Lorenzo Snow’s Couplet: “As Man Now Is, God Once Was; As God Now Is, Man May Be”: “No Functioning Place In Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?” A Response To Richard Mouw -- By: Ronald V. Huggins

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 49:3 (Sep 2006)
Article: Lorenzo Snow’s Couplet: “As Man Now Is, God Once Was; As God Now Is, Man May Be”: “No Functioning Place In Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?” A Response To Richard Mouw
Author: Ronald V. Huggins


Lorenzo Snow’s Couplet:
“As Man Now Is, God Once Was;
As God Now Is, Man May Be”:
“No Functioning Place In
Present-Day Mormon Doctrine?”
A Response To Richard Mouw

Ronald V. Huggins*

Man may become as God himself! Let those who disagree howl as they may!

Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie1

I. Richard Mouw’s Tabernacle Apology

During his appearance with Ravi Zacharias in the Mormon Tabernacle on November 14, 2004, Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw apologized on behalf of evangelicals for “bearing false witness” against Mormons. When challenged about his remarks, Mouw sent out an e-mail identifying places where he felt evangelicals had misrepresented Mormon teaching. Among these was the claim that “Mormonism teaches that God was once a human being like us, and we can become gods just like God is now,”2 a belief, Mouw goes on to assure us, that has “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine.” As anyone familiar with Mormonism will immediately recognize, Mouw’s words allude to the famous couplet coined by the fifth LDS Church President Lorenzo Snow:

As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.3

Is Mouw correct in saying that the teaching contained in this couplet no longer has any functioning place in present-day Mormonism? In trying to answer this question, we must begin by looking at where Snow’s couplet came from and why it caught on as an important summary of the Mormon doctrinal system.

* Ronald Huggins is associate professor of historical and theological studies at Salt Lake Theological Seminary, P.O. Box 2096, Salt Lake City, UT 84110–2096.

II. The Origins Of Snow’s Couplet

In May 1836 Lorenzo Snow visited Kirtland, Ohio, where his sister Eliza R. Snow had moved the previous year after converting to Mormonism. At a blessing meeting in the Kirtland Temple, Snow met Joseph Smith Sr. (the father of the Mormon Prophet) who predicted that he would soon be converted to the LDS faith. Smith Sr. went on to make the astonishing prediction that afterward Snow would “become as great as you can possibly wish—EVEN AS GREAT AS GOD.”4 Snow was baptized two weeks later.

Snow was unable to make anything of this remarkable prediction until shortly before embarking on a mission to England in the spring of 1840. He reports that one day as he sat listening to...

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