In 1 Cor 8:5 it states “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)”. What is a God? I understand there is only one God for us, and that we ourselves may achieve “Godhood”, but this issue seems to confuse many people who are not members of the Mormon Church. How do I answer my friends to explain to them just what it means to be a God–that it is possible to believe there are multiple Gods without being polytheist?
Your first question, “What is a God?” A God is a perfect, exalted man—
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God, who holds this world in its orbit, and who holds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make himself visible-I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form-like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another.” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 305.)
By being exalted, God has all knowledge—
O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it (2 Nephi 9:20).
God has all power—
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth (Rev 19:6).
God’s power is in His word—
And I, God, said: Let there be light; and there was light (Moses 2:3)
For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure? (Jacob 4:9)
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same (D&C 1:38).
God is everywhere present—
The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (D&C 130:6-7).
Speaking of the plurality of Gods, I think that it would be instructive to add verse 6 to your quote above—
For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Cor 8:5-6).
The sense of the above scripture could be expressed as “Although there are many people who are called father, for me and my brothers and sisters, we recognize but one father, our own.”
It is hard for people who have been taught the sectarian doctrine of one God, by those who cannot ascribe to that God any attributes or characteristics substantiated by scripture, or who teach of the Trinity of Gods in which they ascribe three manifestations of a single being, that there is indeed more than one God. Years ago a wise man said to me, “When I was a Jew I did not know God, but God knew me. When I was a Catholic I knew God, but God did not know me. When I was a Protestant neither did I know God nor did God know me.” And to those interesting statements we could add the following: “And now that I am a Mormon, not only do I know God through the manifestation of his Holy Spirit and by His personal appearances to the prophets that He has called to preside over His Church in these last days, but God also knows me and has given me guidance and instruction for the conduct of my life in mortality and beyond.”
What is not understood by the world at large is that God is not some foreign, unknowable entity, but that He is man–a person–in very form and substance like ourselves. We are indeed His children–His offspring; and as children of this Man who is a God, we have within us the innate potential to grow to an eternal maturity to become like our Father, who is God. In fact, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the road map that is designed to lead us back to the presence of our Father. Now here are some scriptures that substantiate the above comments—
Is God knowable?
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3).
Are we indeed the children of God, and can we become like Him?
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (Rom 8:16-17).
Is God a person?
The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us (D&C 130:22).
Is God our literal Father?
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (Heb 12:9)