Chapter 40: Heirs of God and Joint-Heirs with Christ

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 322–28

Map Chp. 40

A Letter of Paul to the Church at Rome

Written from Corinth (?) During Paul’s Third Missionary Journey, ca. Winter, A.D. 57–58 (Romans 6–8)


A New Life Begins with Baptism


Holiness, Not Sin, Should Be One’s Master


The Christian Is Freed from the Slavery of Sin


The Reward of Sin and the Reward of Holiness


The Law of Moses Is Fulfilled in Christ


The Law of Christ Replaces the Law of Moses


The Law of Christ Brings Life and Peace


The Sons of God Are Joint-Heirs with Christ


Faithful Men Receive the Hope of Eternal Life


How the Spirit Intercedes for Man

8:26, 27

God’s Elect Are Foreordained to Eternal Life


Christ Intercedes for Men


Interpretive Commentary

(40-1) Romans 6:1–6. What Is the Symbolism of Baptism?

“Baptism cannot be by any other means than immersion of the entire body in water, for the following reasons:

“1. It is in the similitude of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and of all others who have received the resurrection.

“2. Baptism is also a birth and is performed in the similitude of the birth of a child into this world.

“3. Baptism is not only a figure of the resurrection, but also is literally a transplanting or resurrection from one life to another. …” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:323–24.)

(40-2) Romans 7:1–6. The Law of Moses Is like a Deceased Husband

“Paul was an absolute genius at devising illustrations to drive home his gospel teachings. Here he compares Israel’s allegiance to the law of Moses with that of a wife to her husband. As long as her husband lives, a wife is bound to him, must obey his laws, and if she be with another, she is an adulteress. But when the husband dies, he can no longer direct her actions, and she is free to marry another; she can no longer be subject to him that is dead.

“So with Israel and the law. As long as the law lived, and was therefore in force, Israel was married to it and required to obey its provisions. If she went after other gods, or followed other religions, it was as adultery. But now the law is fulfilled; it no longer lives; it has become dead in Christ; and Israel is married to another, even to Christ, whose gospel law must now be obeyed.

“As a matter of fact, whenever the Melchizedek Priesthood—which ‘administereth the gospel’ (D. & C. 84:19)—was found in ancient Israel, the law of Moses was dead, and the people were alive in Christ. Hence, we find Nephi saying, some six hundred years before Christ, ‘Notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled. For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.’ (2 Ne. 25:24–25.)” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:253–54.)

(40-3) Romans 8:4–6. The Meaning of the Words Carnal and Flesh

This passage, as much as any other, has given rise to the idea that Paul viewed the physical body as an inherently evil thing. This is unfortunate, for a careful reading of Paul’s language leads to another conclusion.

Our English word carnal is a derivative of the Latin carnalis, meaning “the flesh” or “the body.” Ironically enough, there is no separate word for carnal in the Greek. What we have here is the adjectival form of the Greek noun meaning “flesh.” So in verse 6 of this passage, where the King James Version translates it “carnally minded,” literally the Greek reads “the mind of the flesh.”

A close examination of Paul’s use of the term flesh makes it clear that he does not see it as an inherently evil thing. Perhaps the greatest insight into Paul’s idea of the flesh is given in Galatians 5:13 where he employs an interesting Greek term in reference to the flesh. The word he chooses is aphormay, which the King James Version translates as occasion. This was a military word in classical Greek and was used to describe the point from which a commander launched an attack upon the enemy. Literally, then, it should be translated as bridgehead or base of operations. This is an appropriate metaphor, since the needs of our bodies often become the vulnerable base of operations. How many souls have been won by Satan as they surrendered to bodily appetites? How many eternal lives have been lost because they were not spiritually minded but, rather, were dominated by “the mind of the flesh”?

(40-4) Romans 8:17. What Does Paul Imply When He Says, “We Shall Be Joint-Heirs with Christ”?

“In the important doctrinal discourse known as the ‘King Follett Sermon’ the Prophet Joseph Smith, referring to those who ‘shall be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ,’ described joint-heirship as inheriting the same power, the same glory, and the same exaltation, until an individual ascends to the station of Godhood and rises to the throne of eternal power sharing the rewards with all the faithful who have preceded him. A joint-heir legally inherits and shares all equities and gifts in equal interest with all other heirs. Nothing is excluded nor adjusted in value between the participating joint-heirs. …

“If we are led by the Spirit of God in our lives, we are promised heirship with him and joint-heirship with Christ our Lord in the great estate of God’s kingdom and glory. We ‘suffer with Christ’ as we sacrifice the things of the world and yield complete obedience to every truth, principle, and ordinance of the gospel plan. Whatever we contribute in honest tithes and other contributions along with unselfish participation and service to our fellow men to build the kingdom of God on the earth, increases our personal joy and happiness in heirship with Christ the Lord.” (Delbert L. Stapley in CR, Apr. 1961, p. 66.)

(40-5) Romans 8:29, 30. Did Paul Believe in Predestination?

The dictionary defines predestination as determining beforehand one’s state, condition, and actions in life by divine decree. There is no room for free agency. Latter-day Saints are sometimes disturbed to find Paul using the word predestination in his letter. There are three factors that help us to understand Paul’s meaning.

First, there is nothing in the original Greek word, which the King James Version chose to translate as predestinate, which implies a loss of free agency. It is a compound word formed from the prefix pro, meaning “before,” and the verb horizo, meaning “to define.” The verb itself was derived from horos, a boundary. (Our English horizon comes from this verb.) Literally, the word means “to determine beforehand, or decide beforehand.” Some modern biblical translations use the word foreordain to translate prohoridzo.

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote the following:

“Just what Paul might have had in mind may not be too clearly expressed in the translation that has come to us. That he taught that some men are destined to be damned must be rejected; likewise that some were predestined to be saved without a trial of their faith. Those who rejected the truth and rebelled were cast out with Lucifer because of the great gift of free agency.

“We have reason to believe that all who were privileged to come to this mortal world came because they were entitled by pre-mortal qualifications. It is absurd to think that Paul would teach that in the beginning before the earth was formed, some souls were destined to come to earth, receive tabernacles and then be consigned to perdition and some to be saved. Such a doctrine is contrary to all that has been revealed.” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:153.)

Points to Ponder

Men May Obey the Gospel and Become like God the Father

As little ones to big ones grow
From birth to autumn, measured, slow,
There is no evil in their course—
The calf to cow, and foal to horse,
And crawling things to butterflies
Who stretch their wings against the skies.
Then what of man?
Then what of man, this son of Power?
First bud, then bloom, and thence the flower,
Who bears the seeds of heaven’s King.
From fallen earth, and petty things
To mount to realms of light and space
And be as one with God’s own race!
O what of man!


You teach that man may become like God. I say, How could he? For God is so far in advance of man.

Joseph Smith

“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 upholds 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. …” (Teachings, 345; compare D&C 130:22.)


Am I to understand that God has not always been a God?

Joseph Smith

“… it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.

“These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.” (Teachings, pp. 345–46.)


I can see from what you say that God was once a man; but was he really like us, limited and finite?

Brigham Young

“While He was in the flesh, as we are, He was as we are. But it is now written of Him that our God is as a consuming fire [Hebrews 12:29], that He dwells in everlasting burnings, and this is why sin cannot be where He is.” (JD, 4:54.)


Then perhaps it is possible for me to become like Him If God was once finite and just as we are now, how did he become what he is now?

Joseph F. Smith

“It is absolutely necessary that we should come to the earth and take upon us tabernacles; because if we did not have tabernacles we could not be like God, nor like Jesus Christ. God has a tabernacle of flesh and bone.

“… We must go through the same ordeal in order to attain to the glory and exaltation which God designed we should enjoy with him in the eternal worlds. In other words, we must become like him; peradventure to sit upon thrones, to have dominion, power, and eternal increase. God designed this in the beginning. We are the children of God. … We are precisely in the same condition and under the same circumstances that God our heavenly Father was when he was passing through this, or a similar ordeal.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 64. Emphasis added.)


If we must go through the same ordeal to reach the glory that God has, then it must be that when he was a man and lived on an earth, he was baptized, ordained, received his endowments, and was married.

Wilford Woodruff

“… He has had His endowments long ago; it is thousands and millions of years since He received His blessings. …” (JD, 4:192.)

Can you see why your strivings to become like God must not be lessened by any fear that you cannot make it, or that his mortal situation was different?


Then it is not improper for me to have hope that I may advance and progress until I become just like He is?

(40-6) Our Goal Should Be to Become as God

“We have been promised by the Lord that if we know how to worship, and know what we worship, we may come unto the Father in his name, and in due time receive of his fulness. We have the promise that if we keep his commandments, we shall receive of his fulness and be glorified in him as he is in the Father. [See D&C 93:11–20, 26–28.]

“This is a doctrine which delighted President Snow, as it does all of us. Early in his ministry he received by direct, personal revelation the knowledge that (in the Prophet Joseph Smith’s language), ‘God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens,’ and that men ‘have got to learn how to be Gods … the same as all Gods have done before. …’ [Teachings, pp. 345–46.]

“After this doctrine had been taught by the Prophet, President Snow felt free to teach it also, and he summarized it in one of the best known couplets in the Church in these words:

“‘As man now is, God once was;
As God now is, man may be.’

“This same doctrine has of course been known to the prophets of all the ages, and President Snow wrote an excellent poetic summary of it, which came to him as a result of pondering what some of the ancient prophets had written on the subject.

“Paul wrote: ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.’ [Philippians 2:5, 6.]

“The Beloved Disciple John wrote:

“‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

“‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

“‘And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.’ [1 John 3:1–3]

“Then President Snow, addressing himself to Paul and referring to the words written by John, penned these lines:

Dear Brother:

Hast thou not been unwisely bold,
Man’s destiny to thus unfold?
To raise, promote such high desire,
Such vast ambition thus inspire?
Still ’tis no phantom that we trace
Man’s ultimatum in life’s race;
This royal path has long been trod
By righteous men, each now a God:
As Abra’m, Isaac, Jacob, too,
First babes, then men—to gods they grew.
As man now is, our God once was;
As now God is, so man may be,—
Which doth unfold man’s destiny.
For John declares: When Christ we see
Like unto him we’ll truly be.
And he who has this hope within,
Will purify himself from sin.
Who keep this object grand in view,
To folly, sin, will bid adieu,
Nor wallow in the mire anew;
Nor ever seek to carve his name
High on the shaft of worldly fame;
But here his ultimatum trace:
The head of all his spirit-race.
Ah, well: that taught by you, dear Paul,
’Though much amazed, we see it all;
Our Father God, has ope’d our eyes,
We cannot view it otherwise.
The boy, like to his father grown,
Has but attained unto his own;
To grow to sire from state of son,
Is not ’gainst Nature’s course to run.
A son of God, like God to be,
Would not be robbing Deity;
And he who has this hope within,
Will purify himself from sin.
You’re right, St. John, supremely right:
Whoe’er essays to climb this height,
Will cleanse himself of sin entire—
Or else ’twere needless to aspire.

(Improvement Era 22:660–61 [June 1919.])

“Now I hold this glorious hope out to you as the goal toward which all members of the Church should strive. Our whole purpose in life should be to do those things which will enable us to gain eternal life, and eternal life is the name of the kind of life possessed by the Father and the Son; it is exaltation in the eternal realms.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Address at Snow College, 14 May 1971, pp. 3–7.)

(40-7) We Can Become like God Because We Have the Seed of Deity within Us

When Jesus was created after the fashion and in the likeness of the Father, and was therefore in the image of his Father, did he strive also to become like God in every other way? What does the word equal mean? And since Jesus thought that it was not robbery for him to become like God, what does Paul say you should strive to do as well? (See Philippians 2:5–8, 12; 3 Nephi 27:27.)


Then because I am a child of God, I have within me the seeds of Deity, which, by my obedience and righteousness, I may nurture and mature until I become just like my Heavenly Father? (See Romans 8:18, 19.)

Lorenzo Snow

“We are the offspring of God, begotten by Him in the spirit world, where we partook of His nature as children here partake of the likeness of their parents. Our trials and sufferings give us experience, and establish within us principles of godliness.” (JD, 26:368.)


Then if I am pure enough, I will have glory just like that of God and will be able to go where he is and feel comfortable in his presence?

Brigham Young

“When you are prepared to see our Father, you will see a being with whom you have long been acquainted, and he will receive you into His arms, and you will be ready to fall into His embrace and kiss Him, as you would your fathers and friends that have been dead for a score of years, you will be so glad and joyful. Would you not rejoice? When you are qualified and purified, … you can endure the glory of eternity, so that you can see your Father. …” (JD, 4:54–55.)


How could I become like Him completely, since He would have been a God for so much longer than I? Wouldn’t He be different …

Man May Become a Joint-Heir in Eternity to All That The Father Has

(40-8) An Heir Is One Who Inherits

An heir is one who is entitled to inherit from a progenitor or others, property, titles, or other benefits. But heirs in an eternal sense involve more than inheritance, and must be designated on the basis of righteousness and obedience to divine law. All mankind are God’s sons and daughters in the spirit, but only those who qualify themselves by baptism, priesthood, and faithfulness may become his heirs in the ultimate sense and inherit the fulness of that which he may bestow. (Compare Moses 6:64–68; D&C 84:31–34.)

In the worldly sense, the giver must die before the heir may inherit that which the giver has designated for him. In an eternal sense the Giver continues to live.

In the worldly sense, the giver is left with nothing after his gift has been delivered to his heir. But in the eternal sense, both the Giver and the heir continue to live and possess jointly and mutually all things. God does not forfeit or lose his power when he gives his power to others, nor does he surrender his perfect knowledge when his children come to know all things.

Did Jesus eventually have all that the Father had? (Compare Matthew 28:18; 3 Nephi 12:48.)

Now read D&C 93:26–28.

Did Jesus receive a fulness of truth—was there any truth that he did not know? Can man receive the same fulness if he does not obey God’s commandments? If a man does obey, how much of truth shall he receive and how much shall he know?


Will it be possible for those who become like the Father to know everything that the Father knows?

Joseph Fielding Smith

“Those who receive exaltation in the celestial kingdom are promised the fulness thereof. ‘All things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come.’ [D&C 76:59.] Our Father in heaven is infinite; he is perfect; he possesses all knowledge and wisdom. However, he is not jealous of his wisdom and perfection, but glories in the fact that it is possible for his children who obey him in all things and endure to the end to become like him.

“Man has within him the power, which the Father has bestowed upon him, so to develop in truth, faith, wisdom, and all the virtues, that eventually he shall become like the Father and the Son; this virtue, wisdom, and knowledge on the part of the faithful does not rob the Father and the Son, but adds to their glory and dominion. Thus it is destined that those who are worthy to become his sons and joint-heirs with our Redeemer, would be heirs of the Father’s kingdom, possessing the same attributes in their perfection, as the Father and the Son now possess.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:35.)


Do they receive from the Father such that they share his dominion as well?

Read D&C 84:38.

(40-9) Through Christ We Can Receive All That the Father Has

“Now, how are they to receive all that the Father hath, if something is withheld? And if something is not withheld, how can they receive all that he hath and not become as he is, that is, be gods themselves? …

“How can the saints receive of his fulness and be equal with the Lord and not be as he is, that is, gods?

“The Father has promised through the Son that all that he has shall be given to those who are obedient to his commandments. They shall increase in knowledge, wisdom, and power, going from grace to grace, until the fulness of the perfect day shall burst upon them. They shall, through the glory and blessing of the Almighty, become creators. All power, and dominion, and might shall be given to them, and they shall be the only ones upon whom this great blessing shall be bestowed. …

If the faithful, who keep the commandments of the Father, are his sons, then they are heirs of the kingdom and shall receive of the fulness of the Father’s glory, even until they become like the Father. And how can they be perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect if they are not like him? …

“Now, if they overcome all things, then there are not some things which they do not overcome. If these are to receive ‘of his fulness and of his glory,’ and if into their ‘hands the Father has given all things,’ then the Father has not withheld some of the fulness of his glory, or some things. And if they receive his fulness and his glory, and if ‘all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs,’ how can they receive these blessings and not become gods? They cannot.” (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:35–36, 39.)