Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Perhaps one of the most critically different things about Mormonism is the definition of God.  The problem is that the current understanding in the Church, that God is an immortal man who is unchangeable, all powerful, all knowing, all good, and able to be everywhere at once while having a corporeal, inseparably-connected immortal celestial body and can, as the father of my spirit, answer my prayers personally and directly. 

What if this definition, which seems to try to align the omni-god of the creeds with Mormon belief is just not real?  What if we really haven't come to understand god fully?

I believe that in some ways, Joseph Smith actually got the definition of god right in a moment when he wrote section 88 of the doctrine and covenants, that god is that which infuses the entire universe:
...he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.
As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;
As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;
And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—
The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.
D&C 88:7-13
He also noted that when we observe the workings of nature, we see god moving in power and glory: 
The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory, in the midst of the power of God.  Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.
D&C 88:45,47
What if we realize that 'a god' is a being, any being, that is one with that power of the universe?
the Psalmist in Psalms 82:6 wrote:I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
Jesus, in John 17:21-23 wrote:That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; 
Psalm 46:10 wrote:Be still and know that I am god.
3 Ne 27:27 wrote:What manner of men ought ye to be? Even as I AM
Consider the following from John Spong's talk "Beyond Theism":
“Suppose we change our God definition. Suppose we take God out of the sky and strip God of the supernatural power which we have created and placed on this divine being. And suppose we begin to think of God as a presence at the very heart of life. We have to use words, so I use these words without any sense of investing them with more than their meaning will bear.

“If God is the source of life, as I believe that God is, then God is present in all living things. God is present in you, in me, and in the whole created order. And if God is the source of life then the only way you worship God is by living – living fully, sharing life, giving life away, not being afraid, wandering out of the certain into the uncertain, out of the known into the unknown.

“If God is the source of love, as I believe God is, then the only way you can worship God is by loving, not being right, but by loving – by loving wastefully. The image in my mind is an old sink in the basement that you plug up the drains and you turn on all the faucets and the water overflows the boundaries and goes all over the floor and fills up every crack and cranny, every dirty little space and never stops to ask whether that crack deserves this living water, whether that crack deserves this love. You love because love is what you have to do, not because somebody deserves the love – you love wastefully.

“If God is the ground of being, as I believe God is, then the only way you and I can worship God is by having the courage to be all that we can be in the infinite variety of our humanity. Whether we are male or female, gay or straight, transgender or bisexual, white or black or yellow or brown, left handed or right handed, brilliant or not quite so brilliant no matter what the human difference is, you have something to offer in your own being. Nobody else can offer what you have to offer. And the only way you can worship God is by daring to be all that you can be, and not be bound by the fears of yesterday.”
None of the real questions of life can be answered with the standard definition of god, an omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, omniscient being who orchestrates and controls all in the universe through his conscious will. It doesn't make sense. It's a logical impossibility. The truth of god is that there is a power of god, that preceeds all that is, including the 'being' of god. When we flip the concept of god from the being of god precedes his power, and realize that the only real universal omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient thing is the 'power of god', which by very definition is not 'conscious' or 'willful', then we begin to realize that god is not so distant, but rather, within.

So, sure, if we accept the idea of a premortal existence and an afterlife, then Elohim as a 'being' would be god, in that he is one with the already-existent power of god. But to think of the being of Elohim as being the source of that power actually doesn't work if we believe that Elohim was once a man like us. By thinking of god as a 'being' who is one with the eternal power of the universe, we can attribute constancy and universality to Him by virtue of his power, but not by virtue of his being. But this and all other talk about pre-existence, afterlife, Elohim and the cosmology of gods is pure speculation, whether joseph smith said it or not. In fact, there are many definitions and conflicting speculations in JS and BY's thinking of god, so what is the truth?

In my impression, he got it right in Section 88: that the power of God is the universal, and the being of god is subject to the laws of the kingdoms. This effectively flips the definition of god around, but I would say that most people aren't prepared for the implication that a single, personal, conscious god over the universe isn't real and doesn't exist. And because, at some level, Joseph Smith taught this concept, Christians tend to reject mormonism as "Christianity" -- there is merit in that accusation, but we have lost the reason why in our correlated doctrine of today.

Once we set aside our naive, correlated, pseudo-Christian definition of god, we can come to embrace that god is not the distinct, remote big guy in the sky, but rather, "one of us", and as well, an inherent part of our being through the Holy Ghost and our divine nature. When we follow Jesus and choose his Way of Life, then we choose to be one with power of God and thus 'a god'. Then we are of one heart and one mind. Zion.

And rather than thinking of this as a remote, far-off thing in the future, when we come to embrace Dieter Uchtdorf's message that we are, here and now, in the great Middle of our Eternal Lives, then we come to realize that "I AM" is present tense. We are gods, to the extent that we are one with the power of god, and are serving one another in love. When we serve, when we love, we answer the prayers of those who need God's help, and thus we are gods here and now.

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