Has Jesus Christ always been a God?
I asked one of the young missionaries in our ward this question and it puzzled him and he had no answer for me. I really stumped him with this follow up question, "Does a being need to have a physical body to become like God or to become a God"?
From my LDS training it appears that there is a progression in being from an intelligence (co-eternal with God and uncreate) to a spirit (not co-eternal with God but created by God to house our intelligence) to a physical body (now mortal but originally created immortal by God, made mortal through the fall of Adam) to a resurrected body (immortal and from that point on eternal) that may be exalted to be like God depending on our obedience to God's commands in this mortal life.
LDS theology of the Godhead was very much in a set of flex prior to James E. Talmage in 1916. It appears that some former LDS beliefs (as passed on to us in the temple) are not consistent with current thought. For example, except for the mystery of the spiritual and non-physical nature of the Holy Ghost, it is LDS belief that a physical body is necessary to be like God. It was for this reason that God created this Earth and established the Gospel so that our spirits could obtain a body and become like God. It is also believed that Jesus was the first born spirit child of God
(the offspring of God and one of his wives - but this is another issue).
It was Jesus who stood up to Satan (who did not have a body either being also one of God's spirit children) and it was Christ's plan (which was also God's plan) that was selected and we are now living. Jesus is literally then our spirit brother, our "Elder Brother". Jesus did not have a body, he was a spirit just like us, just like Satan. His spirit was created just like ours were.
If a body is needed to become like God and to become a God, how can Jesus be the "God" of the Old Testament? Since Jesus is our Elder "spirit" Brother how could he be a God, lacking the required body that makes us like God (unless he was of the same substance and essence as God and is therefore different than we are.) LDS theology is in conflict by making Jesus, Jehovah, God of the Old Testament, while teaching that Jesus, the first born of God's spirit children and therefore like the rest of us, became a God and achieved Godhood through his earthly life and sacrifice.
Truman G. Madsen summed up this achievement of Jesus in a BYU Studies article where a Mormon, a Catholic, and a Protestant debated. He has the Mormon saying, "Christ is equal with God, as your creeds say. But he became so, as your creeds deny. I must say here that for a century it has been a ploy of our ill-wishers to disparage Mormons for 'not believing in the Divinity of Christ.' It turns out that we alone take seriously the full Deity that Christ achieved. He is not one aspect of the Divine, but now exemplifies through and through what it means to be, and not just partly to represent Divine nature." (italics were not added but are part of the quote.)
Also confusing is the LDS temple representation of the creative Godhead as consisting of God the Father, Jesus the spirit, and Adam the man with a physical body from another world. It was Brigham Young's unique theology concerning Adam that was thoroughly rejected in 1916. He taught, and many believed that Adam had a body and came from another world and that he was placed here on the Earth by God with one of his wives to populate a new world. LDS theology continues to grant Adam the status of God, the "Ancient of Days". The temple taught that the Biblical account of the creation was "only figurative" so far as the man and the woman were concerned. Even if we reject as spurious the theory that Adam was God or a God and that he was really Michael the Archangel, still not having a body, I am still confused as to why the Holy Ghost was left out of the creative process taught in the Endowment. The concept of a Godhead, always three individuals, seems to swap out Adam for the Holy Ghost after the Fall.
I believe current LDS theology teaches us that Jesus, our Elder "spirit" Brother, differs from us by having God the Father as his physical earthly father (having a mortal mother just like the rest of us). Through his Father, he inherited immortality and through his mother the ability to sin and to die. Jesus overcame his mortal nature by not sinning, and willingly gave up his life as a sinless sacrifice for our own guilt in order to fulfill God's plan to bring us back into his presence. Jesus thus became a God and achieved Godhood, not only for himself but for all of us who are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Christ and repent of our sins and obey God's commandments. By this teaching, I understand that Jesus therefore was not always a God and was not always God just as we are not Gods nor are we God now but "we can become such".
This view that Christ achieved Godhood and became a God, is inconsistent with scriptures that tell us that Christ was always with God and that he was God. (John 1:1-14) Current Mormon doctrine is also inconsistent with itself by teaching that Jesus as a spirit, prior to gaining a physical body was Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament while at the same time teaching that a body is necessary to become a God. (The Holy Ghost always gets left out in these discussions - I believe the traditional role of the Holy Ghost is in the process of being replaced by what is called the "Spirit of Christ" in Mormon thought. It is the "Spirit of Christ" that current Mormon doctrine tells us gives life to the world, something that traditionally has been attributed to the Holy Ghost.)
Mormon Doctrine of Deity by B.H. Roberts: A further discussion of Jesus and the Godhead.