Book of Mormon 9:9-10 states,

9 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?

10 And now, if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles.

This seemed to me, on recent pondering, to be in some conflict with the idea of eternal progression taught by the Church--the idea that, rather than eventually just sitting on our laurels and singing in a celestial choir for the rest of eternity, we must always continue to learn, grow, and improve ourselves. Implicit in this is the idea that God Himself is also on this path of eternal progression, though I welcome correction if I am reaching beyond where there is sure doctrine.

Is there any statement or argument to reconcile these concepts of unchangeability and progression? I would prefer a response that is absolutely, unequivocally doctrine accepted and taught by all the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, but since that is frequently unavailable for questions as esoteric as this, I'm also interested in other quotes, theories and musings from earlier Apostles, logical arguments--whatever I can get.

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    Welcome to Christianity Stack Exchange. My Book of Mormon cross-references your quote to Hebrews 13:8 which says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever." Can you please clarify if the Book of Mormon 9:9 is in reference to Jesus Christ. If it is not, can you please clarify which God is being referred to? Thank you.
    – Lesley
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 11:53
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    I notice someone has voted to close your question on the basis they see it as a general philosophical or sociological question and it should clearly ask for a doctrinal answer. I think you have asked for answers that are doctrinaly accepted and taught, so I will highlight that if you don't mind.
    – Lesley
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 11:57
  • @Lesley Thank you for the edit! Regarding the "which one" question, the context in Mormon 9 made me think it was more intended to refer to either God the Father, or the Godhead as a whole. Regardless, I think the idea of Heavenly Father's constancy is pretty well documented, and that was what I was trying to get at.
    – Lige
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 17:08

1 Answer 1


Fear not, one of the institute manuals has you covered, the question is not as esoteric as you think.

The teachers manual for the course "Gospel doctrine" from 1987 and 2000 has this:

What does the King Follett discourse teach about the nature of God? Does it teach that God continues to progress throughout the eternities? If so, how does God progress? Ask the students the following questions:

Does God progress in attributes and characteristics? (No. He is perfect in these things. See Matthew 5:48; Alma 7:20.)

Does God progress in knowledge, light, and truth? (No. He has a fulness of knowledge, light, and truth. See D&C 66:12; 2 Nephi 2:24.)

Does God progress in power or in his ability to accomplish his work? (No. He has all power, though he will not violate eternal law nor the agency of man. See Alma 26:35; Luke 1:37; 1 Nephi 7:12; Mosiah 4:9.)

Yet God does progress. To explore the nature of God’s progression, read the statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith on page 8 of the student manual (see Teachings, pp. 347–48).

And the student manual cites Joseph Smith like this:

“What did Jesus do? Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children” (Smith, Teachings, 347–48).

Personally, I think it's awkwardly expressed, but in my own words: Since God's work and glory is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man"(Moses 1:39), that is how / in what area he progresses. And that is also the meaning of "eternal progression" for us, not that we will only approach but never achieve the level of perfection the Father has. That is not an unattainable goal, but one of the waypoints on the path. See also D&C 131.

Teachings, 347-348:

Perhaps no passage in the Prophet's discourse has given more offense than the one here noted, and yet men are coming to think and feel the truth of what he said. Henry Drummond, for instance (following the Prophet by half a century), in his really great work, Natural Law in the Spiritual World, in the chapter on Growth, wherein he points out the difference between the merely moral man and one whose life has been touched by the spiritual power of God, and so received something that the merely moral man has not received, says: "The end of salvation is perfection, the Christ-like mind, character and life. ... Therefore the man who has within himself this great formative agent, Life [spiritual life] is nearer the end than the man who has morality alone. The latter can never reach perfection, the former must. For the life must develop out according to its type; and being a germ of the Christ-life, it must unfold into a Christ." Joseph Smith's doctrine means no more than this.

Sir Oliver Lodge says much to the same effect in the following passage on "Christianity and Science" (Hibbert's Journal, April, 1906):

It is orthodox, therefore, to maintain that Christ's birth was miraculous and his death portentous, that he continued in existence otherwise than as we men continue, that his very body rose and ascended into heaven-whatever that collection of words may mean. But I suggest that such an attempt at exceptional glorification of his body is a pious heresy-a heresy which misses the truth lying open to our eyes. His humanity is to be recognized as real and ordinary and thorough and complete; not in middle life alone; but at birth, and at death and after death. Whatever happened to him may happen to any one of us, provided we attain the appropriate altitude; an altitude which, whether within our individual reach or not, is assuredly within reach of humanity. That is what he urged again and again. "Be born again." "Be ye perfect." "Ye are the sons of God." "My Father and your Father, my God and your God." The uniqueness of the ordinary humanity of Christ is the first and patent truth, masked only by well-meaning and reverent superstition. But the second truth is greater than that-without it the first would be meaningless and useless,-if man alone, what gain have we? The world is full of men. What the world wants is a God. Behold the God! - [That is, the God, Jesus Christ.]

The divinity of Jesus is the truth which now requires to be reperceived, to be illumined afresh by new knowledge, to be cleansed and revivified by the wholesome flood of skepticism which has poured over it: it can be freed now from all trace of groveling superstition: and can be recognized freely and enthusiastically: the divinity of Jesus, and [the divinity] of all other noble and saintly souls, insofar as they, too, have been inflamed by a spark of Deity-insofar as they, too, can be recognized as manifestations of the Divine.-Notes by Elder B.H. Roberts

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    "My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling and I must do the same" This sounds like Joseph Smith is quoting or paraphrasing Jesus. If I'm not mistaken could you please indicate where the quote or paraphrase is from? Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 12:10
  • @MikeBorden Actually Mike Smith is not quoting Jesus but quoting the Apostle Paul at Philippians 2:12, "So then my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." The verse itself is "NOT" teaching for believers (who were believers already) to work out their salvation to get saved or even to stay saved. It means for them to work out the solution of their problems pointing back to vs 2-4. And God the Father did not have to work out His kingdom and neither did Jesus. It's ridiculous!
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 13:22
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    @MikeBorden I believe it could be in reference to Phil 2:12 or Mormon 9:27 and Joseph's interpretation from King Follett discourse
    – depperm
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 13:47
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    @MikeBorden The context is this: Joseph quoted John 5:19, saying, ok if Jesus said he can only do what the Father has done before, then well, the Father has done the things Jesus did before. Maybe far-fetched, but the intention (I think) is to tear down any supposed metaphysical difference between the Father and his children. To elevate humanity and its eternal destiny, not to bring God down to our level. The point I was trying to make is actually in the latter parts of the quote :-/ Fear and trembling comes from the verses depperm commented, and is basically just decoration here, not deep.
    – kutschkem
    Commented Aug 5, 2023 at 14:08
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    @MikeBorden one of the meanings of fear is: to fear God is to feel reverence and awe for Him and to obey His commandments; so the Son did this his whole ministry/life/existence. Edited question with full quote from Teachings which is actually commentary of Joseph's quote, not further quote by Joseph Smith
    – depperm
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 11:34

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