Sunday, December 13, 2009

Origin of famous Mormon couplet uncovered

Lorenzo Snow, 5th prophet of the LDS Church
A Mormon historian has published a previously unavailable Brigham Young sermon shedding light on a foundational teaching of LDS Church.
As man now is, God once was;
as God now is, man may become
"That exalted position was made manifest to me at a very early day. I had a direct revelation of this" said President Snow, considered a prophet by members of the LDS church.
Nearly fifty years earlier Lorenzo Snow had been ordained an apostle.  Later that week Mormon Church President Brigham Young noted, "Lorenzo Snow put out some principles arguing that Jesus Christ is our father and not our elder brother and asked for light."  From the newly published 1849 sermon, Brigham Young explained:

"While on a mission to England, the following came forcibly to my mind --
"While on a mission to England, the following came forcibly to my mind -- As God was, so are we now; as he now is, so we shall be."
About the new publication: The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young
Is the couplet still taught today?
King Follett Discourse
Lorenzo Snow's sermon
LDS Church Plan of Salvation
Eliza R. Snow's Recollection

So declared Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Since this pronouncement on Sept. 18, 1898 the couplet has been quoted hundreds of times by LDS general authorities and instructors to summarize the Mormon concept of "eternal progression."

So who was the author of the famous couplet?
Joseph Smith discussed these ideas in the 1840s, captured best in his 1844 public address known as the King Follett Discourse. "If you were to see [God] today, you would see him like a man in form."  He continued stating that man must progress "from one small degree to another ... until [they] arrive at the station of a God. ... You have got to learn to become Gods yourselves, the same as all Gods before you have done." 
Brigham Young remembered the couplet came to him as a strong impression in 1841. He shared the couplet with Lorenzo Snow eight years later in 1849.  His 1849 reply to Lorenzo Snow was recorded immediately (by several individuals) which includes the text of the couplet.
Lorenzo Snow remembers coming to a realization of the concept in 1840 prior to his mission, and then sharing it with Brigham Young in a private conversation in 1841.  It is unclear when the text of the couplet came to him.
Lorenzo's sister Eliza R. Snow remembers hearing his thoughts in 1840.  Both Lorenzo and Eliza were recalling events that occurred several decades earlier (published in 1884).
It is possible that Brigham Young was the original author of the text of the couplet rather than Lorenzo Snow even though the concept had already come to Snow.   However the available information is not conclusive, and the author of the couplet remains unclear. 
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