By Aaron Shafovaloff ([email protected])
Do Mormons agree?
Why it matters
“Why should I believe that God never sinned?”
Because God’s word says so
He testifies of himself, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” (Isaiah 43:10). Inspired by the Holy Spirit, David testifies of him, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2) It is also testified of God in worship, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8)
Because we shouldn’t limit our worship of God
Sin is not worthy of worship. But there is absolutely nothing about God’s past that isn’t worthy of our uttermost worship. There is nothing about our God’s past to be ashamed of. There is nothing that you need to turn you head away from in embarrassment.
If there were a library in heaven full of books describing everything God has ever done, you wouldn’t need to ban, or suppress, or censor, or filter, or sanitize any of those books as non-faith-promoting material. It’d be all ultimately faith-promoting.
You don’t need to limit your worship of God in a way that excludes parts of his past. There is nothing but beauty and glory and purity in his past.
Nothing about God is ultimately embarrassing, and everything about God is ultimately worthy of worship. Think about it, everything about God—his past, present, and future—is worthy of praise and adoration and awe. He has always been pure, and holy, and admirable. Don’t limit your worship of God to who he is now and who he will be in the future. Let your worship of God confidently encompass all of who he was, is, and will be.
Because God is maximally reliable
God is the Rock of Ages. You can trust him.
- The more consistent someone has been, the more reliable they are. There is inconsistency between being a sinner and being sinless. Therefore a God who never sinned is more reliable than a God who did.
- God is maximally reliable (indeed, he is the most reliable of all conceivable beings). A God who never sinned is more reliable than a God who did. Therefore God never sinned.
Because God is the Most High
- It is better (more morally praiseworthy) to have never sinned than to have sinned. God is the best of all beings (indeed, he is the best of all possible beings). Therefore God never sinned.
- If God sinned, then he had to submit to a forgiver higher than himself. God is the Most High. Therefore God never sinned.
- An all-knowing being does not sin. God has always been an all-knowing being. Therefore God never sinned.
- It is unwise to sin. God has eternally been all-wise. Therefore God never sinned.
- When a person sins, he spiritually weakens himself. God has always been all-powerful. Therefore God never sinned.
- Sinners only continue to exist by grace. God has been eternally self-existent. Therefore God never sinned.
- No one can atone for his own sins. God is the only one who can atone for sins. Therefore if God sinned, there was no one who could atone for his sins.
- Sinners not atoned for cannot become Gods. If God sinned, there was no one who could atone for his sins. Therefore God never sinned.
Because of the nature of boasting and thanksgiving
- A true God properly boasts in himself. A sinner saved by grace cannot properly boast in himself (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore sinners saved by grace cannot become true Gods.
- Our God is a true God. Sinners saved by grace cannot become true Gods. Therefore our God was never a sinner saved by grace.
- If God was forgiven for sins, he would publicly thank the one who forgave him. God does not give thanks to anyone for anything. Therefore God never sinned.
Because of the eternal relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit
- It is more glorious to have never sinned than to have ever sinned. The Son has never sinned. Therefore the Son is more glorious than those who have sinned.
- The Father is eternally equal in glory with the Son. The Son is more glorious than those who have sinned. Therefore God never sinned.
- To sin is not loving of the Son. The Father has always perfectly loved the Son. Therefore God never sinned.
- The Son would only worship a person worthy of worship. Sinners are not worthy of worship. Therefore the Son has never worshiped a sinner.
- The Son has eternally worshiped the Father. The Son has never worshiped a sinner. Therefore God never sinned.
- The Holy Spirit has always participated in the life of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit does not participate in sin. Therefore God never sinned.
Because even early Mormon scripture agrees
There was a time when most Mormons agreed that God never sinned. As Mormon historian Thomas G. Alexander writes, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.”1 In what was originally read to Church membership as the “Articles and Covenants of the Church”, D&C 20:17 spoke of the God who was always the same unchangeable God:
“By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God…”
D&C 76:4 spoke of this same God:
“From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail.”
In what was originally a part of Mormon scripture, Lecture 3 of the Lectures on Faith taught, “A correct idea of his character, perfections and attributes” is “necessary, in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.” It goes on to quote the word of God, Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” The lecture then goes on to say that “he changes not, neither is there variableness with him; but that he is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday to-day and forever; and that his course is one eternal round, without variation.”
This echoes Moroni 7:22, which speaks of “God knowing all things, being from everlasting to everlasting…”
A chapter later we learn in Moroni 8:18 that “God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.” Much has changed in Mormonism since its early days; the Mormon Church has essentially apostatized from its own early scripture. You c
an read more about this at WeAgreeWith818.com.
What Kind of Sins did a Mormon God Once Perhaps Commit?
If our Heavenly Father (or any Heavenly Father in ultimate reality) was once perhaps a sinner, only sins which permanently disqualify or disable a person from achieving full Celestial exaltation unto godhood are sins that he absolutely never committed. Or to put it another way, any sin that doesn’t permanently disqualify or disable a person from achieving full Celestial exaltation unto godhood is a sin that a Heavenly Father in Mormonism may have committed. The only sins which traditional Mormonism says permanently disqualify or disable a person from achieving godhood are murder (some Mormons even limit this to post-temple-covenant murder) and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
Think about it. What are some sins that you find especially gross and heinous that a person can repent over unto Celestial exaltation and godhood? Those are the sins that the God of Mormonism may have committed, and those are sins that other Gods (either in the past ancestry of the Gods or the future lineage of Gods) may have committed. The Gods of Mormonism (including ours) may have one been involved in:
- Child abuse
- False prophecy
- The practice of homosexuality
- Leading children astray
- Spousal abuse
- Stealing, ponzi schemes
- Unjustified anger
“What if I don’t care?”
“If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart. The reason why men are not affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful things, as they often hear and read of, in the word of God, is undoubtedly because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things.” – Jonathan Edwards
“But our church doesn’t have an official position on whether God the Father was a sinner.”
That is part of the very problem. Mormonism claims to be the most clear and bright beacon of doctrinal clarity, particularly on things that matter. Yet Mormonism’s traditional worldview has fostered confusion on the most important thing in all of reality. Mormonism has historically taught, “As man is God once was, as God is man may be.” The traditional and majority Mormon view (to which Mormons lean, without definitively affirming) is that while Jesus is unique and special for obtaining godhood in pre-mortality and for living a mortal life sinlessly, Heavenly Father obtained godhood more like we can: he experienced a mortality replete with sin, yet still progressed unto exaltation and godhood. Some Mormon authors essentially appeal to this “one eternal round” as a point of comfort for members. Whether or not the Mormon institution has an official position on the issue, it still bears responsibility for letting such blasphemy persist among members. Individual Mormons still bear responsibility for acquiescing to the institution’s lack of repentance over the issue.
“I have never heard a Mormon Church leader teach that God was once a sinner.”
They don’t have to. What we are talking about here is a natural extension of the traditional Mormon worldview, a worldview that Mormon leaders are responsible for fostering and acquiescing to.
“This doesn’t really matter.”
Jesus Christ prayed to the Father, “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Eternal life is to know God. Do you want to know God? Then it matters.
“This doesn’t concern my salvation.”
Unrepentant idolaters go to hell. We learn in Revelation 21:8 that the “cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” In the larger context, this is speaking of post-resurrection eternal hell (not the temporary spirit prison of the intermediate state).
“But idolatry only has to do with worshiping statues or pictures, etc.”
Idolatry is fundamentally exchanging “the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). Whether you are worshiping a golden calf, Baal, Zeus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or a god who was perhaps once a sinner, you are an idolater, because the god you worship is not the God of the Bible.
“Since the sinful New Testament saints are called holy, why can’t a God who once sinned be called holy?”
The holiness of Christians is far different than God’s holiness. God is the Holy of Holies. His holiness is eternal and inherent and intrinsic. It is fundamental to his very existence, and always has been. The holiness of Christians (who still sin) is a redeemed holiness—Christians have been justified and definitively sanctified, set apart for service to God, forgiven, washed, given eternal life and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the call to holiness is a call to fight sin and be morally pure. Christians are called to be holy because God is holy. “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 19:2)
“Shouldn’t we respect the power of the atonement by overlooking God’s past sins?”
An atonement from a God who never sinned is more powerful than an atonement that covered the past indiscretions of a God who did sin. The whole beauty and power and value of the atonement is based on the fact that it was accomplished by a God who never, ever sinned. The eternally sinless Father sent his eternally sinless Son to be a spotless sacrifice.
An atonement that covered our God’s supposed past sins would have to come from another Savior than Jesus Christ. If there was another Savior who atoned for the sins of our Heavenly Father, then he should make himself known so that we can worship him. He is far more worthy of worship than any God who once sinned.
“If sinners cannot become gods worshiped by other spirit children, what then is the purpose of life?”
The purpose of life is embedded in the greatest of all commandments: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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.” (Mark 12:30) All things considered, the purpose of life is to enjoy and fear and worship and love and delight in God, ultimately in the God-given context of human community and creation.
“If believing that God the Father could have been a sinner is itself such a great sin, can it still be forgiven?”
Yes. John testifies by the Holy Spirit, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Start singing “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me” in your heart with Christians, and repent of believing in a god who could himself be singing it. God was never a wretch like us, but he loves to save wretches like us.
“I believe that the Father achieved full godhood in pre-mortality and was a sinless savior for another world—he was not a sinner like us.”
While roughly two-thirds of the Mormons I talk to affirm that God the Father was at least once perhaps a sinner, one-third say God the Father never sinned. And among those one-third, the most common explanation I hear is that God the Father was once a sinless savior for another planet. This is sometimes called the “royal line of sinless saviors” theory (called RLSS in the following notes). The verse quoted most often to support this is John 5:19. There are multiple problems with holding this view:
The context of John 5:19
In the beginning of John 5 Jesus heals a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. The problem for the Jews is that Jesus did this on the Sabbath. Verse 16 reads:
“And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’”
The Jews understood that God still technically worked on the Sabbath, and indeed, had been at work ever since the creation of the world. He alone had divine prerogative to do so. So when Jesus says that,
“My Father is working until now, and I am working”, he was claiming equality with God in divine prerogative, including to work on the Sabbath. In fact, this is how the next verse reads. “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
That is when Jesus lectures them:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (19-23)
- What tense is verse 19? It is the present tense!
- Consider verses 19 and 22 together: “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” (John 5:19) “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (v. 22) There is a sense in which the Son judges that the Father does not. Hence, the “seeing” that the Son does of the Father isn’t necessarily a literal watching of the Father’s actions, but a drawing upon the Father for power and authority and direction.
- This isn’t about the Son learning from the Father about what he did in the past, and then acting on that past example. This is about the Father actively showing the Son what he is up to–in the present tense–whether that be working miracles on the Sabbath, or later, resurrection and final judgment. The Son actively participates in the present tense with the Father, or on behalf of the Father who is giving the power and authority.
If the Father was a sinless savior on another planet, it was before he even begot Jesus as a spirit child.
The Father was presumably not yet a spirit-father until after he would have completed a sacrificial mortal ministry. According to Mormonism, eternal marriage is required for becoming a parent of spirit-children, and eternal marriage is spoken of as an ordinance performed only in mortality (or the Millennium if necessary). The Father was presumably not yet a spirit-father until afterward, so Jesus would not have yet been born as a spirit-child to Heavenly Father. John 5:19 speaks of the Son, as the Son, “watching” the Father. But if Jesus was watching Elohim during the Elohim’’s mortal experience, he would have had to do so as a mere intelligence, and wouldn’t have done so as a son to a father. Mormonism doesn’t even give us a reason to believe that Jesus as an intelligence knew which Heavenly Father he would end up with.
The forgetfulness of the Mormon Jesus at his mortal birth.
Standard Mormon teaching holds that spirit-children forget everything (with the exception of some faint shadowy memories) at their birth into mortality. In other contexts, Mormons also appeal to Luke 2:52 to affirm the truth that Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature.” Hence, Jesus needed to learn things that he had forgotten.
Mormons might appeal to the notion that Jesus had a mortal mother but an immortal father, perhaps implying that he was a partial exception to the veil-of-forgetfulness rule. But since the issue is unsettled, the question remains: If Jesus learned of the sinless sacrificial ministry of Heavenly Father, did he then have to relearn it after having forgotten about it at his mortal birth? This issue alone doesn’t disprove the RLSS idea, but it raises tough questions.
Lucifer’s claim to Eve in the LDS temple ceremony that God the Father “gained his knowledge” of good and evil by eating of the forbidden fruit goes unchallenged.
Since Lucifer tells both truths and falsehood in the temple ceremony (relative to Mormon theology), it doesn’t work to dismiss Lucifer’s claim simply because he’s Lucifer. The temple ceremony provides nothing that validates or invalidates, confirms or denies his claim about the way the Father gained his knowledge.
The RLSS theory isn’t the dominant position fostered by traditional Mormonism.
Mormonism has generally looked to the Father as an encouraging example of someone who achieved Godhood just like we can. The parallel between our mortal probation and the Father’s has been treated as stronger than the parallel between our mortal probation and Christ’s. The Father, in other words, has been taught as a closer, more realistic role model for achieving Godhood.
The RLSS idea is not official Mormon doctrine.
Mainstream Mormonism has no official position on whether God the Father was a sinless savior or once a wretched sinner. It is an unsettled issue. Mormonism leaves the door open wide. Mormons can give their personal speculative opinions, but the Church doesn’t explicitly confirm or deny with any authoritativeness. Many times Mormons use the lack of officiality on an issue to avoid having to address it, as though this solves the problem. But in this case lack of officiality is actually part of the problem. The Church as an institution has positions on tithing, caffeine, and energy drinks. Gospel Principles and the Church Handbook of Instructions detail all sorts of beliefs and practices. But the Church refuses to give an official position on whether God the Father was once a wretched sinner before he became a God. This is as equally embarrassing as a Christian church not having a position on whether Jesus rose from the dead.
On a related note, I would encourage Mormons who are studying through difficult issues not to find final solace in the idea of whether or not something is official. Rather than asking yourself if a teaching is official, you should be asking yourself whether or not it is true. Rather than asking yourself if a teaching is official, you should be asking yourself if the teacher led people astray. Jes
us said to watch out for false teachers and false prophets, and that you’d know them by their fruits. Don’t be deceived into thinking that recognition of bad fruit is only legitimate when that bad fruit is somehow representative of “official doctrine.”
The RLSS theory removes the only known example we have for a sinful mortal achieving Godhood.
If both the Father and Jesus were sinless saviors, we simply have no example or role model in Mormonism for progressing from sinful mortality unto full exaltation and godhood. This isn’t a problem for Biblical Christianity, because we don’t believe we can become Gods. But this is a problem for Mormonism since it so often touts the Father as having achieved what we can achieve. “As man is God once was, as God is man may be.” The way the Lorenzo Snow couplet has been traditionally interpreted in Mormonism has us modeling our mortal probationary experience (unto Godhood) after that of the Father’s. If the Father was a sinless savior for another planet, and indeed, if the Father was born on a planet to a mortal mother and immortal father (being in a kind of hybrid God-man state that Bruce McConkie admits is fitting for the term “demigod”) the couplet is rendered tenuous.
The RLSS theory implies that God the Father achieved near-Godhood in his own pre-mortality.
According to Mormonism, Jesus already achieved a kind of special Godhood in pre-mortality. He completes his development unto full Godhood by experiencing mortality and by completing certain ordinances like eternal marriage, but Jesus’ progression unto Godhood is seen largely to have been accomplished in pre-mortality. This is unlike us, who depend significantly more on mortality itself for our decisive progression unto Godhood. If the Son is following a progression-pattern that the Father followed, then it becomes even more of a problem that the Father isn’t a good role model for achieving Godhood. He primarily achieved Godhood in his own pre-mortality. We on the other hand never achieved Godhood like the Father in our pre-mortality, and now we must largely accomplish in sin-ridden mortality what the Father accomplished sinlessly in pre-mortality.
The RLSS theory moves the problem of a once-sinful God instead of solving it.
If our Heavenly Father was as sinless savior, then it might partly solve the problem of our particular God having once been a sinner. However, it does nothing to solve the problem with Mormonism essentially affirming the principle that it is legitimate for once-sinful Gods to be worshiped and prayed to. In other words, it’s like saying, “Our particular Heavenly Father never sinned, but even if he had, that would be OK and nothing would be different.” And since in Mormonism all mortals other than Jesus (who have lived past the age of accountability) have sinned, there are potentially billions of Gods who were once sinners. So the RLSS theory does nothing to stop us from asking if there are countless Gods in ultimate reality who were once sinners.
Think about it this way: Will your spirit children be able to say of you, “God never sinned”? Will your spirit children be able to say of you everything that you are able to say of your Heavenly Father?
Interpretation of the King Follett Discourse is disputed among Mormons.
BYU professor Rodney Turner writes:
“[O]pinion is divided as to how closely the Son’s career paralleled that of his Father… These and the Prophet’s earlier remarks are believed by some to infer that our God and his father once sacrificed their lives in a manner similar to the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is argued that the Prophet’s words suggest that these gods did not simply live and die as all men do, they ‘laid down’ and ‘took up’ their lives in the context of sacrifice… This extrapolated doctrine rests upon a somewhat inadequate, if not shaky, foundation. Indeed, it is highly doubtful. The basic process of laying down and taking up one’s life is similar for all even though it is not identical for all” (Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God [Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989], 91-117).
Also of note is Bruce McConkie’s thoughts on the issue (as reported by his son):
“KFD 5:1 Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did. Joseph Smith’s purpose is to show that the Bible teaches that our Father in Heaven was once mortal, as we are. To do so he takes John 5:19 as a text. Here the Savior said, ‘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.’ The Prophet then reasons that it is Christ’s purpose to lay down his life and take it up again. Thus, if Christ can do only that which his father did, his father must also have been subject to death, he must have died and then taken up his life again as a resurrected being. From this statement of the Prophet, many have attempted to reason that he was saying that his father was also a savior for those of another world and thus that all worlds require their own saviors. The Prophet never taught such a thing and was not alluding to it here. His remarks centered on the doctrine of resurrection, not the salvation of God’s endless creations. The Prophet had already clearly taught that the atonement of Christ—which was infinite—embraced all that he had created under the direction of the Father (see commentary on D&C 76:23-24). Responding to those who wanted to argue that there is a special strain of savior gods, Elder Bruce R. McConkie often asked, ‘What earthly good could possibly come from teaching such a thing?’ ” – Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler, Revelations of the Restoration: A Commentary on the Doctrine & Covenants & Other Modern Revelations
Brigham Young taught,
“How many earths are there? I observed this morning that you may take the particles of matter composing this earth, and if they could be enumerated they would only be a beginning to the number of the creations of God; and they are continually coming into existence, and undergoing changes and passing through the same experience that we are passing through. Sin is upon every earth that ever was created, and if it was not so, I would like some philosophers to let us know how people can be exalted to become sons of God, and enjoy a fulness of glory with the Redeemer. Consequently every earth has its redeemer, and every earth has its tempter; and every earth, and the people thereof, in their turn and time, receive all that we receive, and pass through all the ordeals that we are passing through.” – Brigham Young, “Sin—The Atonement, Etc.”, Journal of Discourses, vol. 14, pp. 70-73, July 10, 1870.
Evangelical Clint Roberts asks,
“If only a few rare beings in the infinite family tree are part of this unique royal succession who lived sinlessly on earth in order to be redeemers, then it still remains that sinners become gods just as great & powerful as ours (in fact it’s the norm). So big deal if WE just so happen to be offspring in that rare line of succession in which one son (always the eldest, I guess?) in every ‘litter’ carries the sinless-while-on-earth gene. Right?”
“Isn’t it unfair to ask the question without giving Mormons a chance to prepare an answer, especially when most Mormons usually haven’t thought about the issue?”
I’m not asking people, “What is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?” I’m asking a question that should take no preparation to answer. In f
act, an ad hoc answer—an immediate answer from the heart—is exactly what I want. This isn’t about trapping people in the ignorance of the answer to an obscure trivia question. This is about getting a spiritual heartbeat, a natural overflow of someone’s worldview and orientation toward the basics of God. The question of whether God perhaps sinned is like the question of, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” or “Can God move mountains?” That people are so quick to say that God perhaps sinned or probably sinned or even definitely sinned speaks to the heart, the religion, the theological system, and the worldview of Mormonism.
The correct response, by the way, to the question over the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow, is, “What do you mean? African or European swallow?”
“Are you asking Mormons if God merely had the ability to sin?”
No, I’m asking Mormons if they believe it is possible that God actually once sinned. In other words, “Was God the Father once perhaps a sinner?” This is made especially clear when I refer to a “past mortal probation.” I did a lot of follow-up with many of the interviewees, and none of them intimated that they thought I was merely asking if God had the ability to sin. The sense of the question of whether God perhaps sinned was clear. For example:
Aaron: Do you believe it’s possible that God the Father could have been a sinner in a past mortal probation?
Guest: “Um, I do! I think that making mistakes is an essential part of the learning process. So, if you follow logic and reason, then I think that’s definitely a distinct possibility. Sure. It doesn’t make him any less powerful or anything.”
Aaron: Does it bother you that you’d be worshiping a god who was once like us, in the sense that he was a sinner?
Guest: “No, it makes me more comfortable, actually. In the sense that we have hope to overcome. If he could overcome, and be as great as he is, then certainly we have hope to overcome all our trials, and sinful natures as well. So…”
This is also made clear in the past-tense I use in “was”, i.e. “Do you believe it’s possible that God the Father was once a sinner?” Even the Mormons who believe God never sinned, yet obviously had the ability to, understood this, as their negative (i.e. “no”) answers were affirming something about the past, not something about God’s inability.
Think about it this way: I lose my keys and my wife asks me, “Is it possible that you left them on the doorknob?” She wouldn’t in that instance be merely asking, “Did you have the capability of leaving them on the doorknob?” The heart of her question gets at: “Is it a historical possibility that you actually did leave them on the doorknob?”
“Why don’t you ask more positive questions to present a more charitable view of Mormonism?”
Some Mormons insist that the video should at least pad the main question in the video interviews with questions that yield more positive-sounding, less embarrassing statements from Mormons, and that this would make the video more “charitable”. That it somehow isn’t fair that I single out the issue of whether Mormons believe God was perhaps a sinner. The simple answer to that is that I do not work for the LDS Church’s public relations department, and that exposure of the main issue is the main goal of the video. If Mormonism really does tolerate and even foster the belief that God was perhaps once a sinner, then people need to know about it and consequently abandon Mormonism for Biblical Christianity. If you are really insisting that I put the main issue in a bouquet of rhetorical flowers so as to somehow be grateful for the overall sweet smell, then I would plead with you to reconsider whether or not you are right with God, and whether or not you really know God in Spirit and in truth. Do you care more about the image of Mormonism, or more about true worship of the Almighty God of the universe?
“Why don’t you just simply ask, ‘Did God sin?'”
In one sense, there are two kinds of people in the project: those who believe God definitely never sinned, and those who don’t affirm such a thing as definite. Those who believe God certainly never sinned, and those who don’t have certainty that God never sinned. To say that one “doesn’t know” if God sinned is to leave open the door that God perhaps sinned. To affirm that it is possible that God indeed sinned is to leave open the door that God perhaps sinned.
Think of it as a spectrum:
1 2 3 4 5
1 – God definitely never sinned
2 – God probably never sinned, but it’s not definite, and not for certain: perhaps God did sin, it’s unknown.
3 – I don’t know (with no one side given the probable favor)
4 – God probably sinned, but it’s not definite, and not for certain: again, it’s unknown.
5 – God definitely sinned
I am taking 2, 3, 4, and 5 as those who at least believe that God the Father perhaps sinned. I am saying that most Mormons fall between 2 and 5.
In other words, I am going after not just the affirmation that God definitely sinned, but also the lack of affirmation that God definitely didn’t sin. I am showing Mormonism’s lack of clarity and certainty over whether God the Father was once a horrific sinner. I am showing how Mormonism doesn’t provide a rock-solid confidence that God never sinned. So many Mormons are on a point in the above spectrum where they have to essentially say, “I don’t know, perhaps.”
A Mormon might not believe that God sinned, but that doesn’t meant that they also believe that God never sinned. In other words, lack of affirmative positive belief doesn’t necessarily imply affirmation of the negative
If you still don’t understand, maybe this will help: I don’t believe that there is a cat in my backyard right now, but it can’t also be said, “I believe there is no cat in my backyard right now.” That I lack belief that there is a cat in my backyard doesn’t necessarily imply or infer that I possess an affirmative, definite belief that there is no cat in my backyard.
I essentially don’t know. I lack reasonable certainty over whether there is a cat in my backyard. That’s not a big deal. But lacking certainty and affirmative belief that God didn’t sin is a huge deal. For someone who claims to be a Christian, it’s as much of a problem as lacking affirmative belief that Jesus didn’t sin.
“I have a question or comment. How can I contact you?”
Please e-mail me at aaron[at]mrm[dot]org
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Questions for Mormons
- If God once sinned, who forgave his sins?
- Is God the Father sinned, but Jesus never did, doesn’t that make Jesus greater than the Father?
- Why is it not OK to be unsure over whether Jesus sinned, but it is OK to be unsure over whether the Father sinned?
- Did Heavenly Mother(s)
perhaps sin in the past?
- Since in Mormonism only a few things permanently disqualify someone from achieving Godhood (murder, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, and possibly second-time adultery), did God the Father once perhaps commit [XYZ] sin?
- Mormons: What did it mean for the Father to be “Christlike” when he was a mere mortal on another planet? Was he imitating his own Messiah? Was he full of the “light of Christ”, i.e. the light of his own particular Messiah? Assuming the Father taught Jesus to be “Christlike”, then doesn’t that meant that the Father was teaching Jesus to be like another Christ that the Father once submitted to as Savior and Lord? When our Jesus is being “Christlike”, doesn’t that just mean he is imitating the kind person that potentially billions of other Christs act like on other worlds? If our Jesus is one of potentially billions of other Christs among other worlds, then when we say someone is “Christ-like”, doesn’t that also mean that he is conforming to a pattern that billions of other Christs have followed?
Mormons, did God the Father gain his knowledge of good and evil by eating the forbidden fruit?
Does Moving the God-as-Once-Sinner Problem Solve the Problem?
Was Heavenly Mother Once Perhaps a Sinner?
Debate With Mormon Apologist at General Conference (Did God Perhaps Sin?)
A conversational debate between Aaron Shafovaloff (evangelical) and Robert V. (Mormon apologist).
This video is a great example of why it is important to keep probing when a Mormon apologist seems to affirm traditional Christian doctrine.
Robert was very confusing. Toward the beginning he said God was always God and that he never sinned, but then later revealed that the “never” only applies to the timeframe that we know of, and that there may be a timeframe beyond what is in our current view where he had to become a God and where he may have sinned. In fact, Robert went on to say that if “theosis” (as Mormons define it) applies to us forward, then it probably applies to God backward (i.e. God went through theosis).
He also equivocated on the issue of whether God was once a sinner, sometimes insistent that He never sinned, sometimes insistent that no one can really know if God sinned.
Aaron Shafovaloff for “Heart for the Lost”
Aaron Shafovaloff for “What Love is This?”
Part of the video deals with the God-never-sinned issue as it relates to Mormonism.