This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2022 teachings, click here. Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence written in the curriculum is being reviewed.)
May 16-22 (Deuteronomy 6-8; 15; 18; 29-30; 34)
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Notice verse 32 and how the scribe said that God is “one, and there is no other besides him.” If this man didn’t understand, Jesus certainly would not have commended Him. And how could those considering themselves authentic believers truly love God “with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength” unless they worship God for who He really is.
Other New Testament verses to support the idea that God is one include 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Galatians 3:20, Ephesians 4:6, 1 Timothy 2:5, James 2:19.
The idea that God is “one”–not only of “purpose,” as many Latter-day Saints will say, but also of essence”–is something denied in Mormonism. Consider what 15th President Gordon B. Hinckley had to say about this subject:
I listened to a videotape the other night prepared by the Baptists. They are coming to Salt Lake to hold a convention, and they want to convert us all. But they say, among other things in that videotape, that we are not mainstream Christians. As I understand it, they believe that God the Father and the Son, Jesus, Christ, and the Holy Ghost are one being. The scriptures tell a different story. Jesus prayed to His Father in Heaven. His Father in Heaven spoke at the time of His baptism. There was a vision of His Father at the time of Transfiguration. And in that great, classic prayer, He said, “Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be thy name’ (Matthew 6:9). He said, ‘I will be your access to the Father’ (see John 14:6). They are two beings, entirely separate. And He promised the Holy Ghost as the Comforter when He should leave them. They are separate beings. Joseph Smith, I would like to submit, learned more about the nature of Deity as a 14-year-old boy in the grove of his father’s farm than the acts of all the ministers and priests and the divines who have long argued that question (Discourses of Gordon B. Hinckley, Vol. 1, 513).
So what did Smith teach?
I will preach on the plurality of Gods. I have selected this text for that express purpose. I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the elders for fifteen years” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 370).
He also insisted:
John was one of the men, and apostles declare they were made kings and priests unto God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It reads just so in the revelation. Hence, the doctrine of a plurality of Gods is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. It is all over the face of the Bible. It stands beyond the power of controversy. A wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein (History of the Church 6:474).
Apostle John A. Widtsoe explained,
Joseph Smith the Prophet declared that there is a plurality of gods. An indication of such plurality runs through the scriptures, ancient and modern. In the very beginning of time Adam and Eve were promised that they should ‘be as gods’ (Gen. 3:5) and Jesus reminded the Jews that in their scriptures it was written “ye are gods.” (John 10:34.) Paul spoke of “lords many and gods many.” (1 Cor. 8:5.) Modern revelation presents the same truth when it says “according to that which was ordained in the midst of the Council of the Eternal God of all other gods before this world was.” (D&C 121:32) (Evidences and Reconciliations, 53).
This idea that there are multiple gods seems to be a result of Smith’s evolving theology and bad exegesis of the Bible. As former BYU professor Charles R. Harrell describes,
One of the most distinctive doctrines of Mormonism is the belief in a plurality of Gods. This is generally understood to mean that there are innumerable Gods besides (and above) the God that we worship, all of whom are creators of worlds and objects of worship. Furthermore, these Gods were all once human, and just as they attained Godhood, so can we (Charles R. Harrell, ‘This is my Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology, 114).
Harrell further explains,
The early works of Joseph Smith show a clear monotheistic leaning. When a Book of Mormon prophet was asked whether there was more than one God, the answer was a resounding “no” (Alma 11:28-29). The Book of Mormon repeatedly emphasizes that there is “one God” (see, for example, 2 Ne. 31:21; Mosiah 15:4-5; Morm. 7:7). After the publication of the Book of Mormon, Joseph began revising the Bible and seems to have “consciously attempted to remove all references to a plurality of Gods” . . . Similarly, monotheism appears to be the underlying theology in the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants until at least 1839 (‘This is my Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology, 118-119. Ellipsis mine).
In other words, in just a few years, Smith ended up contradicting his earlier teaching that there is only one God. Yet the view of multiple gods is the norm in Mormonism. Smith was not unique in this teaching that multiple gods exist and that God is not the only God. Second President Brigham Young taught,
How many Gods there are, I do not know, But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity (October 8,1859, Journal of Discourses 7:333).
Deuteronomy 6:4 and its historic interpretation, including as it was understood by Jesus, is missed in LDS theology. How many readers do not see this at all? I’m guessing most.
For more on the idea of God’s essence, consider these articles from Crash Course Mormonism:
Citing that passage, Pastor John Piper explains,
So what would that mean, that we are to be spirit-worshipers, worshiping from the spirit, and truth, driven by truth? I think the point is that when we worship — right worship, good worship, pleasing worship — depends on a right mental grasp of the way God really is, truth. (What is Worship).
Truth matters. If Mormonism’s view that multiple gods exist, then this is not true worship and this religion ought to be avoided at all costs.
Deuteronomy 6:13, 16; 8:3.
These verses helped the Savior during an important moment in His life; to see how, read together Matthew 4:1–10. What scripture passages have helped us in times of need?
Deuteronomy 6:13 says that followers should not serve other gods because God is jealous of our worship. We are to do what is right in order that it may go well with us. Jesus cites these verses when He is tempted by Satan. Indeed, the Bible can be very useful as we deal with temptations and life in general (“times of need”), which is why reading and memorizing God’s Word is so important.
Just because a person worships “God” does not mean that the true God is being worshiped. This is vital if we hope to worship God in “spirit and in truth,” as Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman. Mormonism taints the biblical God as well as the biblical gospel. It produces a story of multiple gods from time past and time future. Unless the true God is acknowledged, however, Mormonism has nothing to offer anyone in terms of spiritual truth. It must therefore be rejected.