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

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.

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