Response to Richard Hopkins
Rejoinder by Keith Walker
In order to make this
review easier to read, all original quotes from the Mormonism 201 rebuttal are
boldfaced and italicized to separate these from the rest of the rejoinder.
Through the years
that I have known Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, there are two constant
thoughts that come to my mind in describing how they handle the error of
Mormonism: One, they understand the tremendous need to reach out to the LDS and
evangelize them for the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Two, whenever describing
what Mormonism teaches, they go through great efforts to be fair and accurate.
They realize that it does them no good to misrepresent what Mormonism teaches.
This is what confuses me the most about Richard Hopkins' review.
Regardless of how
many quotes from LDS authorities and verses from the Standard Works that
McKeever and Johnson give, Hopkins still claims that they misunderstand. The first
paragraph in the Hopkins review states: "Commentaries on LDS theology
that reflect the kind of jumbled misunderstanding apparent throughout this
chapter of Mormonism 101, by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, indicate the
distance Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have yet to travel in their effort to
communicate with those who come from a background in the orthodox Christian
that if there is a misunderstanding on the part of McKeever and Johnson, then
part of the responsibility in bridging this communication gap belongs to the
Mormons. In order to do that, Mormons need to try to understand the arguments
presented in Mormonism 101 from the authors' point of view instead of
being so quick to condemn the book. This is part of the reason why McKeever and
Johnson spend so much time quoting LDS authorities. They are attempting to
present Mormonism from its own perspective before they critique it. In my
response to Hopkins, I will attempt to clarify some of McKeever and
Johnson's arguments and correct some of the misunderstandings that Hopkins has
made regarding Christianity and its contrast to Mormonism.
quotation of this chapter is the basis for the whole argument presented.
McKeever and Johnson quote LDS President Spencer W. Kimball in an attempt to
prove that Mormon leaders have claimed to worship a completely different god
than that of Christians today. Kimball wrote: "Men with keen intelligence
got together…[at] Nicea and created a God.[c] They did not pray for wisdom or
revelation. They claimed no revelation from the Lord. They made it just about
like a political party would do, and out of their own mortal minds created a
God which is still worshiped by the great majority of Christians." 1
Johnson then state, "If two people hope to consider themselves of the same
faith, they need to agree on their definition of the Almighty God." Hopkins takes
exception to this by claiming, "Mormons and Evangelicals are not 'of the
same faith,' any more than Lutherans are 'of the same faith' as Catholics."
to misunderstand McKeever and Johnson's point. The sentence "if two people
hope to consider themselves of the same faith, they need to agree on their
definition of the Almighty God" is not referring to simple denominational
differences. Evangelicals, Lutherans, and Catholics agree on their definition
of the Almighty God. Mormonism is the "odd man out." Just as Islam is not
Christianity, Mormonism is an entirely different faith with a completely
The main point
that McKeever and Johnson make is that the God of Mormonism is not just
described differently than the God of the Bible. He is an entirely different
God. Kimball himself stated twice that those at Nicea "created a God."
Kimball said, "Many men with no pretense nor claim to revelation, speaking
without divine authority or revelation, depending only upon their own brilliant
minds, but representing as they claim the congregations of the Christians and
in long conference and erudite councils, sought the creation process to make a
God which all could accept."2
Note that Kimball
called this a "creation process" and not a redefinition of the same
god. In spite of this clear declaration, Hopkins claims that Mormons and Christians believe in the
same god, just with different characteristics. If this is true, then the burden
of proof demands Hopkins to do two things: First, explain (in context) what
Kimball really meant, and second, prove it from other authoritative LDS
sources. Hopkins does neither.
Instead, Hopkins attempts
to explain how these two gods really are the same. He writes, "They each
worship God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, but Mormons
and orthodox Christians understand these persons, and the term 'God' applied
to them as a whole, differently. It is important, however, to understand that
Mormons only disagree with orthodox Christians on matters stated in their
creeds, such as the one adopted at Nicaea. They do not disagree on matters
stated in the Bible, though they interpret some Bible passages differently and
they view the teachings of the Bible in a light undisturbed by the Greek
philosophical assumptions mentioned above."
If we disagree on
interpretations, then we disagree on what the Bible says. If we agree on what
the words are, yet disagree on what they mean, we are no closer to an agreement
than two children saying the same thing about one toy, "It's mine!" They have
the exact same words, but with opposite meanings.
concern Hopkins seems to have is with the concept of the Trinity. He
states, "Indeed, it portrays a God so different from man that it
contradicts scripture (e.g., Gen. 1:26-27) and marks God as utterly
incomprehensible, not just as to His thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9) but as to His very
nature, his ontology."
I am happy to see
that Hopkins understands exactly how different Christians believe
the God of the Bible is from man. We believe that God is "wholly other" and
that scripture supports it. Christian apologist James White notes, "The Trinity
is a truth that tests our dedication to the principle that God is smarter than
we are. As strange as that may sound, I truly believe that in most instances
where a religious group denies the Trinity, the reason can be traced back to
the founder's unwillingness to admit the simple reality that God is bigger than
we can ever imagine."3
I have had
similar conversations with Jehovah's Witnesses who reject the Trinity because
they also believe this doctrine is unreasonable. I once asked a JW if God was
limited by a person's ability to comprehend Him. The obvious answer is, no. My
next question stumped the JW and made him really think about why this
organization rejects the Trinity. "If God wanted to exist as a Trinity, could
He?" Surely He can. Our inability to understand the nature of God should, in no
way, limit Him.
goes on to say, "When we encounter new thoughts, new ideas, it is natural
for us to fit them into preexisting categories by comparing them with past
experiences or facts. This process works fine for most things. But for unique
things, it doesn't. If something is truly unique, it cannot be compared
to anything else, at least not without introducing some element of error… The
problem is, of course, God is completely unique. He is God and there is
no other. He is totally unlike anything else, and as He frequently reminds us,
"To Whom then will you liken Me?" (Isaiah 40:25). There is no answer to that
question, because to compare God to anything in the created order is, in the
final analysis, to deny His uniqueness."4
that he misunderstands the image of God in which man was created. Genesis
1:26-27 does not refer to physicality. This verse is usually the first one that
Mormons will use in an attempt to "prove" that God has a physical body. The
reasoning goes like this: "If we are physical beings and created in God's
image, then He must be physical too." The major problem with this
interpretation is the obvious inconsistency with Mormon theology. Who is God
the Father speaking to when He says, "Us" and "Our image"? According to the LDS
scripture Pearl of Great Price, "And I, God, created man in mine own image,
in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I
This verse clearly shows the Father speaking to the Son. Since Jesus had
not yet become man at this time, He therefore did not have a physical body. If
neither the Father nor the Son had a physical body in common (as Mormons imply)
when man was created, then the image that man was created in cannot be
referring to physicality.
In this section
of His critique, Hopkins cleverly attempts to answer the question of whether
or not the Father progresses by trying to explain away several public faux pas
made by President Hinckley in recent years.
states: "Actually, the idea that God progresses is not at all foreign to
the Bible…[He gives two verses, Proverbs 8:22 and Hebrews 5:8] However,
it should be noted that these passages relate to Christ. There is, therefore, a
major caution that should be raised with regard to all the speculation quoted
above by McKeever and Johnson. The details of this doctrine are largely
unknown. That is especially true when it comes to God the Father. President
Gordon B. Hinckley, the current prophet and president of the LDS
Church has taken great pains recently to point this out in
exchanges that McKeever and Johnson cite as some kind of backpedaling or lack
of forthrightness on his part. That is not the nature of it at all. Pres.
Hinckley is wisely pointing out that we know very little about this doctrine
and cannot be sure our speculations on the subject are accurate."
It is interesting to note that Hopkins did
not provide these faux pas here for examination. The question that President Hinckley was asked is basic to Mormon
theology. The first one comes from the San Francisco Chronicle.
There are some significant differences in your beliefs. For instance, don't
Mormons believe that God was once a man?
I wouldn't say that. There was a little couplet coined, "As man is, God once
was. As God is, man may become." Now that's more of a couplet than anything
else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don't know very much
So you're saying the Church is still struggling to understand this?
Well, as God is, man may become. We believe in eternal progression. Very
strongly. We believe that the glory of God is intelligence and whatever
principle of intelligence we attain in this life, it will rise with us in the
resurrection. Knowledge, learning, is an eternal thing. And for that reason, we
stress education. We're trying to do all we can to make our people the ablest,
best, brightest people that we can.6
The second faux
pas was from the August 4, 1997 edition of Time magazine. On page 56, reporter
David Van Biema makes an interesting observation: "In an interview with
TIME, President Hinckley seemed intent on down playing his faith's
distinctiveness… At first, Hinckley seemed to qualify the idea that men could become gods,
suggesting that 'it's of course an ideal. It's a hope for a wishful thing,' but
later affirmed that 'yes of course they can.'…On whether his church still holds
that God the Father was once a man, he sounded uncertain, 'I don't know that we
teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it… I understand the philosophical
background behind it, but I don't know a lot about it, and I don't think others
know a lot about it.'"
both of these interviews, the same question is asked. Was God once a man?
Joseph Smith answers that question himself: "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."7
Why did President
Hinckley have such trouble answering a question that Joseph Smith said, was the
"first principle of the gospel?" Even Dallin Oaks realizes that this
principle is foremost and primary to understanding the major tenets of LDS
faith. He said: "When Joseph Smith was asked to explain the major tenets of
our faith, he wrote what we now call the Articles of Faith. The first article
states, 'We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ,
and in the Holy Ghost.' The Prophet later declared that 'the simple and first
principles of the gospel' include knowing 'for a certainty the character of
God' ("Conference Minutes," Times and Seasons, 15 Aug. 1844, p. 614).
We must begin with the truth about God and our relationship to him. Everything
else follows from that."8
In light of what
Smith has said, there is no such intimation that Hinckley is "wisely
pointing out that we know very little about this doctrine." It is
simply dishonest for Hopkins to suggest this. What Hopkins calls "speculation"
is found in official LDS Church Education System publications. The copyright
for "Achieving a Celestial Marriage" is "The Corporation of the
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." That title
alone holds all the authority any Mormon would ever need as an assurance that
what is taught within the pages of that book is official LDS Church
doctrine. Why couldn't President Hinckley just provide the answer that Smith
has already given since it already appears in official LDS Church
publications? The answer is obvious.
idea concerning God's infinite nature is confusing at best. He writes: "To
answer this question and understand the Hebrew concept expressed in the word
'everlasting,' it will help to understand something about the mathematical
concept of infinity. An infinite period of time is so long that it can be
divided into any number of individual periods of time, each of which is also of
infinite duration. Thus, it is theoretically possible that, at an infinite time
in the past, God progressed to His current standing as God. That progression
could itself have occupied an infinite period of time. Thus it would be
completely accurate to say that God has been God for an infinite period of time
and will continue to be so eternally in the future, while at the same time
recognizing that He spent and (sic) infinite period of time achieving that
status. There would still be infinite periods of time, past and future, during
which He has been and will continue eternally to be the unchanging God of the
of infinity is nonsense. The wording of the above quote makes the idea impossible.
The use of the phrase "an infinite period of time" is an
oxymoron. Infinity cannot be contained within a "period of time."
If it can be contained to a certain period, then it isn't infinite. To say that
God "progressed" toward godhood is an admission that He was not there when He
started progressing toward it. If His progression toward godhood occupies an
infinite period of time, then He is not—and never will be—God. He will only
Let's bring these
lofty ideas of infinity down to our present situation. The man Richard Hopkins
is trying to become a god. Notice the word "trying." This means, as
Hopkins himself would certainly agree, he is not yet there. He is not an
exalted man (i.e. a god). Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that
Mormonism is correct and that Hopkins will one day achieve exaltation. Will he be able to
say of himself that he has always been a god? If he cannot say this of himself,
and God was once a man like Hopkins, how can God say that he is eternally God?
Francis J. Beckwith's words on the "Philosophical Problems with the Mormon
Concept of God": "Imagine
that I planned to drive on Interstate 15 from my home in Las Vegas
to the Mormon temple in Salt Lake
City. The distance is 450 miles.
All things being equal, I would eventually arrive in Salt Lake.
But suppose the distance was not 450 miles, but an infinite number. The fact is
that I would never arrive in Salt Lake, since it is by definition impossible to complete an
infinite count. An 'infinite' is, by definition, limitless. Hence, a traversed
distance by definition cannot be infinite. Consequently, if I did eventually
arrive in Salt Lake City, this would only prove that the distance I traveled
was not infinite after all. That is to say, since I could always travel one
more mile past my arrival point, arriving at any point proves that the distance
I traveled was not infinite."9
alludes to Psalm 90:2, which says, "Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to
everlasting, thou art God." He states: "The passages above do not
use the word 'everlasting' in the same way that we, with our upbringing
immersed in Greek thought, understand that term. The term does not necessarily
refer to something infinite. Rather, it refers to a kind of practical eternity,
a time that exceeds all recorded history."
am confused as to why Hopkins would even state this. He just tried to argue that
God is eternal, yet now he is saying that this term really means a limited
eternity. If this is true, then Hopkins needs to be consistent with this idea and follow this
argument to its logical conclusion. If the word "eternal" really means a finite
period of time, then Psalm 90:2 should read this way: "Before the mountains
were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even
from a finite period of time to a finite period of time, thou art God." Do
you see the problem here? God ceases to be God at some undetermined point in
times in his critique, Hopkins mentions that certain words do not appear in the
Bible. He seems to think that because words like self-existent, infinite,
immutable, and omnipresent cannot be found, this somehow means
that God cannot be described by these characteristics. This kind of reasoning
is simply false. The word "theocracy" is found nowhere in scripture, yet the
word is used by Christians and Mormons alike to describe a government ruled by
God. Neither are the common LDS words "ward," "Heavenly Mother," "standard
works," or "Word of Wisdom." Should the fact that these words are missing from
scripture mean that none of these concepts are true? McKeever and Johnson are
just using the words they deem best to describe certain characteristics about
trying to discount the concept, Hopkins again tries to redefine the words they use: "Mormons
definitely teach that God is self-existent (though not in the Greek sense noted
above). But they also teach that man is self-existent (though totally dependant
on God for all that they have or enjoy in this life and throughout eternity)."
can man be self-existent yet totally dependant on God? The terms are mutually
exclusive. This statement reminds me of a report I once saw on CNN. A
journalist who was in San Francisco taking a survey on homosexual activity interviewed
one gay who said, "It's really not fair to call all of us gay. We're really
just men having sex with other men." I immediately turned to a friend sitting
next to me and said, "Jeffrey Dahmer really wasn't a murderer; he just
liked killing people in cold blood." If words and definitions mean
anything, then Jeffrey Dahmer is a murderer and the man being interviewed on
CNN was gay. If it weren't for the fact that Hopkins continues to contradict
McKeever and Johnson, they would be saying the same thing. It is impossible for
man to be dependant upon God and yet somehow be self-existent.
continues: "McKeever and Johnson then go on to quote a myriad of Mormon
speculation on the subject of God's origins. The truth is that, however much
Mormons believe this speculation, and however likely it is that this
speculation is true, it is just speculation. That is, it is the reasoning of
men based on scripture. Mormons have a high degree of confidence in this
particular speculation because it comes from some very inspired sources, but it
is nevertheless speculation. There is no specific scriptural statement
delineating the doctrines quoted."
This is a very interesting
paragraph. Hopkins accuses McKeever and Johnson of quoting "a
myriad of Mormon speculation on the subject of God's origins." What Hopkins calls
a "myriad" is really only four quotes. As for speculation, did McKeever
and Johnson really stoop so low as to quote mere "speculation" instead
of an authoritative source? Let's look at one of the quotes and investigate the
Johnson's first quote is from the second volume of Doctrines of Salvation.
While Hopkins uses the word "speculation" six times in this one
paragraph, it is interesting to note that Smith only used it twice in the whole
book. In both instances Smith is accusing others of speculation concerning
completely different subjects. Smith never calls this work "speculation." The
comments in the preface of the second and third volumes of Doctrines of
Salvation are worthy of note, with my emphasis in underline: "This
second volume in the Doctrines of Salvation series has one central theme:
Salvation-What it is; How to gain it; and the Laws which pertain to it, (sic)
For nearly half a century President Joseph Fielding Smith, true to his
apostolic anointing, has traveled (sic) in the Church and throughout the world
bearing special witness of Christ, raising the warning voice, and teaching the
'Doctrines of Salvation' in plainness and simplicity. He is universally
esteemed as the chief doctrinal authority of the Church. No teachings are
of greater worth to man than those revealing the truths about salvation, 'for
there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation'; and there is no one
better qualified to teach these truths than President Smith…"
Doctrines of Salvation, Volume II, the gospel student will find plain and
authoritative explanations to virtually every important phase of salvation,
the degrees of glory, exaltation, celestial marriage, the Holy Spirit of
Promise, salvation for the dead, spiritual life and death, the resurrection,
and much more. The devout seeker after salvation will turn to these
teachings with an intense desire to master them."
never ceases to amaze me how Mormons can call such emphatic claims
"speculation" in light of what these quotes state. President Smith was the
doctrinal authority, not Hopkins. No one is better qualified to teach this doctrine,
including Hopkins. The student, especially Hopkins, should find
authoritative explanations and turn to these teachings.10
President Smith states: "We are informed that there are many earths or
worlds which have been created, and were created by the Son for the Father.
This was, of course, before he was born a Babe in Bethlehem.
Evidently his Father passed through a period of mortality even as he passed
through mortality, and as we all are doing. Our Father in heaven, according to
the Prophet, had a Father, and since there has been a condition of this kind
through all eternity, each Father had a Father, until we come to a stop where
we cannot go further, because of our limited capacity to understand."11
There is a
curious footnote for this paragraph in the original work. Joseph Fielding Smith
quotes from the first Mormon prophet: "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….The
Apostles have discovered that there were Gods above, for John says God was the
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. My object was to preach the scriptures, and
preach the doctrine they contain, there being a God above, the Father of our
Lord Jesus Christ….
reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God
the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father
also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a
father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into
existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says
that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if
Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the
idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it."12
Fielding Smith views Joseph Smith Jr. as an authoritative source and who very
clearly had specific belief concerning the subject of the Mormon god's origins.
Hopkins' criticism that "there is no specific scriptural statement
delineating the doctrines quoted" is a red herring. Why do you need
scriptural statements when you have prophets? Are these men trustworthy or not?
Why claim to sustain your leaders if you are trying to discount the doctrines
they teach as "speculation"?
concludes this section: "Mormons believe in the existence of the Father
as God, the Son as God and the Holy Ghost as God, yet they no more believe in
three separate Gods than do orthodox Christians."
This is another amazing
claim. Do Mormons not believe in three gods? What does Joseph Smith, Jr. have
to say about this? "I have always declared God to be a distinct personage,
Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that
the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three
constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. If this is in accordance
with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are
plural; and who can contradict it?" 13
Apostle Boyd Packer also seems to contradict Hopkins' bold assertion: "Anyone
who believes and teaches of God the Father, and accepts the divinity of Christ
and of the Holy Ghost, teaches a plurality of Gods. When the early Apostles
were gone it was not long until those who assumed the leadership of the Church
forsook revelation and relied on reason. The idea of three separate Gods
offended them, for it appeared to contravene those scriptures which refer
to one God. To solve that problem they took verses from here and there and
ignored all else that bears on the subject. They tried to stir the three ones
together into some mysterious kind of a composite one."14
What doctrine was
the leadership of the early Church supposedly offended by? According to Packer,
it is the fact that there are "three separate Gods."
reading and thinking through Hopkins' ideas about God's transcendence, it seems as if he
limits the definition to that of "just being higher." This greatly reduces and
insults the nature of God. He accuses McKeever and Johnson of not supporting
their definition of God's transcendence with passages from the Bible. According
to Hopkins, there are no specific verses that describe it; instead, there are
only verses that seem to suggest it if one interprets the passages differently
than he does. Admittedly there is no particular verse in the Bible that states,
"God is transcendent above His creation and He exists outside of space and
time." But this does not mean that the concept is not there.
God created all things, as Colossians 1:16-17 says,15
then it follows that He is distinct from and exists above and beyond all
creation. This would include time and space. The only other apparent
possibility would be for God to be part of creation. If that were the case,
then He couldn't have created all things. Although the passage quoted above is
specifically referring to the Son, this poses no problem for the Trinitarian.
It does, however, pose more of a problem for the Mormon. Did the Son create the
world on which His Father went through His mortal probation?
spite of the Colossian passage, Hopkins states: "It [the doctrine of God's
transcendence] was arrived at by making assumptions and deductions based on
other Bible passages. It is, therefore, speculation, but since it came from the
second century Apologists, orthodox Christians have lost sight of its
speculative nature and have come to accept it as a biblical fact. It is not,
however, and Mormons, while they fully accept the truthfulness of the Bible
passages that led to that speculation, do not join orthodox Christians in
accepting the speculation itself."
same could be said of Mormonism's insistence that God is a man. There are no
passages in the Bible that teach it. In fact, there are passages that
specifically say He is not a man! For instance, Hosea 11:9 states, "I will
not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim:
for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not
enter into the city." Numbers 23:19 adds, "God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he
should repent." God is clearly
stating that He is God and not man. Words like "not" and "but" are words that
show contrast. There is an obvious contrast between the nature of God and the
nature of man.
us assume for the sake of argument that the passages that refer to God having a
face, hands and feet, etc. are to be taken literally, as Mormonism insists.
This still does not necessitate the idea that God is an exalted man. Where does
the Bible say he is a man or exalted man? This, as Hopkins
accuses McKeever and Johnson, is a theological construct. Mormon authorities
have interpreted these passages to say something they do not say. If God really
has body parts, then where in the Bible does it say these parts belong to a
man? Granted, man is created in God's image, but we have already answered that
continues, "Then there are the words of Paul in Romans 8:16-17,
which sound as though they came from an LDS author (and Mormons would aver that
they did!), for they not only attest to man's origin as a literal child of
major problem with quoting this passage is that Hopkins omits verses fourteen
and fifteen. The context will give us a clearer understanding. They read, "14
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For
ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received
the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
Note first that only those who are led by the spirit
of God are His sons. This does not apply to all of mankind. The passage does
say that "the sons of God" are God's children, but in what sense? Verse fifteen
is very clear that the only reason we have a right to call God our Father is
because we have been adopted by Him. What Father has to adopt his own children?
In addition, the same Paul that Hopkins sites makes it clear in the following chapter of
Romans (9:8) that "those who are the children of the flesh these are not the
children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as the seed."
It appears obvious that Paul was not teaching that we are God's children by
this section by contradicting himself in two ways. First he says, "All
LDS leaders teach that God… is omnipotent in the same sense that
orthodox Christians believe He is omnipotent." Then in the next
paragraph he says, "However, Mormons give God a bit more power than orthodox
Christians in that regard." If Mormons give God more power than
orthodox Christians do, how is it that we have the same definition of
omnipotence? It's almost like saying, "Mormons believe in the concept of
mathematical infinity just like orthodox Christians do. However, Mormons
believe in more numbers." Just as it is impossible to add a number to infinity,
so it is impossible to add power to omnipotence.
this first contradiction isn't baffling, then the next one is. Hopkins
states: "They (Mormons) also believe that He does not do anything
contrary to His nature. However, Mormons give God a bit more power than
orthodox Christians in that regard. They acknowledge that He does have the
power to behave in a way contrary to His nature."
does God act outside of his nature or not? What if God decided to do that? How
comforting can it be to know that, at any moment, a fickle God like the one
worshipped in Islam could arbitrarily toss you into outer darkness just for the
fun of it? If He is not bound by His nature, what would keep Him from doing so?
next concept that Hopkins misunderstands is, as he puts it, "the
principle of voluntary submission." McKeever and Johnson quote Orson
Hyde: "There are Lords many, and Gods many, for they are called Gods to whom
the word of God comes, and the word of God comes to all these kings and
priests. But to our branch of the kingdom there is but one God, to whom we all
owe the most perfect submission and loyalty; yet our God is just as subject to
still higher intelligences, as we should be to him."
shifts attention from what this quote states by asserting that Jesus "subjected
himself to 'still higher intelligences,' namely God the Father." It
needs to be pointed out that if the Son is a lesser intelligence than the
Father, then His subjection is not voluntary but rather necessary. It is
redundant to subject yourself to someone to whom you are already subjected. To
say that the Father is a "higher intelligence" than the Son is to say
that the Father is more advanced (i.e. of more worth) than the Son.
verse that Hopkins quotes to establish this idea (1 Cor. 15:27-28) does not
state that the Father is a "higher intelligence" at all. It merely states that
the Son will be subject to the Father. While Hopkins is correct in stating
that the Son voluntarily subjects Himself to the Father, he is incorrect in
asserting that the Father is a "higher intelligence." John 5:18 says, "Therefore
the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the
sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God."
John's inspired narrative is clear that the Son is equal to and of the same
worth as the Father. John 5:23 emphasizes this same point: "That
all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that
honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him."
states that Hyde's quote is speculative yet "is solidly based on the
biblical principle of voluntary submission." It seems that he missed
McKeever and Johnson's footnote (No. 33) that mentions this fact, "According
to Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook, the book's authors, there was 'probably no
clearer statement of Joseph's theology' than this editorial by Orson Hyde."
the authors of the book are correct, how can Hopkins label this quote
as mere speculation? It seems as if Hopkins is using any means at hand
to try to
cast suspicion on the source material used in Mormonism 101. Throughout
the whole process of his argument, he fails to grasp McKeever and Johnson's
major emphasis. The argument isn't whether or not the Son voluntarily subjects
Himself to the Father, but whether or not God the Father is subject to anyone
other than Himself.
the sake of argument, let us again assume that Mormonism is correct and that Hopkins attains exaltation. As a mortal man,
Hopkins is not equal to God. He will not be
equal to God even after being exalted. He will still be subject to God (i.e.,
not as advanced as or of less worth than God). He will always be worth less
than God. That is the major point. If Hopkins
is worth less than his God, then who is God less than in worth? If he is worth
less (of a lesser advanced status) than any other being, then he isn't
into a little Hebrew to attempt to prove that God cannot create "ex-nihilo," or
out of nothing. While he is correct in stating that Bara means "fashion, form,
or create," he does not detail the full extent of the word. "'Bara'; to
create, form, make, produce; to cut, to cut down; to engrave, to carve. This
word occurs in the very first verse of the Bible (Gen. 1:1). Bara emphasizes
the initiation of the object, not manipulating it after original creation. The
word as used in the Qal refers only to an activity which can be performed by
God. Entirely new productions are associated with bara' (Ex. 34:10; Num. 16:30;
Ps. 51:10; Is. 4:5; 41:20; 48:7; 65:17, 18; Jer. 31:22). The word also
possesses the meaning of 'bringing into existence" in Is. 43:1; Ezek. 21:30; 28:13,
15. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is used in Gen. 1:1, 21, 27; 2:3.
There is every reason to believe that bara' was creation ex nihilo (out of
Hopkins again makes the mistake of stating
that the word omnipresent "appears nowhere in the Bible. It has never
been used in scripture to describe God. Hence, to say that Mormons do not
believe God is 'truly omnipresent' fails to describe any aspect of Mormon
theology that is contrary to the Bible."
Again, as I mentioned earlier, just
because the word is not there does not mean that the concept is not clearly
portrayed in the Bible. The same can be said of the word "omnipresent." It is
confusing as to why Hopkins would try to cast doubt on the
concept of omnipresence and then say, "They (Mormons) believe that both
the Father and the Son have glorified, resurrected bodies…and that such bodies
have power and capabilities beyond the imagination of orthodox Christian
theologians, namely the attributes described in the scriptures. This
includes the attribute commonly described using the word "omnipresence."
one hand Hopkins seems to say, "You can't criticize
Mormons for believing that their God is not omnipresent because the word isn't
in the Bible." On the other hand, he says, "We believe that the bodies of the
Father and Son have attributes commonly described as omnipresence." So is the
Mormon God omnipresent or not? What are the attributes that Hopkins is referring to when he uses this
Hopkins goes on to say, "…if God
were 'truly omnipresent,' as McKeever and Johnson put it, Christians would be
pantheists… In fact, it is hard to distinguish the orthodox Christian's notion
of omnipresence from the pagan notion of pantheism (God is in everything)."
of three things must be true before it would be possible for Hopkins to make this statement. One, he
misunderstands the concept of omnipresence; two he misunderstands pantheism; or
three, he misunderstands both. There is a huge difference between God being in
every place at once (omnipresence) and God being everything (pantheism). The
first sentence in McKeever and Johnson's "transcendence" heading says, "God
is distinct from His creation and the universe."
God is distinct from the universe, He cannot be the universe. In the
last portion of Hopkins' above quote, he demonstrates his
lack of understanding of pantheism when he states, "God is in
everything." This is not pantheism but rather panentheism.
Dr. Norman Geisler explains the difference between these two terms: "Pan-en-theism
is not to be confused with pantheism, although they have some things in common.
Panentheism is the belief that God is in the world the way a soul or
mind is in a body; pantheism is the belief that God is the world and the
world is God." 18
one compares pagan world views with one of the attributes of God, it would be
wise to understand the definitions of the terms that are used. Personally, I am
hoping that Hopkins made a simple typographical error.
and Johnson go on to state, "When Solomon dedicated the Jerusalem
temple, he fully recognized that such a building could never actually house the
person of God." They then quote the
dedicatory prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8:27 ("Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot
contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?") Hopkins responds: "This statement fails to take into
account 1 Kings 8:13 from the same dedicatory prayer, which says, 'I have
surely built thee an house to dwell in, a settled place for thee to abide in
for ever.' See also, 2 Sam. 22:7; Psalm 11:14; 18:6;
and Hab. 2:20… This is an oft misunderstood passage because it is seldom
exegeted in congruence with those passages mentioned above, all of which
clearly state that God does, in fact, enter and dwell in His temples. (Cf, Mal.
Of the five
verses that Hopkins cites, none of them has the possibility of being
consistently applied to his interpretation.
Sam. 22:7: "In
my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my
voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears." David said these words before
Solomon built the first temple.
Psalm 11:14- (This is an
error and should be listed as Psalm 11:4) "The LORD is in his holy temple,
the LORD's throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children
of men." This was also written before Solomon's temple. It is obvious from
what the verse says that the temple spoken of is not an earthly one, but is in
Psalm 18:6- "In my
distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out
of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears." Being yet
another Psalm of David, it is pre Solomon's temple.
Habakkuk 2:20- "But
the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him."
One major problem with using this verse is that the verse says that the LORD
(Jehovah) is in His temple. It does not say this about Elohim. At the time this
verse was written, Jesus had not yet become a man and was not dwelling in any
Malachi 3:1- "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare
the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his
temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he
shall come, saith the LORD of hosts."
This is an obvious prophecy of the coming of Christ and does not refer to God
the Father at all. Jesus, as the God-man, did fulfill this prophecy.
Of all the verses
that Hopkins quotes, I'm left wondering what difference it makes
if Hopkins can prove that God dwells in earthly temples. God, being omnipresent,
not only dwells in these temples but everywhere else also. There is not one
single verse in the Bible that says God's presence is limited to these temples.
Hopkins gives the following explanation for 1 Kings 8:27: "If
interpreted in context with these and other passages, and in its own context
within the dedicatory prayer, it becomes apparent that this statement by
Solomon is an expression of respect he used to recognize the inadequacy of any
house that men can make for God."
interpretation falls short of what Solomon actually said. Notice that Solomon
did not say that the house was inadequate. He said that the house could not
contain God. There is a huge difference between saying that a house isn't good
enough for someone and that it cannot contain Him.
attempt at explaining his view of omnipresence is just plain silly. He writes: "It
is possible, given today's technology, for men to spy on one another from
satellites in space. Yet, none would claim that the men who are involved in
such surveillance are personally present in every location they watch."
It is simply
amazing that Hopkins would even go in this direction. There is no
comparison between the technology of today and the omnipresence of God. The
reason why men who are involved in this kind of surveillance would never claim
to be omnipresent is because they realize that there is a difference between
being able to monitor many places at once and being at every place at
He then writes, "Neither
is it necessary to attribute God's omnipresence to anything more mysterious
than unimaginably advanced surveillance technology, the ability to travel
instantaneously to any location in the universe." If God
has to travel to a location in the universe, then He isn't present in that
place of the universe until He arrives. This is not omnipresence. God is
everywhere present, at all times.
"As noted above, even people that have mortal bodies can handle
technology today that gives them a measure of omnipresence. Especially in light
of today's communication technology." A measure of omnipresence? If
omnipresence is "everywhere present," how can you have a measure of it? It
would be similar to describing an expectant mother as "somewhat pregnant." You
are either pregnant or you are not. God is either in every place at once or He
is not. There is no in-between.
Hopkins then states: "Nevertheless,
McKeever and Johnson turn to John 4:24 for support. That passage states, in part 'God is a Spirit.'
Unfortunately, that passage doesn't help them in the slightest because nowhere
in the Bible does it say that a spirit is immaterial, metaphysical, or outside
time and space, as they suppose God is based on this scripture. This passage in
the original Greek says 'God is spirit,' which is really a very different
statement. The passage also requires men to worship God 'in spirit,' suggesting
that both men and God have a similar spiritual nature, which men must emphasize
in order to please God. Since men and God share this nature, it is clear this
verse has nothing to do with God being incorporeal. There is nothing in this
passage that contradicts the description of Christ's physical body in Luke 24:36-39."
In all fairness,
McKeever and Johnson did accurately quote John 4:24 in footnote 44, However, I
always find it interesting when dealing with certain religious groups that are
able to provide the correct answer in their rebuttal and completely miss the
fact that they did so. Hopkins graciously provides for us the reference of Luke
24:36-39, which says, "And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the
midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified
and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto
them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my
hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath
not flesh and bones, as ye see me have."
While Hopkins claims
that John 4:24 has nothing to do with "God being incorporeal,"
he cannot say this of Luke 24:39. The part that we need to focus on is where
Jesus says "a spirit hath not flesh and bones." The disciples supposed
that Jesus was a spirit, but Jesus refutes this by showing them physical proof:
His hands and feet. He offers them additional proof by eating a piece of fish
and some honeycomb. This is important to remember as we look at John 4:24. If
we take the Luke 24:39 statement and put it together with "God is a spirit"
in John 4:24, we come up with an interesting find. If God (The
Father) is a spirit and spirits do not have flesh and bones, then God (the
Father) does not have a body of flesh and bones. This is known as the
transitive property of equality. If A=B and B=C, then A=C.
his chapter, as do McKeever and Johnson, with a contrast between the God of
Mormonism and the God of Christianity. I do not wish to go through Hopkins
critiques point by point (I have already done that), but there is one section
with which I would like to close. Hopkins writes: "The God of the Bible (and of
Mormonism): • Was not always God (Matt. 5:48). At the
very least this is true of Christ, who came down from the heavens to live
amongst men (Phil. 2:5-8). Christ, who is the very image of God (Heb. 1:3), was
exalted to His position in the Godhead after learning wisdom and overcoming all
things. Phil. 2:9-11; Psalm 45:6-7; Heb. 1:8-9; Prov. 8:22; Phil. 2:9-11; Rev.
that God was not always God. This is a very interesting admission, especially
in the light of Hopkins' previous argument regarding God's eternal nature. He
goes on: "… it is theoretically possible that, at an infinite time in the
past, God progressed to His current standing as God. That progression could
itself have occupied an infinite period of time. Thus it would be completely
accurate to say that God has been God for an infinite period of time and will
continue to be so eternally in the future, while at the same time recognizing
that He spent an infinite period of time achieving that status."
How is it possible that God "was not always God" and He "infinitely
progressed to His current standing as God," but He "has been God for an
infinite period of time"? This is utter and complete nonsense. Hopkins'
ideas about the eternal nature of God are contradictory and confusing at best.
Granted, he qualifies his statement by saying that this is at least true of
Christ, but this is in total contrast to what John 1:1 says about Jesus, which
says, "In the beginning WAS the word…the word WAS God!" Hopkins has
Christ becoming God after His resurrection in spite of clear biblical
instruction to the contrary.
I believe that any honest reader who reads Mormonism 101
along with Hopkins' critique and this rejoinder will come to the same
conclusion. We are not engaging in mere semantics. Despite Hopkins' valiant
attempt to prove otherwise, the God of Mormonism is not the God of the Bible.
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (Bookcraft), p. 426
Ibid, p. 425
The Forgotten Trinity (Bethany House, 1999), p. 20
Ibid, p. 25, emphasis his. I greatly encourage the reading of White's book. It
is written from the perspective of teaching Christians the doctrine of the
Trinity rather than defending it against heresy. Hence, it cannot be construed
as "anti" anything. It is completely pro-Trinity.
Don Lattin, "Musings with the Prophet," San Francisco Chronicle, 13April
1997, sec. Z1, p.3.
Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and arranged
by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 345.
Dallin H. Oaks,
"Apostasy and Restoration," Ensign, May 1995, 84
Going even deeper into this topic is the chapter written by William Lane
Craig in The New Mormon Challenge, edited by Beckwith, Moser, and Owen.
It is highly recommended to show the impossibility of Hopkins' idea.
It should be pointed out that the title of this series of books is not Speculations
Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce
R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 2: 47.
Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected and
arranged by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], pp.
Ibid, p. 370.
Boyd K. Packer, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled [Salt Lake City:
Bookcraft, 1991], 291, emphasis mine
"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth,
visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or
principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him And he
is before all things, and by him all things consist."
AMG Complete Word Study Bible and Reference CD
Christian Apologetics, p.193, emphasis in original.
In Mormonism Jehovah is the pre-incarnate Jesus and distinct from Elohim who is