Dear 100 Hour Board,
A missionary once tried to convince me that Heavenly Father must have been the Savior of His world, because Jesus says in John 5:19 "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."
His logic behind this then followed that either a) we will have to complete an atonement if we want to be able to operate at the same level as Heavenly Father in the future, or b) we'll be "lesser" gods, still pretty sweet but not nearly on the same plane since we won't have accomplished the same things.
I'm not really satisfied with that explanation; it seems to contradict D&C 84:38 "And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him", as well as most things we've been taught in the church growing up (this life is the time to be tested, not necessarily in the hereafter).
What do you all think? Is he as off base as I think he is?
-Probably not doing splits again
I can follow your missionary's train of thought, at least in the beginning. I follow the inclinations of Latter-day Saint philosopher Blake Ostler in his argument, published in the Latter-day Saint theological/philosophical journal Element, that while God the Father must have become incarnate at one time just as the Son did, He was probably never imperfect, sinful, or less than fully divine (just as Christ, as the premortal and unembodied Jehovah and the mortal Jesus, was still the fully divine God of the Old and New Testaments). Ostler argues that the Father was always divine--before, during, and after his mortality, just as Christ was fully divine before, during, and after His mortal sojourn. Further, Ostler argues that this interpretation of the idea that God was once a man, rather than our popular cultural understanding that the Father was once less than divine, is more consistent with scriptural statements about God and with Jesus' statement as recorded in John. This all makes sense to me.
I don't subscribe to the notion advanced by such early Latter-day Saint luminaries as B.H. Roberts and Orson Pratt that the Father was once an imperfect mortal man who attained divinity through obedience to His Father; I believe His mortal life was sinless and perfect like Christ's own mortal life was. Which is to say, yes, I think your friend is probably right about the Father--although I should say I don't know and don't particularly care whether "the Father was a Savior of some other world" necessarily follows from "the Father was a divine, sinless man." The scriptures provide us some reasonably firm ground for reasoning about God's nature and character, but where His actions are concerned, God seems intentionally reticent about any world other than our own. So with the questions of whether the Father acted as a savior and what may have transpired on other worlds, we leave the already too-thin ice of scriptural reasoning and venture into full-on unanswerable theological speculation, which isn't a place I care to go.
So far, so good. But I confess this next part of your missionary friend's speculation makes no sense to me at all: we have to complete an atonement ourselves? Why? There's nothing in the scriptures to suggest that we ourselves will have to perform an expiatory atonement for sin--and as you point out, when would we do so anyway? In the hereafter? Once we're resurrected and assigned glory in the final judgment, there will be no need for ordinances nor a need for us to obtain bodies. It was the unembodied Son who came to earth, not the already glorified Father, to perform the Atonement and to obtain the earthly body He did not yet have. It makes no sense to suggest that we, as future embodied, glorified beings, will also need to perform a mortal atonement for sin; we already have our material bodies and will have no need to descend to a mortal state in order to expiate sin. Furthermore, the whole point of the gospel--and part of the reason God is worthy of our praise and adoration--is precisely that He is doing something for us that we are wholly incapable of accomplishing, both spiritually and physically. "For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent" (emphasis mine).
Should we ever become capable of performing such an atonement through our newfound glory in some future state, it would be done solely through the merits and grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom we owe all the glory to begin with. This seems to me as though it would pretty clearly designate us as dependent on the Father and therefore "lesser" gods in that sense, whether we actually expiate sin or not. You've already pointed out what the scriptures say in regards to being made equal with God and receiving all that He has with no other strings attached, so I won't belabor the point.
I don't really have more to say, since as Anathema sagely observes, we can't really say anything about eternity with total confidence. That applies to everything I've said, too, so don't take any of my amateur dabbling in theological reasoning as some sort of divinely revealed truth. Precisely what the Father's mortal life may have looked like is an interesting but ultimately unimportant and unanswerable question, and while I've shared my personal belief on the matter, I wouldn't be surprised to be wrong in some way or another.
The bit about having to perform an atonement ourselves makes no sense at all to me with what revealed knowledge we do have, and is at the least inconsistent with if not outright contradictory to scripture, but with so much of the next life unknown to us, it's always theoretically possible that there are still great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God that have not yet been revealed.
In conclusion, I think your missionary friend's first supposition is possible, perhaps even likely--we may not have explicit revelation on the subject, but the teachings of the prophets and the scriptures permit enough reasoning about God's nature to allow for the interpretation. The follow-up (both branches a and b) I think is nonsense, or at least pointless speculation that puts far too much weight on a subject about which we have quite literally no concrete knowledge. Precisely how we will relate to the Father after apotheosis and what that means for our eternal future is an interesting question, but there's little, if anything, to guide speculation on the subject.
This goes into the field where pretty much anything people say is pure speculation. Given that we know so little about eternity, probabilistically, any theories we come up with are wrong. That said, there are certain theories that feel especially wrong to me, and the one you described is definitely one of them.
Ah, aren't we grateful we don't have to be(lieve) the same to be one? What a relief.