One of the more interesting aspects of Mormon theology is the basic ambiguity that it sets up about our ultimate origins. It seems to me that we have at least three different and not entirely compatible ways of talking about where we come from.
We are uncreated. This is the notion that our spirits are uncreated beings, co-eternal with God himself. This is the line of thinking that says that intelligence, like matter, can be neither created nor destroyed. The scriptural basis for the doctrine lies in the 93 section of the Doctrine & Covenants, but its strongest statement is in the Prophet Josephâ€™s influential but uncanonized â€œKing Follet Discourse.â€?
We are created. The notion that God is our maker and creator pops up all over in the scriptures. It seems to be particularly popular in the Book of Mormon. (A quick search at the Church web site reveals that God is referred to as manâ€™s Maker six times in the Book of Mormon).
We are the literal children of God. Obviously, there is lots of language in the scriptures referring to God as our Father, but Mormonism has a very literal approach to this. The Proclamation on the Family declares that we are the spirit children of Heavenly Parents. Interestingly, as near as I can tell, this doctrine of the spirit birth does not show up in the scriptures. The language in the â€œProclamation on the Familyâ€? seems to be lifted almost verbatim from similar language about heavenly parents from the First Presidencyâ€™s 1925 statement on â€œThe â€˜Mormonâ€™ View of Evolution.â€? (A document noticeable for its lack of any discussion of evolution.)
It seems to me that there are some problems to be worked out here. Depending on our particular rhetorical mode, we adopt different accounts of our origins. The uncreated soul provides a nice spring board for discussions of personal responsibility and moral agency. God as our Maker provides a nice way of invoking divine awe and gratitude toward Godâ€™s goodness and an appreciation of his power. The notion of literal parentage provides us with a divine model for families and emphasizes the intimacy of our link to God. The question, however, is how we reconcile things so that all three concepts can live comfortably side by side in our theology. Generally, we do this by simply not looking directly at the issue, and perhaps this is the best solution. I wonder, however, if we might do better.