by Sharon Lindbloom
8 August 2019
A month ago (10 July 2019) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints posted a video in its “Now You Know” series titled, “What do Mormons Believe About God?” The video begins with the statement, “Some of the most fundamental questions in life are centered on the nature of God.” The goal of the video is to answer some of those questions by defining the nature of God according to Mormonism. Running just 3 minutes and 23 seconds, the video necessarily provides limited information, but it does name five specific attributes that speak to the nature of Mormonism’s God the Father. These are:
- That God is “the literal father of the spirits of all mankind”
- That he has a “body of flesh and bone”
- That he has “all knowledge”
- That he has “all power”
- That he is a “separate and distinct being” from both Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost
While these attributes are named, they are not explained. Coupled with the absence of additional important LDS doctrines, this leads to confusion regarding the actual nature of Mormonism’s God.
The Bible tells us that eternal life is knowing the one true God (John 17:3). Therefore, care must be taken to fully understand the nature of any God one might consider worshiping. So let’s unpack the video’s points to get a better look at the attributes of Mormonism’s God.
God is the literal father of the spirits of all mankind. The video suggests that “people of many different faiths” believe this. While it’s true that people of different faiths might agree with the biblical teaching that God is our Father, few agree with the Mormon concept that is expressed in the video with the word “literal.” The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains, “The Father, Elohim, is called the Father because he is the literal father of the spirits of mortals (Heb. 12:9). This paternity is not allegorical. All individual human spirits were begotten (not created from nothing or made) by the Father in a premortal state, where they lived and were nurtured by Heavenly Parents” (Encyclopedia ofMormonism2:549).
“So,” an LDS pamphlet declares, “you are in reality, a descendant of God. He is your Heavenly Father in a very literal sense. You lived with him and associated with him before you were born on earth. You are the lineage of God” (“Your Pre-Earth Life,” an unnumbered LDS tract).
This idea of lineal descent falls right in line with early LDS apostle Orson F. Whitney’s teaching when he said, “The difference between the human and the divine is a matter of education and development. Gods and men are of the same species, and it is just as reasonable that God’s children should attain to the fullness of his spiritual stature, as that man’s children should grow to the fullness of his physical stature” (Orson F. Whitney, August 12, 1894, Collected Discourses 4:132).
God has a body of flesh and bone. The LDS video states that God has a voice that can be heard, ears that can hear us, and a “perfected body” that will never die. Biblically speaking, God does speak to us, He does hear us, and He will never die. But these biblical attributes of God do not require Him to have “a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (D&C 130:22). The video quotes Genesis 1:27 in an effort to support the LDS idea of a physically embodied God the Father, but does not address other Bible passages that clearly contradict this LDS interpretation (see John 4:24 and Luke 24:39).
Nevertheless, it is the video’s assertion of God’s “perfected” body that really needs explanation. In order for something to be “perfected” it must have at one time been imperfect, and this is true of Mormonism’s God. Before attaining godhood, he did have an imperfect body, a human body that was subject to decay and death. The Mormon doctrine that God the father was once a mere human being who was able to achieve his godhood is vitally important to understanding this being’s nature. The Lorenzo Snow couplet, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be,” or the teaching of Joseph Smith that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens,” are both concise ways of presenting this Mormon doctrine on the nature of God. It is unfortunate that this essential aspect of this God’s being hasn’t been explained in the video.
God has all knowledge. Such a claim brings the biblical doctrine of God’s omniscience to mind. However, in Mormonism things are never that straightforward. The video states that the LDS view of the nature of God is informed by the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and teachings of latter-day (LDS) prophets, yet neglects to alert viewers to the conflicting teachings of these prophets. Second prophet Brigham Young and fourth prophet Wilford Woodruff both taught that God continues to progress and learn eternally, while tenth LDS prophet, Joseph F. Smith, disagreed and claimed such an idea was uninformed and even dangerous. The official position of the Mormon church today may be that God has all knowledge, but the church also officially teaches that LDS prophets get their information directly from God and must always be trusted. It’s no wonder many Mormons seem confused about the omniscience of God. When a Mormon website asked its readers in 2010, “Is God still learning and progressing?” a majority of those who responded said yes.
God has all power. Again, this sounds like the biblical pronouncement that God is omnipotent. But in Mormonism, the term “all powerful” is not actually what most would suppose. Mormonism’s first prophet Joseph Smith explained, “In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because He has greater knowledge, and hence He knows how to subject all other beings to Him. He has power over all” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 265).
The power of Mormonism’s God is not absolute, but measured by degree. Furthermore, Joseph Smith described limitations of God’s power when he taught, “I might with boldness proclaim from the housetops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself” (Journal of Discourses 6:7).
It is for good reason that the video did not seek to establish that Mormonism’s God is the Creator of all (an important attribute of the nature of the biblical God).
God is a separate and distinct being. This is probably the video’s attempt to distance Mormonism from the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity, but it has done a poor job of it. The biblical doctrine of the Trinity affirms that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from one another, yet constitute the one true God: “In the nature (or substance) of the one true God, there are three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Here is the primary idea of ‘tri-unity,’ a ‘Trinity in unity,’ three persons sharing equally in a single substance of deity” (E. Calvin Beisner, God in Three Persons).
This is where the video really misses the mark. While stating that Mormonism’s godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are distinct from one another, it fails to mention that, according to Mormonism, these three beings are actually three separate and distinct Gods. While the Bible tells us there is one and only one true God (monotheism), Mormonism’s God is one of several (if not many) so-called true Gods (tritheism or polytheism). The uniqueness of God (or lack of uniqueness in Mormonism’s case) is a very important aspect of God’s nature, yet it was not mentioned in the LDS video titled, “What do Mormons believe about God?”
A lot of profoundly significant information about the nature of Mormonism’s God is either not adequately explained or not included in the church’s video. But with some unpacking of the video’s language, as well as looking at some additional teachings from LDS leaders, readers here get a fuller picture of the nature of Mormonism’s God and how utterly incompatible this being is with God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible.
Now you know.