Dear Reader,


A Latter-day Saint who believes that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its leaders are authorized of God doesn’t necessarily accept whatever the church puts forth as “gospel.” On the contrary, anyone who wants a better church tomorrow really ought to speak up today. We aren’t potted plants. Let's face it: Theological malarkey gets a long lease on life when members merely say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also exists because I want to assure Latter-day Saints who are struggling with their faith that, although I agree the church has many flaws and its leaders often err, there are very strong reasons to believe that the restored church is indeed the Lord’s church.

Each article is listed below with a title, short synopsis and a link. They were written by Steve Warren (bio below). Articles by others may be added.

Keep the faith.

Steve Warren
West Valley City, Utah

“God is actually trying to create a much more profound relationship with us. We can only do that if we are actually wrestling with issues at hand.”
--Fiona Givens

Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth.

Steve Warren was raised in Heppner, Oregon, and has lived in Utah for 43 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia-Venezuela, and graduated from BYU in 1973 with a degree in communications. He and his wife, JaNiece, have two sons and a daughter. He wrote and published Drat! Mythed Again, Second Thoughts on Utah in 1986 and was a copy editor at the Deseret News from 1988-2008. He wrote and printed 100 copies of a novel, Beyond the Finish Line, but has yet to find a real publisher. (February 2017)
Knowing, believing, seeing Insights into our borderline dysfunctional LDS relationship with the word “know.”

Pathway to heaven The Scriptures show one sure way to return to God’s presence: possess a heart that pleases him.

Obedience gone awry Strictly following the prophet is an excellent idea—at least as long as he’s right.

Falling short, staying put Living prophets constantly err, but that’s not a good reason to leave the Lord’s church.

What in the world? Certain strange features of the Book of Mormon add to its credibility.

Some kind of miracle Fiction. An invitation to speak in sacrament meeting begins a Utah couple’s wild ride.

The cross = victory The cross is a worthy, positive symbol because it reminds us that it is the dying Christ who saves us.

Pilate tried Jewish religious leaders sought to kill Jesus; Pontius Pilate sought to set him free, so let’s give the man a break.

Father, Father, Father Why do we repeat the name of Deity so often in prayers these days?

Witnesses Multiple witnesses provide a compelling reason for anyone to ponder the claims of Mormonism.

Who is God? The Book of Mormon emphatically teaches that Jesus is our God and that he acts and speaks as both the Father and the Son.

Creation stories Teachings about the Creation tend to turn wobbly when they go beyond “God created the earth.”

Short takes Brief quotes, comments and reflections on a variety of gospel topics.
A few heresies... that would make for a more interesting sacrament meeting.
Oopsy-daisy 40 foul-ups.







Thursday, October 22, 2015

Short takes



Don't see R-rated movies? Just another myth


Question:  How many presidents of the church have said members should never view R-rated movies?

Answer: None

Yes, President Ezra Taft Benson counseled young men at a 1986 General Conference priesthood session not to view R-rated movies in order to keep their minds free of entertainment that is immoral, suggestive or pornographic. (He later offered similar counsel to young women of the church.) But the general membership of the church has never received counsel from a church president not to attend R-rated movies.

Indeed, President Benson's counsel to youths suggests that attending R-rated movies might be acceptable even for LDS young people if the movie contains no suggestive material but merely contains profanity or realistic depictions of war, etc.  In fact, I would not hesitate to recommend to my fellow Latter-day Saints age 16 and above that they view such R movies as The King's Speech, Gran Torino and Schindler's List.

Although no president of the church has said we should never see R-rated movies, Elder Robert L. Simpson stated in October 1972 general conference that members should not view R-rated movies.  Let's keep in mind that Elder Simpson was an assistant to the Twelve and was expressing his opinion, not the position of the prophet, the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve or of the church.  

Here's a couple of other problems with letting a rating given by the Motion Picture Association of America determine whether we see a movie. First, by relying solely on rating and ignoring movie content, we may miss a great movie containing one F-word while convincing ourselves it's OK to see a PG-13 movie that is mediocre and full of vulgarity, violence or idiotic content. Second, the MPAA rating ignores the fact that many members live in countries where movies receive no MPAA rating.  Third, by automatically following someone's counsel never to see an R-rated movie, we trust in them and the MPAA to guide us rather than wisely exercising our agency. 

The best focus

The paragraph below is from reflections by Linda and Richard Eyre about their friend Stephen Covey.  It ran in the July 20, 2012, Deseret News.

“One evening he told us that there were many large, extended families who summered at a different lake, the one where he and Sandra always took their kids for the Covey family reunion. He said that after watching all those families for several years, he realized that they fell into three categories: families that were church-centered, families that were family-centered and families that were Christ-centered. It was only the third category, he said, that lasted, stayed strong and stood the tests and challenges of life without becoming divided.

Proof that there is a God

I offer the following experience as proof that there is a God.

Around midnight in the late 1990s, I waited in my car for a left-turn signal on northbound State Street and North Temple in Salt Lake City.  I had just finished a Saturday afternoon/evening shift at the Deseret News, but for the occupants of many of the other 10 or so cars it perhaps was late-night party time.

At the front of the left-turn line was a car with several rowdy young men, windows open and loud music rolling forth.  Behind them was a car with two more males.  I was third in line, and other cars to the right occupied the northbound lane. As the rest of us dutifully waited for the lights to change, the first car peeled out and accelerated through the red light onto westbound North Temple.  In effect, the message the young men sent to the rest of us was: “Hey, losers. You can obey the law if you want, but we sure as hell don’t have to.”

A few seconds later, as I muttered to myself, it got worse.  The men in the second car also peeled out!  Apparently, the fellows in both vehicles were part of the same night-on-the-town group. My muttering grew more intense. I'm ashamed to admit that I might have thought, or spoken, the word “bastards.” My main thought was: Why is there never a cop around when you need one?

Finally, the light changed and the rest of us proceeded.  About two blocks later, to my surprise I saw the two peel-out cars parked on the side of the road.  As I passed, I saw flashing lights on the dashboard of the second car—it was an unmarked police car!

In that moment I went from being a muttering loser to a man with one joyful thought:  “Yes, there is a God.”

The Spirit made me do it

Many active, mainstream members take a dim view of those who don’t always follow the Brethren and who appear to pick and choose when to obey. That's especially true if the picker and chooser is an Obama-lovin' bleeding heart liberal. Yet mainstream, more traditional members also pick and choose—but with a major difference.  When one of them chooses to disobey, he may feel he is doing so because the Spirit has directed him. (Which is, by the way, a good excuse for disobeying.)

Following are five common ways that active members disobey the Brethren. 

First, testimony bearers, perhaps the majority, tend to disregard specific counsel from the church about testimonies not being, in effect, mini-speeches or verbal newsletters. Yes, some may be unaware of the counsel, but unawareness represents a failure to pay close heed to leaders—also a form of disobedience.

Second, speakers routinely disregard the time limit assigned for their talk.

Third, the leaders of some organizations, perhaps caught up in a presumably spiritual lesson, allow their meetings to run several minutes over the time specified for the meeting block. Often, when a meeting has already gone over, leaders compound the disobedience by allowing the closing song to be sung, followed by a prayer.

Fourth, LDS young people appear to feel it's OK with the Spirit for them to attend, view or participate in football games, despite specific counsel from church leaders not to attend, view or participate in anything that is violent in any way.”  (See For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet, p. 11.) They also routinely attend or view such movies as Star Wars that contain violence. (Give BYU credit for cutting back on football violence in 2017 thanks to many missed tackles and a 4-9 record.)

Fifth, leaders have repeatedly counseled against repeating the name of Deity in prayers, but we constantly hear Father this and Father that.  (See “Father, Father, Father” on this site.)

A rather dramatic example of “Spirit-driven” disobedience happened a number of years ago in a previous ward that I attended.  During two sacrament meetings a couple of weeks apart, the first speakers went well over their allotted time, leaving no time for the final, main speakers.  In order to right this wrong, the bishopric invited the two speakers who had been jilted to speak in a sacrament meeting the following month.  This would have been a wonderful solution to the unfair treatment of these two brethren except for one thing—the first man proceeded to hog nearly all the time!

An approach to the Word of Wisdom

For years, a man named Cory entered the same bar every Tuesday night, sat at the end of the counter by himself, and ordered three small beers. On his latest visit, however, he ordered two large beers.

As he arose to leave, the bartender said, “Hold on just a second. I've gotta ask you something. You've been coming in here for years and drinking three small beers, but tonight you had two large ones. What's going on?”

Cory smiled, leaned against the bar, and said, “Here's the story. In Vietnam in 1968 I had two good buddies, Mike and Matt. We promised each other that if one of us didn't make it out of there alive, the other two would drink a beer every week in his memory. Well, we had a terrible firefight a month later, and Mike and Matt were killed. Since that time I've had one beer a week in memory of Mike, one in memory of Matt and the third one for myself. Tonight I drank one for Mike and one for Matt but none for me because on Saturday I joined the Mormon Church, and I'm not allowed to drink.”

Two glasses half full

My wife and I attended a regional conference at the Conference Center in 2014 at which Elder Dallin H. Oaks was the final speaker.  The first several speakers addressed the importance of family.  When Elder Oaks arose, he noted that no topics had been assigned.  However, because the speakers all independently chose to speak on the same topic, family, he observed that they had selected the message that the Lord wished to emphasize.

Elder Oaks comment brought to mind words that President Gordon B. Hinckley had spoken as the final speaker in the April 1995 general conference:

“My brethren and sisters, just a few words in conclusion.  First, I’d like to say that we have participated in a miracle.  As I have listened to all who have spoken, I have noted that there has been no duplication of treatment.  Every man and woman who has spoken has chosen his or her own theme to treat. There are no assignments made to any of the speakers concerning what they should say.”

We're not that rude

For decades, letters to the editor have popped up in Utah newspapers insisting that our state's drivers are the rudest in the country.  I never thought that was true.  Having driven in all of the Western states except New Mexico, my view is that, yes, our Utah drivers may be among the rudest, but saying we're No. 1 is a total guess.  In 2014, I was pleased to get support from an outfit called Insure.com.  They conducted surveys of 2,000 drivers nationwide, asking which state has the rudest drivers. I'm happy to say we Utahns got good news—we're only the ninth rudest! 
Neither the Church News nor the Ensign bothered to inform their readers about this wonderful survey and its positive implications for Mormons.  After recently studying the numbers more closely, maybe it's best that they let that sleeping dog lie.  That's because the four states with the highest proportion of LDS residents—Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada—all finished in the top 10.  Idaho was No. 1; Wyoming was 3; Nevada was 8 and Utah was 9.

Post script, Dec. 10, 2016: A study recently released by QuoteWizard reports that Utah's drivers are “the worst in the nation.”  (To be fair, worst doesn't necessarily mean rudest.)

Who was that man?

An Idaho-raised, LDS college student related the following experience at a U.S. university.

“When [the speaker] strode onto the stage, I recall him first greeting invited guests, university leaders and dignitaries.  Then he turned, smiled and waved, and a powerful feeling washed over me.  I can only describe it as a presence of great virtue.  It was as though I felt a wave of goodness rush past me.  I recall being shocked by the experience. . . . his soul touched mine—no doubt through the virtue of a life of choosing good over evil.  I left inspired to be better.”

Perhaps most Latter-day Saints in reading this account by Matt Sanders would surmise the speaker was the president of the church or an apostle.  However, it actually tells of Nelson Mandela’s 1998 appearance at Harvard University.  (Deseret News, Dec. 13, 2013)

Kernels of truth

“The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.”  --Thomas Paine

“If you, who are organized by Divine Providence for Spiritual communion, Refuse, & bury your Talent in the Earth, even tho’ you should want Natural Bread, Sorrow and Desperation pursues you thro’ life, & after death shame & confusion of face to eternity.”  --William Blake

“Here in America, we are descended in blood and spirit from revisionists and rebels—men and women who dared to dissent from accepted doctrine.”  --Dwight Eisenhower

“It is better not to have so much faith, than to have so much as to believe all the lies.” --Hyrum Smith

“It is when the hour of conflict is over that history comes to a right understanding of the strife and is ready to exclaim, ‘Lo, God is here, and we knew it not.’ ”  --George Bancroft

“I believe that with God it is such that all who loved each other on earth—genuinely loved each other—will remain together with God, for to love is part of God.”  --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.”  --Isaiah 32:17

“God is . . . a very present help in times of trouble.”  --Psalm 46:1

“The life of discipleship can only be maintained so long as nothing is allowed to come between Christ and ourselves . . . The disciple always looks only to his master, never to Christ and the law, Christ and religion, Christ and the world. He avoids all such notions like the plague.  Only by following Christ alone can he preserve a single eye. His eye rests wholly on the light that comes from Christ . . .”
  --Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice”  --Rudyard Kipling
2013)

The Bible is trueexcept for the false parts

On occasion I have said that I think it would be just fine if about 40 percent of the Bible and Doctrine and Covenants went missing.  In the Bible, I wouldn’t mind if most of the God’s anger parts along with the tedious details on observing rituals and the law of Moses were deleted.  Also, I wouldn’t miss about half of the psalms and proverbs along with nearly all of the genealogies.

Of course, the best parts to delete would be those that are simply false.  For example, I don’t believe:  “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation  . . . ” (Exodus 20:5)  I suspect this passage was inserted by a crotchety old loser who was mad at someone.  Some people just need to lighten up.

Another reason I don’t believe the Exodus 20 passage is because it contradicts numerous other scriptures.  I’ll offer a few examples.  Speaking to Cain, the Lord said, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?”  (Gen. 4:7)  The Lord most assuredly did not say “if your parents mess up, I’ll punish you for their iniquity.”  Also: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers” (Deut. 24:16) and “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father” (Ezekiel 18:20). And there's something in the Articles of Faith about people being punished for their own sins.

One of the best ways to evaluate whether a scriptural passage is true is to ask whether it is in harmony with the attributes of God and whether it comports with the preponderance of scripture passages on the subject in question.  (Speaking of the “attributes” of God, I believe God loves and desires joy for us all while encouraging—not compelling—the behaviors that lead to joy.)

Hastening

We often hear these days that the Lord is hastening his work.  Let us not assume, however, that in the past the Lord was dilly-dallying.

Didn’t President Kimball exhort us to lengthen our stride?  And when President McKay said “every member a missionary,” he did not add “unless your day planner is already full.”

On the other hand, Isaiah said, “Woe unto them that . . . say, Let him make speed and hasten his work, that we may see it.” (Isaiah 5:18, 19) 

More revisions

One of the remarkable things about reading the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon and comparing it to the current English edition and to an 1830 replica edition is how insignificant have been the changes in the text.  The “thousands upon thousands” of changes noted by the book’s critics almost entirely consist of adding punctuation (the printer’s manuscript had none), correcting spelling, changing terms such as “because that” to “because” and “which” to “who,” where appropriate, and adding verses and chapters.

Still, a few trivial errors remain.

Some were errors in the original (see “What in the World?”).  But the examples listed below are likely modern glitches.

“Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous . . . ”

(Rejected probably should be separated.  1 Nephi 15: 36)

“Nephite coinage set forth—”  (This is in the chapter heading for Alma 11, which makes no mention of coins.)

“And when she had said this, she clasped her hands, being filled with joy” (Clasped should probably be clapped.  Alma 19:30)

“and he plead with them that they would not slay him”  (Should be pleaded or pled.  Oliver Cowdery appears to have written pled correctly in the printer’s manuscript. Ether 8:6)

In the introduction, which isn’t part of the original book, the description of Lamanites as “the principal ancestors of the American Indians” was changed in 2007 to “are among the ancestors of the American Indians.”  In the Doctrine and Covenants, Lamanites remains as a synonym for Indians.

Why bother with Isaiah?

Although I far prefer the Book of Mormon and the New Testament to the Old Testament, I agree with those who say that Isaiah deserves our attention.

Here are seven reasons to give heed to Isaiah:  1. He is the Old Testament prophet most often cited in the New Testament.  2. Christ commenced his ministry by quoting Isaiah (Luke 4:17-19)  3. Isaiah saw Christ. (Isaiah 6:1; 2 Nephi 11:2)  4. Nephi twice tells us “my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah.” (2 Nephi 25:5; 2 Nephi 11:2)  5. Moroni advises us to “search the prophecies of Isaiah.” (Mormon 8:23)  6. Christ twice instructs the Nephites to search the words of Isaiah. “Yea, a commandment I give unto you that ye search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”  (3 Nephi 23:1; 20:11)  7. The Book of Mormon, “the keystone of our religion,” includes many chapters of Isaiah’s writingsin fact, far more from Isaiah than from any other biblical prophet.

Emerson needed an editor

A number of times I have heard the following words of Ralph Waldo Emerson quoted in conference and other meetings:

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier—not that the nature of the task has changed but our ability to do has increased.”

OK, he was a great writer.  But in this instance, maybe he was being paid by the word.

Here’s what he could have said:  Practice makes perfect.

What I believe

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ who believes in the fundamentals of the LDS religion including the Book of Mormon and the divine mission of Joseph Smith. 

I believe that the LDS faith, having authority from God, offers the best prospects for mortals to draw close to Christ.  But I also believe that certain doctrines, teachings, policies and practices in the church are questionable and, in some cases, incorrect. 

I believe Christ moves closer to us as we move from dogma toward truth and that he is merciful, patient and understanding, and is especially pleased with those who strive to live a good life, to put “love one another” into practice and to become better people.  His love extends fully to those who do not actively participate in organized religion.

Steve Warren

Sept. 22, 2014
(minor revision, June 2016)

Creation stories



We believers, like everyone else, are lost when it comes to the origins of the universe.  We know stuff exists, but we have no clue how that’s possible.  Something can’t come from nothing, right?  Yes, we believe in a creator, but we can’t grasp how he apparently had no beginning.  Of course, the Big Bang-ers have a problem, too.  They have not the slightest idea where the fundamental particles necessary for an explosion came from.

None of this precludes us from believing that God created (or organized) the earth and that Adam and Eve were our first parents.  After all, we surely descended from someone, and science tells us that matter existed long before the earth came into existence.

But we don’t know how the earth was created.  Once we go beyond “God created the earth,” we find ourselves on shaky ground.  Certain details of the Creation story, the Flood story and other biblical episodes are about as credible as saying that Santa guided his sleigh using Rudolph’s red nose.  (Does anyone really believe that a single red nose would provide sufficient illumination at night for that fast-moving sleigh?  On the other hand, if that red nose had GPS qualities . . . )

We Latter-day Saints have four versions of the Creation story—Genesis, Moses, Abraham and the temple presentation.  Virtually hidden in the Scriptures is a fifth version, mentioned later in this essay.

Many Christians believe that the Genesis story of Creation is literal.  The Creation Museum in Kentucky teaches that the earth is 6,000 years old, that each of the six days of creation lasted 24 hours and that Adam and Eve were contemporaries with dinosaurs.  According to actual rumors, museum directors consider videos of “The Flintstones” to be documentaries.

The LDS interpretation of the earth’s creation is slightly more realistic.  We say that the “days” of creation were likely extended creative periods.  Few Mormons today accept a 6,000-year lifespan for the earth. And church leaders have described the Creation story as allegorical while affirming the existence of Adam and Eve. (Note: Many LDS leaders taught in the early decades of the church that the earth was created 6,000 to 7,000 years ago and that there was no death on the planet until after Adam and Eve partook of the fruit.  Doctrine and Covenants 77:6 puts the temporal existence of the earth at 7,000 years.)

“The most correct book on earth,” the Book of Mormon, may provide the most correct scriptural version—it basically says Christ created heaven and earth, and leaves it at that.  In the Book of Mormon, at least we don’t read about Eve coming from Adam’s rib or about grasses and herbs flourishing without sunlight (grasses and herbs were made on Day 3; the sun on Day 4) or that the earth was created before the sun and stars, etc.

I believe that writers of the Creation stories prayerfully produced narratives of the earth’s creation that they thought were inspired accounts of what happened and that would be helpful for believers wanting insight on the subject.  Some parts of their narrative, such as the following passage in Genesis and Moses, have a credible ring: “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.”  That sounds like organic evolution.

The Doctrine and Covenants, Old Testament and Book of Mormon contain verses that suggest a fifth approach—instant creation.  Although I’m not advocating the Big Bang theory, we must admit that the following scriptures at least suggest that the Creation—whether of the universe or the earth—might have occurred quickly.

“I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me.”                                                                                 --D&C 38:3

“By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”                                                      --Psalms 33:6

“Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.”                                                                                            --Psalms 148:5

“Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure.”                                                                                                                  --Jacob 4:9

Science has been helpful over the centuries in bringing us closer to truth.   It may yet offer answers on how the universe came into existence.  In the meantime, we believers are well advised to focus more on the why of creation than the how.

Who is God?



The church teaches “When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to.” (Bible Dictionary)  In referring to Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints use terms such as Lord, Savior, Redeemer and Son of God.  

In the Scriptures, however, the word God usually refers to Jehovah or Jesus Christ, not to the Father.  In the Book of Mormon, “the most correct of any book,” the message is emphatic:  Jesus is God. 

In recent years, The Church of Jesus Christ seems to be drifting toward Heavenly Father this and Heavenly Father that, with members repeating the name of the Father in prayers multiple times and often declaring Father, we love thee.   While it is true that those who love the Father also love the Son, recognizing that God in the Scriptures usually refers to Christ elevates our Lord to the stature he deserves; namely, that he is God over the whole earth and that he alone lifts us to exaltation.  He is the central focus of our worship, observed President Gordon B. Hinckley in April 2002. 

As will be explained later, the fact that the mortal Jesus and many scriptures connected to his earthly sojourn refer to his Father as God does not change the fact that Christ is the God who grants eternal life even to those who lived on earth during his mortality.  Yes, Heavenly Father answered prayers of mortals during Christ's 33 years, but as is noted below, Christ as possessor of all power over the earth has been the God who has both heard and answered prayers in the the 4,000 years before his birth and in the nearly 2,000 years since his ascension. (Matt. 28:18; D&C 19:3, 93:17; 1 Nephi 9:6, Alma 26:35, Ether 3:4. etc.). 

The mortal Messiah honored his Father by commanding us to direct our prayers to God the Father.  This single act by the Son assured that Heavenly Father from that time forward would be held in constant remembrance by the faithful.  But directing prayers to God the Eternal Father doesn't mean that the term God ceased to apply to Christ and now applies primarily to his Father, as though the Lord's mortality somehow demoted him.  Instead, the fact that God (Christ) made himself a little lower than the angels in order to be born, crucified and atone for our sins gives mankind even more reason to continue to honor him with his rightful title of God while simultaneously recognizing that the term God the Father applies to Heavenly Father. 

Indeed, the term God not only refers to Christ before he was born in Bethlehem and after he was resurrected, but it sometimes refers specifically to Jesus during his mortal life. Examples:  O then why not the Son of God come, according to his prophecy? . . . And behold, he is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him (Helaman 8:20, 23).  God himself shall come down among the children of men (Mosiah 15:1).  He cried mightily to his God . . . and the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:  Lift up your head and be of good cheer, for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world  (3 Nephi 1:11-13).  In the 1830 Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 11:18 reads: Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God. after the manner of flesh.  In later editions, mother of God was changed to mother of the Son of God to clarify that Christ (God) and his Father (God the Father) are distinct persons.  

When Latter-day Saints use God as a synonym for Heavenly Father—which is nearly always the casewe likely do so because we fail to understand the contexts in which Jesus, prophets and writers of scripture used the term God. 

Not only do all four Standard Works teach that God primarily refers to Christ, they connect the term God to Christ earlyvery early.

In the Book of Mormon, even before we get to the first verse, we are told in the title page that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, which are the only words in the title-page text that are entirely capitalized.  Verse one of the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”  (Christ was the creator.)  The first words of the Pearl of Great Price are: “The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain.  And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him . . . ”  (The God who spoke to Moses was Jehovah or Christ.)  And in Section One of the Doctrine and Covenants, Christ tells us three timesthree times!that he is GodGod the Lord, even the Savior of the world” (v. 20). “Behold I am God” (v. 24) and “the Lord is God” (v. 39).  Let us not forget that Christ himself directed that Section One be placed first and that it is viewed as the Lord's preface to the book. How much clearer can it be that the God of the Scriptures from Page One is primarily Jesus Christ?

After Adam and Eve left the Garden, believers worshiped and prayed to Yahweh/Jehovah/Godwho was later born as Jesus Christ.  The first commandment Jehovah gave to Moses refers to himself: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  When Jesus was born into mortality, the relationship between God (Jesus) and man changedbut only for 33 years.  As a mortal, Jesus learned line upon line and obviously did not  pray to himself.  Today, in correctly teaching that Christ is our God, it makes no difference that Jesus in referring to Heavenly Father spoke, for example, of ascending to my God and your God because your God was a temporary designation.  It remained in effect only for the time it took him to bid adieu to his disciples and rise to heaven, where your God again became Christ himselfas it has been for the other 6,000 years (or 99.5 percent of the time) since the Fall.

Similarly, when the risen Jesus visited the Nephites he continued to humbly pray, to display obedience and to show reverence toward God the Father, thereby offering himself as an exemplar for mortals in the New World just as he had done in the old.  However, his departure from the Nephites signaled the end of his short mission as the praying, kneeling, learning Jesus and allowed him to return to his I am the Father and the Son (Ether 3:14) stature and to fully reclaim his mantle of the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven before the world was made; the same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes (D&C 38:1,2) and the Lord Omnipotent . . . who was and is from all eternity to all eternity. (Mosiah 3:5)

The first scriptural record of the faithful praying to the Father before Christ's coming is 2 Nephi 32:9.  One chapter earlier, Nephi had prophesied of the mortal Christ humbling himself before the Father, observing that mortals should follow his example, which would include praying to the Father (2 Nephi 31:16).  However, even in the Book of Mormon, the transition from praying to Jehovah/Christ/the Lord God of Israel and praying to the Father in the name of Christ is not smooth.  For example, it is clear that in Enos and Omni, prayers were directed to Christ, the Lord God (Enos 15, Omni 25, 26).  Additionally, Old Testament mentions of the Father generally refer to Christ in one of his roles as Father.  (See Christ is the Father in 7 ways below.) 

Perhaps as a church we could also do better in explaining why Christ is both Father and Son.  If we were to do that, members would understand that it was Christ on Sinai who spoke the words, this is my work and my gloryto bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39) After all, he alone is the giver of eternal life, and Moses 1:1 affirms to us that the God speaking as both Father and Son in Moses 1:39 is indeed Christ.

Until the Lord's Prayer, the faithful had seldom prayed to Heavenly Father; instead, they had prayed to God (i.e., Jehovah and various other titles for Christ, including Everlasting Father, Eternal Father and God Almighty).  Moreover, if we taught that Christ is the God of the whole earth, we would more easily understand that although we pray to God the Father, who hears our prayers, the Son is the god who both hears and answers them. 

“It is true that when we pray to the Father, the answer comes from the Son,” wrote Elder Bruce R. McConkie in the January 1976 Ensign.  Elder McConkie noted that whenever Joseph Smith asked the Father, in the name of the Son, for answers to questions, “the answering voice was not that of the Father but of the Son.” This is hardly surprising because there is no record of the Father dealing directly with man except to bear witness of the Son.  Answering prayers is merely part of the job description of he who possesses all power over the earth and who declares at my command the heavens are opened and are shut; and at my word the earth shall shake; and at my command the inhabitants thereof shall pass away. (Ether 4: 9) The song In Humility, Our Savior, correctly states our prayer relationship with Christ: Let our prayers find access to thee in thy holy courts above.

McConkie also observes that Christ's role as our father “is over, above and in addition to” Heavenly Father's role as the father of our spirits. (BYU, Jan. 28, 1975, italics added)

For members who suggest that the first Article of Faith (We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.) means that we should refer to the Father, rather than Jesus, as God, here are two thoughts:  First, the Scriptures teach that all three members of the Godhead bear the title God.  Second, in the remaining Articles of Faith, the term God primarily applies to Christ.  In the fifth article, the God who calls man and gives authority in The Church of Jesus Christ is always Christ (See Mosiah 18:17,18).  In the ninth article, God the revelator is always Christ.  And Almighty God in the eleventh article is a scriptural term that applies primarily to Jehovah/Christ: And I appeared  unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known unto them.  (Exodus 6:3 Also: Isaiah 9:6; 2 Nephi  28:15; Mosiah 3:17,18,21; Moses 1:3, etc.) 

A rather intriguing aspect of recognizing that Christ is the god who rules and reigns over the earth is that by doing so, we may also come to better appreciate the Father (about whom little has been revealed) because I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one. (3 Nephi 28:10) 

A clear grasp of why Jesus Christ is indeed our God requires a clear understanding of the relationship among Father, Son and us.  Briefly stated: Our relationship with the Father is significantly different from Christ’s relationship with him.  The Father has lifted the Son to godhood.  It is the Son who lifts us to godhood. 

Joseph Smith’s First Vision is the only scriptural record of the Father appearing to man and is an excellent teaching moment because the Father does something with great symbolic meaning—he points to Christ as he says, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” The message is not only for Joseph Smith to look to Christ, it is for the whole world to look to him.  To Joseph Smith, the centrality of Christ in the First Vision was so clear-cut that in his brief first written account of it, he mentioned only Christ.

Christ glorifies the Father and the Father glorifies the Son.  But the will of the Father is for us to come unto Christ: whosoever will not repent and come unto my Beloved Son, them will I cut off . . . ” (3 Nephi 21:20)  In other words, a key reason why we should place Christ first and foremost in our lives and as the central focus of our worship is to obey the Father.  The Nephites certainly were obeying the Father when they wrote: “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Nephi 25:26) 

From start to finish, the Book of Mormon teaches that, for us, Christ is God.  Seventeen examples follow:

“And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD . . . ”  (title page)

“there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth.”  1 Nephi 13:41

the Lord their God, their Redeemer . . . loveth those who will have him to be their God.  1 Nephi 17:30,40

“For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation.  But there is a God, and he is Christ . . . ”  2 Nephi 11:7

“it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.”  2 Nephi 26:12

come unto God, the Holy One of Israel . . . I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel . . . ” Omni 1:25,26

“Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent . . . is God above all.”  Mosiah 5:15

“And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things . . . and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood . . .”   Mosiah 7:27

“Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father.” (Mosiah 16:15)

whosoever were desirous to take upon them the name of Christ, or of God, they did join the churches of God; and they were called the people of God.  Mosiah 25:23,24

“Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth . . . ”  Alma 11:38, 39

And behold, he is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him; and they gave unto him glory . . .  Helaman 8:23

“I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole Earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.”  3 Nephi 11:14

“thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel—the God of the whole earth shall he be called.”  3 Nephi 22:5

“that Jesus, whom they slew, was the very Christ and the very God.”  Mormon 3:21

Behold, I am Jesus Christ . . . And he ministered unto him even as he  ministered unto the Nephites; and all this, that this man might know that he was God  Ether 3:14, 18

Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God.” Moroni 8:8

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “It is all so wondrously Christ-centered. Whether in the structure of the atom or of the galaxies, or in the truths about temples and families, for those who have eyes to see, all things . . . are designed to point us to Christ, typifying Him, so that we might follow Him, have faith in Him, and keep His commandments.” (April 1986 General Conference; see also Alma 34:14)

Elder Maxwell also said, “One cannot have adequate faith in a Christ whom he does not adequately know.”  We certainly do not adequately know Christ unless we recognize that throughout our mortality, into the spirit world and until we are resurrected, he is the God who possesses all power over us.

The Scriptures are Christ-centered.  He was the Jehovah of the Old Testament and Pearl of Great Price, the Messiah of the New Testament, the Eternal God of the Book of Mormon and the revelator of the Doctrine and Covenants. 

Christ is the Father in 7 ways

We routinely teach that Father and Son are separate, but I don’t recall ever attending a Sunday class on the subject of how Christ also serves mankind as both Father and Son (except for the priesthood class I taught in September 2016), but the Scriptures offer lots of insight on the subject.  It is worth noting that Joseph Smith changed Luke 10:22 to read: “no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.” (The uncorrected King James version reads: “no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.”)

Abinadi’s words cited above suggest that in the Church we need to be teaching that the Son is the Father:  “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father.” (Mosiah 16:15)

There are at least seven ways in which Christ qualifies as Father.  In 1916 The First Presidency and the Twelve published “The Father and the Son,” a doctrinal exposition that covers in greater detail the first three items listed below.

First, Christ is the creator of the earth and numerous other worlds.  The Book of Mormon calls him “the Father of heaven and earth.” (Mosiah 3:8; Hel. 14:12; 16:18; Ether 4:7)

Second, he is the Father of those who are spiritually reborn and receive eternal life. “They who shall believe on my name . . . shall become my sons and my daughters.” (Ether 3:14; Mosiah 5:7, 2 Cor. 6:18, etc.)

Third, he has power to speak and act as though he were literally God the Father. This is sometimes referred to as divine investiture of authority and occurs often in scripture.  Numerous passages seem to refer to the Father rather than Christ when, in fact, the “Father” cited is the Son speaking or acting as the Father. (“Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son.” Ether 3:14)  For instance, the Lord God throughout the Old Testament who speaks to and interacts with Israel is Jehovah, the premortal Christ.  In Moses 6 and D&C 29, the god who speaks of “mine only Begotten” is actually Christ in his role as Father referring to himself as the Son.  In Moses 7: 35, Christ says, “Behold I am God; Man of Holiness is my name.”
 
Fourth, the premortal Lord is the creator or father of the physical bodies of Adam and Eve.  He tells the Brother of Jared:  “Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit . . . ”  (Ether 3:16)  “For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal.” (D&C 29:31.  See also Mosiah 26:23; Alma 5:15;  Isaiah 54:5, 1 Nephi 17:36, etc.)  His creation of the physical bodies of Adam and Eve obviously is related to the fact that all mortal bodies come from the dust (or elements) of the earth, which he created. Because we are descendants of Adam and Eve, Christ is the first father of our physical bodies. When the Scriptures speak of the God who created us, they usually are referring to Christ as the creator of our physical bodies.

Fifth, the crucified and resurrected Christ is the Father of our resurrected bodies.

Sixth, as the God who reigns over the earth, he interacts with mortals as a father or parent.  He compares this relationship as that of a hen who would gather her chickens and as a shepherd and his sheep. He refers to us as his little children. (D&C 50:41; John 13:33; Mosiah 5:7)

Seventh, the mortal Messiah was the Father.  Abinadi says Jesus was “the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son.” We may infer from Mosiah 15:1-5 that as the mortal Christ grew, he became the Father because he subjected the flesh (being the son of Mary) to the Father (being the son of the Father) [see also 3 Nephi 1:14].  It’s difficult to think of the younger Jesus as the Father, because he learned line upon line. During his ministry, however, we get a strong hint of why the mortal Messiah is also the Father when he says to Phillip, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9) We get another clue when the outraged Jews say “he makes himself equal to God” and when Paul taught that Jesus “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (Philippians 2:6) Additionally, in the 1830 edition, 1 Nephi 13:40 reads: the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world.  (Changed to is the Son of the Eternal Father in later editions. Similar changes were made in 1 Nephi 11.) 

Some suggest that Christ may be a father in one or two other ways—as the married father of children on earth and/or in heaven—but this is non-scriptural speculation.

If we taught the scriptural message that Christ is Father and Son, we would better understand their relationship and would be less tempted to parrot such notions as “Jesus works under the direction of the Father.” (Bible Dictionary)  It is not sound theology to try to remake the Godhead into a celestial First Presidency in which Christ is first counselor and needs “direction” or needs someone to preside over him ostensibly because he lacks knowledge, power, authority or leadership skills.  Nor does such a notion honor the Father because it turns him into a backseat driver.  Correct theology is to teach that Christ is the God in whom resides “all the fullness of the Godhead” (Col. 1:19; 2:9; D&C 93:4).  Interestingly, in terms of the Godhead and Christ, when the Savior speaks of being baptized in “my name” in 3 Nephi 11:23-38, “my name” refers to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The Son has ascended to the throne of God where he is at the right hand of the Father.  Being at the right hand means neither below nor above nor behind nor in front of.  It means side by side or on the same level.  Indeed, a celestial flow chart depicting yesterday, today and tomorrow might show yesterday with the Father at the top, with Jesus and all spirit children of the Father below. The today phase would show Christ directly right of the Father, with the earth and all mortals and those awaiting resurrection below him. The tomorrow chart would show the Father and Son side by side, perhaps with other exalted beings on the same level. Unexalted beings would be at different levels below them.

Rather than continuing to follow the unscriptural practice of using God as a synonym for Heavenly Father, if we better understood that Christ, the God of the whole earth, is both Father and Son and that his role as Father is over and above that of our Heavenly Father, we would understand that when the term God stands alone, it usually refers to Christ.  In The Church of Christ, it should be used that way.  In cases where we intend God to refer to Heavenly Father or to the Godhead rather than to Christ, we would be well-advised to state that distinction explicitly.  

Perspectives on Christ

There are three perspectives on Christ that in particular deserve our attention. 

First, the mortal Messiah is our exemplar.  He teaches us to pray, exercise faith, love one another, resist temptation, cope with difficulties and as children to be subject to parents.  While it may be useful to follow the example of the mortal Messiah as he subjected himself to the will of the Father and taught his disciples to do likewise, it is important to remember that the risen Christ who we worship is different from the mortal who learned line upon line and precept upon precept.  As a mortal, for example, he prayed often.  As the risen Lord, perhaps he has not prayed in 2,000 years.  As a mortal, he counseled his followers to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48) As the risen Lord speaking to the Nephites, however, he counseled us to first be like him, saying, “ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” (3 Nephi  12:48) Notice how in the second passage, with its singular verbs, he appears to be speaking of himself as both Father and Son.

Also, in delivering the Sermon on the Mount during his mortal ministry, he never uses the words “come unto me.” But during a similar sermon as the risen Lord, he three times commands the Nephites to “come unto me.”  

Second, it is the dying Christ who saves us.  As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated, “It is the wounded Christ who is the captain of our soul.” (Ensign, November 1995) When Mormon tells his son Moroni to “keep the death and sufferings of Christ in your mind … forever,” (Moroni 9:25) he is reminding him that the living Christ has power to save only because the dying Christ conquered death and hell. “For us on Calvary’s cross he bled, And thus dispelled the awful gloom That else were this creation’s doom.”  (“While of These Emblems We Partake,” hymn 174.) See “The cross = victory” elsewhere on this site.

Third, the Christ who we worship is the living, risen God of the whole earth.  His disciples interacted differently with the mortal Jesus and the risen Lord.  During his ministry, they often had difficulty grasping his teachings, sometimes behaved in ways that showed lack of faith, and one of them betrayed him. But when the risen Lord appeared to them, Matthew and Luke tell us “they worshipped him.”  (Matt. 28: 17; Luke 24:52))  When the risen Lord appeared to the Nephites and showed them the wounds in his body, “they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.” (3 Nephi 11:17)

Is Christ God of Gods?

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that Christ is the “God of Gods.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 129), a concept that also is taught in the Bible (Deut. 10:17 and Daniel 2:47).  Whether this is true or not, it certainly is worth considering.

Let's begin by reminding ourselves that the Scriptures and modern prophets teach that worlds without number were created by Christ. (Moses 1:33, 35) There are at least three reasons to believe that Christ may be the Savior of all these worlds.  

First, Joseph Smith said so. Church publications and speakers credit the prophet with writing or co-writing the following poetic lines based on Doctrine and Covenants Section 76 verse 24: “By him, of him, and through him, the worlds were all made, Even all that careen in the heavens so broad. Whose inhabitants, too, from the first to the last, Are sav’d by the very same Saviour of ours.” (Italics added)

Second, in the Plan of Salvation, it was essential for Christ to die for our sins.  Apparently, he came as a mortal to this earth because the prospects of being killed were far better here than elsewhere.  As we read in Moses 7:36, this earth was the most wicked of all the worlds he had created. Moreover, even with all the wickedness on this earth, the Book of Mormon tells us there still was only a single nation here that would actually crucify him. (2 Nephi 10:3)  In other words, if Christ had dwelled on another world, the people would not have been wicked enough to crucify him, thereby frustrating the Plan of Salvation in all worlds.

Third, the words universal and infinite, which often are used to describe the Atonement, suggest that it has no bounds or limits. In other words, if the Atonement were limited only to this earthor only to the worlds that Christ createdit would have limits and, therefore, would be neither infinite nor boundless.  To say that the Atonement applies to our universe alone misconstrues the definitions of both infinite and universe.

The boundless nature of the Atonement is reflected in the fact that it was in force long before it occurred.  Early prophets knew that Christ would successfully atone for sin. Both the Old Testament and Book of Mormon teach that repentant sinners were receiving forgiveness thousands of years before Christ entered Gethsemane.  But the Atonement’s impact may go back much further.  If Christ indeed is the Savior of worlds, then his Atonement also would have been in force on worlds that existed before our 4-billion-year-old planet.  How do we know worlds existed before ours?  In the Pearl of Great Price, Christ tells Moses: “There are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power.” (Moses 1:35)

We also get a glimpse of the boundless nature of the atonement in D&C 19 where Christ declares that Endless is my name (v. 10), then states I, God, have suffered these things for all . . . Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble
. . .  (vs. 16,17)

Furthermore, if Heavenly Father was indeed once a mortal and committed sins, perhaps the infinite and retroactive power of the Atonement of Christ also remitted his sins.  (LDS leaders have taught that the Father lived on an earth and apparently committed sins.  For example, Joseph Smith said that the Father is an exalted man, and Lorenzo Snow taught that as man is, God once was.”  Elder Bruce R. McConkie observed that the Father worked out his salvation by obedience to the same laws he has given us so that we may do the same.

We may need to expand our horizons (along with our capacity to speculate) when we consider Christ’s words: “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” The Lord’s Atonement may have redeemed all beings anywhere in the universe.  Is this why McConkie and the Old Testament describe Christ as “God of Gods” ?

Conclusion

It is always correct to refer to the Father first when we speak of the Father and Son. He is the heavenly parent of us all.  We love him and address him in prayer.  We worship  him and his Son.  We seek to dwell again with him.  But the Father has placed Christ as the God who rules and reigns over the earth and “hath given all things into his hand” (John 3:35).  He both hears and answers prayers.  As our God, the risen Lord instructs mortals to “look unto me in every thought” (D&C 6:36) and that we are “subject unto him” (2 Nephi 9:5).  For us, when the term God stands alone, it generally means Christ in his roles as Father, Son or both.  He is our advocate and our judge.  In him alone resides the fullness of the Godhead and all power. He alone is the giver of eternal life.

The message of the Book of Mormon and other scriptures that Christ is God is well worth understanding, appreciating and sharing.


P.S.  2 cases in point

The book of Mosiah uses the term God numerous times.  For example, God is often mentioned in conjunction with his commandments” and is used in referring to the God to whom we pray.  Most members of the Church assume that God in Mosiah refers to the Father.  They are wrong.  In every case, God in Mosiah is Christ.  Even in their prayers, the Nephites recognize that the God they pray to is Christ.  Indeed, when God answers a prayer directly, the God who answers is Christ. (Mosiah 26:14-32)  In Mosiah the church is alternately referred to as the church of Christ or as the church of God because, to them, Christ and God were the same.  (Mosiah 18:17; 25:22,23 Note: It is church of God OR the church of Christ, not the church of God AND the church of Christ.)  Unlike in the church today, worship God meant worship Christ.  It is not until the resurrected Christ appears to the Nephites that he gives clear instructions for their prayers to be directed to his Father. However, the Scriptures also make it clear that he is both Father and Son, meaning that any prayer directed to the Father is also a prayer directed to him.  Interestingly, even after he instructs them to pray to the Father, they continue to pray to himold habits die hard.  As stated earlier, Heavenly Father and Christ hear our prayers; Christ answers them. 

In Moroni 10, the final chapter in the Book of Mormon, the word God appears 23 times. Only once, however, does it specifically refer to the Father: I would exhort you that ye would  ask God, the Eternal Father . . .   Chapter 10's other mention of the Eternal Father, in verse 31, clearly refers to Jehovah.  Elsewhere in the chapter, the word God may appear to reference the Father but on closer examination actually speaks of Christ.  For example, when we read that a gift is given by the Spirit of God, (v. 9). we may be uncertain who is God, but verse 17 gives us the answer: all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ.  Or, when we read of appearing at the bar of God, (v. 27) some may believe God” is the Father, but the final words of the Book of Mormon tell us that the bar of God is the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.”  How notable that just as the book begins by telling us that Jesus Christ is the Eternal God, its final page offers a similar message.  Note: Moroni 10 also twice refers to the kingdom of God.  While God in this phrase may elsewhere mean Father, Son or both, the Book of Mormon's common use of God as a synonym for Christ suggests that God in this context is Christ.  This certainly is in harmony with the ninth Article of Faith, because we know that the God who reveals things pertaining to the kingdom of God is Christ.