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 will continue to thrive in the church if members say “amen” to it all.

That is the main reason this site exists.

It also exists because I want to encourage wavering Latter-day Saints not to leave the Lord's restored church merely because of its flaws and the errors of its leaders.

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 44 years. He attended Ricks College for two years, served a mission to Colombia and 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. (2018)
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 and other scriptures clearly teach that Jesus Christ is God and that Heavenly Father is God the Father.

In the beginning If we didn't allow speculation and guesswork in lessons on the Creation and Adam and Eve, classes would be really short.

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 by top LDS authorities.
Appreciating Christ



Thursday, October 22, 2015

Short takes



Never see R-rated movies? Just another myth


Question:  How many presidents of the church have said we 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 movies contain no sexually explicit material.  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.

Family exaltation?

President Russell M. Nelson has said Salvation is an individual matter, but exaltation is a family matter.

I believe President Nelson is wrong on both counts.

We teach that salvation is Christ's victory over death and that everyone resurrects through his merits and generosity.  If so, salvation is a family matterthe entire human family lives again regardless of individual behavior.  Exaltation, on the other hand, is an individual matter.  If an individual's heart is sufficiently pleasing to the Lord, he will be eventually exalted even if everyone else in his family isn't.

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 last 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 Latter-day Saints.  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 restored church 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)

In the beginning



We believers, like everyone else, are lost when it comes to the origins of the universe.  It always gets back to: Who created the creator? That heor anything elsealways existed is incomprehensible.  Yet the fact that he (or any other form of matter) exists at all points to a forever existence because something can't come from nothing, right?  And the Big Bang theory isn't much of an alternative explanation because it can't explain where the particles necessary for a big explosion came from.

None of this precludes us from believing that God created (or organized) the earth and that Adam and Eve were in some way our first parents.  But Adam and Eve most assuredly were not earth's first human beings.  The archaeological record shows that intelligent humans existed long before the 4,000 BC generally given as the approximate date Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden.  People who existed thousands of years earlier created art and music and wove linen into cloth; they domesticated animals and farmed; many lived in cities with homes made of mud bricks, they brewed beer, they created statuettes to mother goddesses, they made tools from copper, etc.  A good argument could be made that the pre-Adamites were more advanced than the nomadic American Indians of the Columbus era, yet no informed person would  argue that the cultural disadvantages of Indians in 1492 made them not human. 

In terms of Adam and Eve being first, perhaps a die-off of humans occurred before the coming of Adam and Eve in the same way a die-off of Neanderthals occurred 30,000 years ago shortly after modern humans appeared on the scene.  Keep in mind that a die-off of humans ought to sound perfectly reasonable to religious folks who believe that only eight people survived the Great Flood.  Or perhaps Adam and Eve were the only children of God placed in an earthly realm where death didn't exist.  Or perhaps they were simply the first to receive heavenly messengers and to learn of the Plan of Salvation, making them earth's first true believers.  This is all total speculation, of course, but the gaping holes in the creation stories advanced by religion leave plenty of room for such conjecture. 

Of course, if Adam and Eve were created directly by God, then we have another problem; namely, explaining how intelligent pre-Adamic humans fit into the Plan of Salvation. 

We are well-advised to avoid pat answers about the Adam and Eve story and about the creation itself.  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 as credible as saying that Santa guided his sleigh using Rudolph’s red nose. 

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 more realistic but not by much.  We say that the “days” of creation were likely extended creative periods.  Few Latter-day Saints 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, which is, of course, either nonsense or a serious abuse of the words temporal existence.)

“The most correct book on earth,” the Book of Mormon, may provide the most correct scriptural version—it basically says God (meaning 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.


P.S. The following is from one of 40 items in the entry titled Oopsy-daisy” on this site:

Even our current Bible Dictionary states: Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on the earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam.” (In other words, our temple films would reflect latter-day revelationand would be more excitingif they showed dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.  And we are also left to wonder whether creatures in the Garden were prohibited from eating fruits and vegetables, which are forms of life.) 

Who is God?



Latter-day Saints routinely use God as a synonym for Heavenly Father.  This usage is consistent with our Bible Dictionary, which notes that “when one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to.”  In referring to Jesus Christ, members use terms such as Lord, Savior and Redeemer.  

In the Scriptures, however, the word God refers to Christ far more often than to the Father.

The message of the Book of Mormon, “the keystone of our religion,” and the Doctrine and Covenants, called by some “the capstone of our religion,” is emphatic:  Jesus Christ is God. 

In the Book of Mormon, the most impressive passage distinguishing between God (Christ) and God the Father (Heavenly Father) is chapters 11-28 of 3rd Nephi.  Here, in his momentous visit to the Nephites, the Lord refers often to his Father.  To be precise, he calls his heavenly parent the Father 119 times and uses other forms of Father 35 times.  How often does he directly refer to the Father as God?  Never.  The closest Jesus comes to directly speaking of the Father as God is when he uses “the Son of God” (20:31) once to describe himself.  (Son of God, Lamb of God, etc., are names in which God is an abbreviated form of God the Father or of God the Eternal Father.)  

By contrast, how often does the resurrected Christ in 3rd Nephi speak of himself as God?  Answer:  Six times.  Indeed, after the Lord twice declares himself to be God, the Nephites unitedly call him the Most High God!” (11:17)

And in the 3rd Nephi version of the Sermon on the Mount, we further see that the mortal Jesus of the New Testament has returned to his previous God stature when he tells us three times to come unto me, words that he did not speak in the New Testament version.  Further, whereas in the New Testament he tells us to be perfect even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect, (Matthew 5:48) in 3rd Nephi 12:48 the resurrected Lord first tells us to be perfect even as I, then adds or your Father who is in heaven is perfect. (Note: Some have suggested that the singular verb means that Christ in this verse may be speaking as both Father and Son.)

Similarly, in the first 14 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, Christ tells us five times: Behold, I am God.” (1:24; 6:2; 11:2; 12:2; 14:2)  And, since we're counting, let's also note that in the first 19 sections, Jesus asserts no fewer than 20 times20 times!that he is God.

Much confusion in the Christian world about the Trinity or Godhead would be eliminated if we all made a better effort to distinguish between God (Christ) and God the Father (Heavenly Father).  This confusion likely originates from scriptural passages often connected to the mortal Jesus that, as noted above, consistently use the short form God in referring to God the Father.  Certainly it is understandable that the mortal Jesus, a little lower than the angels, would describe his Father as God without adding the Father.”  But the greater truths for every Christian are: 1. In the 4,000 years before the Lord's mortality and in the 2,000 years since, God in the Standard Works refers to Christ far more than to the Father, and 2. the risen Lord calls himself God.

One of the most clear-cut scriptural passages distinguishing between God (Christ) and his Father is D&C 19:16-19: For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all . . . Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble . . . Nevertheless, glory be to the Father . . . ”  

Moreover, recognizing that God in the Scriptures usually refers to Christ elevates our Lord to his true stature; namely, that he is the one God who possesses all power over us and that we follow him.  Failure to routinely describe Christ as God suggests that we primarily think of him as the mortal, learning Jesus rather than as the risen, glorified Lord God who reigns over the earth.  

Also, failure to describe Jesus Christ as God shows lack of 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 is the God who lifted the Son to godhood.  The Son is the God who lifts us.

The earliest mentions of the word God in all four Standard Works refer to Christ, not to the Father.

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 God 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 . . . ”  (We believe that 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.  (Even in the New Testament the first mention of God is a reference to Jesusthey shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Matthew 1:23.)  How much clearer can it be that the God of the Scriptures from Page One is primarily Jesus Christ?

For Latter-day Saints, it should be especially noteworthy that the Book of Mormonthe most correct of any bookteaches from start to finish that Christ is God.  Eighteen 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

Yea, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yea, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is God . . . ”  Mosiah 27:31

“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. . . . they did cry out with one accord, saying: Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him.”  3 Nephi 11:14,17

“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

It is helpful for disciples of Christ to distinguish among the three contexts in which the Scriptures use the term God.

First, as the PREMORTAL Jehovah, Christ has such names as God, God Almighty, the Mighty God, Lord, the Lord God, the Lord thy God, the Lord God of Israel, the Lord of hosts (a favorite in the hospitality industry), the Lord God Omnipotent; the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob; the Lord God of the Hebrews, etc.  The first commandment that God (Christ) gives to Moses refers to himself: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The majority of scriptural uses of the term God refer to the premortal Christ.

Second, as a MORTAL, Jesus Christ sometimes is called God (Isaiah 25:8,9; Matthew 1:23; Mosiah 15:1; Helaman 8:20,23), but usually writers of scripture, the early apostles and the Lord himself call him Jesus, Lord or other names while describing the Father as God.  This is especially true in the New Testament.  But here and elsewhere in the Scriptures, when the term God is not a direct reference to Christ, it often is a short form of God the Father, which explains why when Christ declares that I am God and I am the Son of God, he is not claiming to be his own father.  Sometimes, of course, God is merely a generic reference to an unspecified member or members of the Godhead (serve God, things of God, worship God, kingdom of God, etc.).

Third, as the POSTMORTAL risen Lord, he proclaims, Behold, I am God” (D&C 1:24, etc.) and “I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth.” (3 Nephi 11:14)  The risen Lord is the God who reigns over the earth and possesses all power” over mortals.  (Matt. 28:18; D&C 19:3, 93:17; 1 Nephi 9:6, Alma 26:35, Ether 3:4. etc.).  He is the central focus of our worship, observed President Gordon B. Hinckley in April 2002.   

After Adam and Eve left the Garden, believers worshiped and prayed to Yahweh/Jehovah/God.   As noted above, when Jehovah was born into mortality as Jesus Christ, the relationship between God (Christ) and man changedbut only for 33 years.  As a mortal, Jesus learned line upon line and obviously did not  pray to himself.  We can assume, therefore, that during these years it was the Father who acted as God over the earth and who answered prayers.  Today, however, in correctly teaching that the risen Lord is our God and answers prayers, 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 for mortals again became Christ himself

But what are we to make of such words from Jesus himself as “this is life eternal to know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent”? (John 17:3, italics added)  First, while Father and Son are separate, the God in the Scriptures who most often speaks of sending his Son is actually the premortal Christ/Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel, referring to his own future mortality.  The fact that Christ both acts and speaks as Father and Son underscores his place as God over the whole earth.  (See Appreciating Christ on this site, which lists seven ways in which Christ is the Father.)  Second, John 17:3 is spoken from the temporary perspective of a learning, praying, mortal Messiah; third, two verses later Jesus speaks of returning to his former glory, a glory apparently equivalent to that of the only true God: “glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was”; fourth, whether considering this passage or passages from elsewhere in scripture, we must remember that many more scriptures use God to refer to Christ than to the Father, and fifth, in modern canonized revelation (the Doctrine and Covenants), the risen Lord repeatedly tells us I am God.

Until the Lord's Prayer, the faithful had seldom prayed to Heavenly Father; instead, they almost always had prayed to God (i.e., Jehovah, the Lord God and various other titles for Christ).  If we taught that Christ acts and speaks as the Father, we would more easily understand that although we pray to God the Father, who hears prayers, God (Christ) both hears and answers them.  And the fact that Christ directs mortals to pray to our Father, but does not use the term God, may be another indication that Christ expects us to view him as our God.

As Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote in the 1976 Ensign“It is true that when we pray to the Father, the answer comes from the Son.”  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.  Hearing and answering prayers is exactly what we would expect from the Christ 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.

Mormon clearly understood this.  In Moroni 8:3, he speaks of continually praying unto God the Father while making it clear four verses later that a prayer addressed to God the Father is also a prayer addressed to the Lord (Christ) and that Christ both hears and answers: I inquired of the Lord concerning the matter. And the word of the Lord came to me by the power of the  Holy Ghost, saying: Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God.” Indeed, in D&C 29:2, when Christ tells us to call upon me in mighty prayer, he is not revoking his admonition for us to address prayers to the Father but may simply be acknowledging that a prayer addressed to the Father is also a prayer addressed to him.

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 is a thought:  In the remaining Articles of Faith, the term God applies to Christ.  In the fifth article, the God who calls man and gives authority in The Church of Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ (See Mosiah 18:17,18).  In the ninth article, God the revelator is Christ, as Elder McConkie suggests above.  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.) 

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.  A key reason why we should place Christ first and foremost in our lives and recognize that he is our God is that by doing so, we obey the Father.  

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “One cannot have adequate faith in a Christ whom he does not adequately know.” (April 1986)  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 our God and possesses all power over us.

In the church, our grasp of the term God hasn't been firm.  For example, in D&C Section 109 (the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple), multiple terms that commonly describe Christ (Jehovah, Lord, Mighty God of Jacob, Lord God of Israel) are incorrectly used as synonyms for God the Father.  Oddly, the words Jehovah and Lord quickly revert back to their correct meaning, Christ, in Section 110.  And, although it's well-known that Brigham Young asserted on multiple occasions that God the Father was Adam, it's also worth noting that he and John Taylor sometimes incorrectly taught that Jehovah was God the Father.  With this track record, it behooves us to make an extra effort today to use the term God in the way Christ has directed.  If it is a good thing to call the church by the name Christ has given, surely it must also be a good thing to call Christ by the name (God) he has given himself. 

Conclusion

It is always correct to refer to God 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.  Although the Son is the central focus of our worship, we also worship the Father.  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).  When the term God stands alone in scripture, 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 over us.  He alone is the giver of eternal life.

Unfortunately, as long as much of mainstream Christianity posits that the Father and Son are one and the same, the restored church may continue to worry that routinely referring to Christ as God would cause everyone to think that we, too, believe they are the same.  Nevertheless, we must ask whether it pleases the Lord that we allow incorrect perceptions of others to persuade us to use the term God in a defective way, especially when the Lord has spoken so clearly on the subject.  Surely members could be taught to embrace Christ as God while referring to Heavenly Father as God the Father.

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