It seems that every time I study another religion, I learn something new about my own. When I read the Quran, comparing two different conceptions of God showed a stark contrast between a loving father and a distant deity. It made me so thankful that I grew up knowing that God loves me unconditionally, enough to even suffer and die in order to have a relationship with me. Now, I look at God’s love in a new light.
Similarly, I recently finished reading through the Book of Mormon and studying Mormon doctrine. While there are contradictory teachings about God in Mormonism, the general consensus rests on the words of Joseph Smith, who founded the LDS church and is regarded as a prophet. He taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate gods, that God the Father was once born on an earth as a human being, and that he worked his way up to becoming a god. According to Smith, God the Father and Jesus have physical bodies of flesh and bones just like we do, so God is neither omnipresent nor does he dwell within us. Jesus, therefore, was the firstborn child of God the Father and Heavenly Mother in the pre-existence (and we are all his siblings, literally children of God). And to top it all off, human beings can progress to become gods too!
An article on the LDS official website, Becoming Like God, states,
“What kind of a being is God?” [Joseph Smith] asked. Human beings needed to know, he argued, because “if men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves.” In that phrase, the Prophet collapsed the gulf that centuries of confusion had created between God and humanity. Human nature was at its core divine. God “was once as one of us” and “all the spirits that God ever sent into the world” were likewise “susceptible of enlargement.”
Yep. He totally did just erase the line between us and God.
Despite my gut reaction that this is heresy of the worst degree, I also have a lot of questions. First of all, why worship God if we’re the same as him in nature? If God is literally our father in a physical sense, and we can grow up to be just like him, then worshiping him is no different than worshiping our earthly fathers. Yet a Mormon would never bow down to their father, pray to him, or sing songs of praise to him. What Joseph Smith really did was claim that we are in essence, in nature, no different than God. We’re on the same level. For example, a human can work his way up to becoming a CEO. All humans technically have the potential to do this — it is within the realm of possibility, because human beings have certain qualities and characteristics that can be honed. But again, even though we might respect someone who leads a company, we definitely wouldn’t worship that person!
I’m reminded of this verse, where Paul tells us about idolaters in Romans 1:22–23,
Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
And later on in verse 25, he says,
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.
From this, we can deduce that worshiping created things is tantamount to idolatry. Which is quite obvious when you consider worshiping your father, or a CEO. In fact, those examples sound pretty ridiculous, don’t they? But they fit with the definition of the Mormon God. This is a so-called God who was born human, needed to learn and improve himself, undoubtedly sinned along the way, who didn’t create the world ex nihilo but rather simply organized pre-existing material. He had a father, who had a father, who had a father… he’s part of an eternal line of gods, one out of millions or even billions. He has a physical body — I mean, just stop to think about that for a second! He’s made of matter — molecules and atoms. That means he’s subject to all the peculiarities of the material world. When God stubs his toe, does it hurt? He has a stomach, so he must get hungry (I hope he doesn’t eat pineapple on pizza). What colour is his hair? How tall is he?
Going even deeper, how is it possible that he progressed to godhood? Who decided that he was now “good enough,” and where exactly was the point where he “graduated” from the human race? Can good works be quantified? Can perfection be measured? There must be some sort of objective moral standard that decides who qualifies for godhood, but where does that come from? Another, greater god who rules over the entire pantheon? Furthermore, who endowed him with his power? Energy necessitates a source, a first cause. When you turn on the lightbulb, electricity flows from its source in order to power that light. Who turned on God’s lightbulb? In Christian theology, God himself is the source of all energy — he is the first cause, existing outside of time, space, and matter.
Frankly speaking, the Mormon God is not really God. He is a cardboard cutout of the only true God. He’s the cheap, made-in-China version, the knockoff Louis Vuitton purse, the counterfeit Mona Lisa. In this case, Man created God in his own image — and I could never worship such a being.
However, I learned a lot through all this, because the true God stands out so clearly and so beautifully in comparison. In the Bible, he reveals his character with certainty and assurance — no need to attempt to reconcile contradictory passages. He tells us exactly who he is.
First of all, he repeatedly states that he is the only God in existence. He doesn’t mean “the only God of this universe” or “the only God that concerns himself with us,” he means THE ONLY GOD. Period. No questions asked, no ifs, ands, or buts.
I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:5–6)
In this way, we know that he is unique. He stands alone. He’s something special, not just your average run-of-the-mill exalted man. God also tells us that he is eternal, without beginning or end. In fact, one of his names is I AM, which represents his eternal presence — he is not subject to time because he lives outside its boundaries. He is in the past, present, and future all at once.
I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)
The distance between Creator and created is crystal clear. The psalmists used to wax poetic about the supremacy of God. These verses really struck me as I considered the absolute insignificance of human beings and all our petty affairs on this speck of a planet.
When I consider your heavens; the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3–4)
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted. (Job 9:9–10)
Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow. (Psalm 144:3–4)
And here are some things God declares about himself:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8–9)
You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23)
Paul agrees that there is an impassable gap between us and God:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)
This is a God who is sovereign. There was utter darkness, and he said, “Let there be light.” He brought something into existence when before there was nothing. He flung the billions of stars into place and arranged the galaxies; he designed the chemicals and molecules that make up the functions of a single cell. He had neither father nor mother, for he has always existed. He created matter; he does not need to manifest himself in physical form. By all rights, an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Being should not deem such lowly creatures as ourselves worthy of even a moment’s concern.
But he did! That’s the essence of Christianity! The supreme ruler of the universe cares about you and me; he knows each one of us by name and he knows the deepest darkest secrets in the corners of our hearts. In Mormonism, Jesus’ life isn’t a big deal — he’s just another spirit child, divine in nature, being sent to earth. Happens every day. But Mormons are missing the whole point. God himself took on flesh — he humbled himself to our level and became the lowliest of creatures. The One who formed the stars was spit on by his own creations. He was perfect in holiness and laid aside his glory to live the life of a mortal man — and we nailed God to a cross. Yet our King endured all of this because he loves us. There is an impassable gulf between us and God, but we cannot breach it by our works — instead, God reached across the divide to initiate a relationship with us.
That’s who God is. He’s been reminding me of this over the past few weeks and months, leaving me awestruck by his glory and sovereignty over the whole universe. The Mormon God is black-and-white and the Christian God is Technicolour. He is the Creator and we are the created; he is sovereign and and we are not — all power and authority in heaven and on earth belong to him. Yet he willingly laid aside all of it to become one of us in the person of Jesus Christ. He did what I could never do — he bridged the gap by atoning for all my sins.
Seek the true God. He loves you and he wants to have a relationship with you. And you might just find out that he’s a whole lot bigger and better than you’d previously thought!
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)