text show;

  • Plan of Salvation, Redemption, and Exaltation of Humanity
  • Authority given From the Father, to the Son, and then passed on to the Disciples and all those who walk in obedience of the teachings and commandments
  • Subordination and independence of the Father, Son, disciples, and all who partake in the baptism of Christ and drink from His cup.

Does this mean that we lose our independence? For me, personally, the idea of subordination and independence correlates with a better understanding of interdependence. Meaning, the Son is subordinate to the Father, the Holy Spirit is subordinate to the Son; yet, all remain united, co-eternal, and equal in power, authority, and purpose.

One final thought on this – to further establish how the Son is subordinate to the Father rests upon what Christ says concerning his Parousia. In Mark 13:32, we read:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

This shows that Christ’s knowledge is limited to what the Father knows. Likewise, we are limited to what the Father and Son know – yet we still submit ourselves over to the care of the Father and the Son. We walk in humility and obedience to all that is taught unto us. What we do know is that we are of divine heritage and have a sense of purpose and meaning in this life to learn how to emulate and be Christ – like in our attitude and behavior. Eventually, we shall come to realize our divine and eternal destiny, to share in the power, authority of the Father and the Son.

As to the question: Is God independent of, and not subordinate to, any other gods? Or, is he subordinate and dependent to any other Gods? The answer is – we do not know and that is the great mystery. What we do know only pertains to our understanding of this Earth, our divine heritage, our sense of meaning and purpose in this mortal life, and our divine destiny of Exaltation. To answer this question places us in the arena of mere speculation.

Regardless, if there is an eternal progression of God’s that is infinite in nature – what does that pertain to the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ? It has no real bearing on it. It is best to remain silent where scripture remains silent.

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