Almost from its inception The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter LDS), or the Mormons, have advocated that when Joseph Smith was allegedly led to discover the golden plates culminating in the writing of the Book of Mormon, he had restored Christianity to its original state. Restored were supposed various offices in the church. Restored was direct communication to God through a living prophet. Restored was a proper view of God, who was no longer viewed as an immaterial spirit who had no body parts or passions, but a tangible being with a body of flesh and bones.1
It is this last “restoration” view that will come under scrutiny in this paper. For when Joseph Smith purportedly saw a vision of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, in a wooded area outside Palmyra, New York one fall afternoon in 1820, that vision did more than simply act as the catalyst for one of the most prolific religious movements in the history of America. It produced a perspective on the person of God that was so eccentric and extreme that it not only defied the traditional understanding of God, it also created numerous doctrinal problems that have yet to be answered by contemporary LDS. Therefore, the Mormon view of God the Father will be examined in contrast to the orthodox understanding of the same. In particular, do to space considerations, only God’s aseity, or independence, will be considered.
Perhaps one of the most important questions that may be asked in the immediate sense is why delve into such a topic? Is not Mormonism just another denomination of Christianity whose primary emphasis is the redemption of souls and the glorification of our Heavenly Father? The short answer is no. There are simply too many glaring doctrinal inconsistencies between the LDS Church and orthodox Christianity to draw such a conclusion. Broadly speaking, the topic is extremely important since the LDS Church continues to exhibit great success in proselytizing evangelicals,2 mainly by ignoring, or subtlety failing to discuss, what Mormons consider to be “the fundamental doctrine above all other doctrine,”3 which is the godhead, and more particularly God himself.4 It becomes even more imperative to discern the essential composition of that “fundamental doctrine.”5 Not only will such serve to warn the potential proselyte, if he is paying attention, it will also give an adequate basis to show that what Mormonism has to offer is no sufficient substitute or “restoration” of what the Christian church also considers a “fundamental doctrine” concerning its belief about God. So, without further introduction, let us turn our attention to the first person of the Mormon “Trinity,” and the issue of God’s dependence.
What is meant by the dependency of God in Mormonism is the espousal of the idea that the being of God is contingent, or dependent upon, another being for his existence. In other words, without the assistance or intervention of someone greater than the Father, the existence of the Father himself would be impossible. Among Christians, this thought is directly related to the aseity6 of God, or the belief that God is wholly independent of anyone or anything, other than himself, for his existence. The question then becomes, who exactly do the LDS believe that God is dependent upon in order that he may exist as God? To answer this question one needs understand what Mormonism teaches concerning the terms “elements,”7 “intelligences,” and “eternal progression.”8 For it is from these, that God sprung forth.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and earth.” That familiar verse is found in the opening of the Book of Genesis, and gives a clear indication of not only how all things came into being, but also who was responsible for the being of all things. Traditional Christian thought proclaims that nothing existed prior to God’s creative activity, apart from God himself. When one takes into account the Mormon view of cosmology and beginnings, however, Genesis 1:1 is essentially in error. For Mormonism teaches that God never actually created anything, but rather simply reformed pre-existing “elements” that have been in existence for eternity. God, in other words, was more or less a Craftsman and not a Creator.9
Paradoxically speaking, though, while Mormons believe in the eternal existence of all things, and that God the Father is to be credited with the re-organization of the elements into physical objects, a problem occurs when trying to reconcile how God managed to reshape all things prior to becoming a God. For supposedly before God became a God, he existed eternally alongside the elements as an “intelligence.”10 Since the intelligence who would eventually become God needed to go through various stages (“Eternal Progression”) of development before actually achieving Godhood, and since one of those stages involved becoming a human being, it would not be until he “progressed” that “Creation” would come into existence. Therefore, how does an intelligence become a viable human being on his way to Godhood without a viable place to exist and evolve? Mormonism fosters the belief that God had parents, who were also humans at one time, and lived on their individual planet, yet had progressed unto deity! In other words, God, as an “embryo,”11 lived at home until it was time for him to venture out and experience that which was necessary for his deification!
It is from a pool of intelligences that God ascended from when his Father/God and Mother/Goddess procreated in a normal, natural way, and transformed him into a “spirit” child of theirs. LDS authorities have been largely silent on the origins of Heavenly Father’s father and mother, but some such as the First President of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, make it quite clear that God the Father lived in a familial environment prior to becoming a God himself. Smith asserted,
If Abraham reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way.…Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.12
Similarly, former Mormon apostle Orson Pratt13 wrote,
We were begotten by our Father in Heaven; the person of our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father; and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father; and so on, from generation to generation, from one heavenly world to another still more ancient, until our minds are wearied and lost in the multiplicity of generations and successive worlds, and as a last resort, we wonder in our minds, how far back the genealogy extends, and how the first world was formed, and the first father begotten.14
As the eventual God the Father grew to maturity in his spirit-world pre-existence, his Heavenly Father and Mother deemed it necessary that their son should go through all the same trials, tribulations, and death15 that they had, in order that he might eventually attain godhood himself.16 Therefore, he was sent to an earth to be born of a human couple, for a probationary period, whereby he could be tempted, sin, be “saved by grace,” and then feverishly work to attain perfection by being obedient to the laws and ordinances of the Mormon gospel, all before he would die.17 What God did, in essence, by accomplishing what his parents sent him out to do was to fulfill, and become, a pattern for his spirit/human children,18 after he finally became a God himself.
Similar to parental origin, there is very little mention among Mormons concerning who God’s human parents19 were while residing on the earth that he did, nor is there any mention of who his savior was that managed to shed his blood in order that God might be redeemed. In fact, most Mormon theology is predicated upon pure speculation when it comes to God’s earthly and pre-earthly existence.20 One is supposed to merely accept “by faith” the things that have been revealed, and not waste too much time trying to figure out why God’s natural history, or his place in it, does not quite make sense.21 Moreover, even though one may question the premises of infinitely finite and contingent lines of existence, nevertheless, since that is what the “prophet” said about how God came to be, it must be true. So, just accept it, and move on.22
One would be remiss, however, to merely accept such theological revisionism as true, when all of that which Mormonism predicates of God being contingent is patently contradictory to biblical statements on the subject. Therefore, we will now turn to some of those statements and examine them in light of what has already been stated. For by doing so, it will be demonstrated that the biblical God cannot be dependent, and if he is, he cannot be a God that can be truly depended upon.
There is little doubt that from the writings of the early Christian church to the present that Christians have ascribed to the belief that God was totally independent of anything or anyone for his existence. The reasons for this are many, ranging from discussions about his infinitude,23 to the consequences that if God were somehow dependent upon another for his existence, then he could not be a “God” worth recognizing or trusting given his inferiority or subordination to someone or something higher than himself.24 Furthermore, it has been rightly postulated that if God was not supreme, and required something of a creature to exist, then in all likelihood that “God” is nothing more than an idol stemming from the corrupted imagination of fallen humanity.25 Yet, what are some of the biblical reasons that have led to such discussions? What does the Bible have to say about God’s independence? It is these questions that we now turn our attention.
Although there are numerous references in Scripture alluding to God’s independence,26 three verses are particularly relevant when they state that it is God who needs nothing to exist, and that it is creation that needs God for its existence. John 1:3, for example, tells us, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The implications here should be obvious. (1) God was already in existence prior to anything else. (2) Creation, or that which came into being,27 is solely the result of God speaking it into existence (cf. Gen. 1:3, 6, 11, 14, 20, 24). (3) Before God brought creation into existence (Gr. evge,neto),28 at a fixed point in time, it had no being. (4) If God had not spoken, to bring creation into being, it would remain non-existent, even though to designate something as being an “it” is absurd, since in order for something to be an “it,” it must already exist. (5) Lastly, John is all-inclusive in crediting God for granting existence to that which did not exist. He literally tells the reader, “Not one thing became (evge,neto ouvde. e[n), which had become,” apart from God’s assistance.
Since it is impossible for a “thing” to self-generate into existence from non-existence, and since God was solely responsible for the generation of everything, it is safe to conclude that there never was a moment when God was not, or a time when God will not always be. Furthermore, since it is impossible for something or someone, other than God, to exist apart from the direct intervention of God to bring it into being, then until he acts accordingly, that something or someone remains non-existent. Otherwise, one would have to accept the irrational premise that non-existent beings may self-generate into existence, apart from God’s direct intervention, and that God is no more supreme, ontologically speaking, than his neighbors. In addition, one may be forced to accept the fact that nothing currently exists, which once again, is irrational and absurd.
Second, Romans 11:33-36 further stresses the Creator-Creation relationship, and exactly who or what is dependent upon another for its existence. In this exacting passage, the writer to the Roman saints not only seeks to drive home the point that creation is solely dependent upon God, but also seeks to demonstrate the purposes for which creation came into existence. The Apostle Paul tells us:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. [emphasis added].
Several observations are warranted to grasp what Paul is saying in relation to our thesis. If God is not independent from his creation, (1) then both his wisdom and knowledge would be finite in nature, and nature could “explain” (Gr. avnexicni,astoj) not only “His ways,” but his very being, for they would be on a par with that which is natural. God’s thoughts would be our thoughts, and his ways would be our ways (Is. 55:9), and vice versa. And given the corruptness of the human constitution, if God’s being is comparable to it, then he is in as much of a need of redemption as anyone. And a God in need of redemption is indeed no God at all!
(2) Creatures could advise or “counsel” (Gr. su,mbouloj)29 God. The implication here—as Paul reflects back to Isaiah 40:13 cf. Job 15:8; Jeremiah 23:18—is that God would be, somehow, ignorant or uninformed, especially in reference to creation itself! Therefore, God would have to consult with creation in order to become enlightened. God could not be omniscient or omnisapient, for he would be devoid of certain facts and details about creation in order to be able to decide or act. And if that is the case, then God would be an unreliable source concerning the future, given that his knowledge would be predicated upon only what He knew each moment in time as it occurred, and nothing more.
(3) God would be lacking in some capacity as a being, even to the point where creation would possess something that it could give to God to overcome his deficiency.30 Yet, as Stott comments,
It is frankly ludicrous, as Paul’s Old Testament quotations [vv. 34-35] make clear, to imagine that we could ever teach or give God anything. It would be absurd to claim (since his thoughts are unsearchable) that we know his mind and have offered him our advice. It would be equally absurd to claim (since his ways are inscrutable) that we have given him a gift or two and so put him in our debt. No, no. We are not God’s counselor; he is ours. We are not God’s creditor; he is ours. We depend entirely on him to teach and to save us. The initiative in both revelation and redemption lies in his grace. The attempt to reverse roles would be to dethrone God and to deify ourselves. So the answers to both questions in verses 34-35 is, ‘Nobody!’31
(4) The source, method, and purpose of creation are due to causes beyond the power of God to control. In other words, there is someone or something above God who is more powerful that He is, who/which can grant life and being to that which is seen/unseen in the physical universe, and if pushed to the logical limit, cause the non-existence of God himself.32 Furthermore, given the silence of the being that theoretically possesses more sovereignty than does God, creation would be reduced to speculation concerning its origin and destiny, perhaps leading to agnosticism or nihilism, or, given the baser nature of humanity, creation would exalt itself to the status of divinity, thereby sitting in God’s stead.
(5) God is a liar. If Scripture is to be credited to his authorship (cf. Deut. 18:18; 2 Sam. 23:2; 2 Pet. 1:21), and he claims that he is the one who brought everything into existence by his own exclusive, divine providence and omnipotence, and yet it is discovered that creation is dependent upon something or someone other than God, then it would be right to conclude that God is duplicitous. Moreover, it would be right to conclude that God, himself, is dependent upon something or someone other than himself for his existence, and has misled creation into believing otherwise.
The preceding observations, obviously, are ominous conclusions to be drawn if God is not the sole originator and object for all that is. The bright side of the matter, though, is that none of the conclusions are necessarily warranted, for according to our passage, it is because of God that there is a necessary distinction between he and his creation, and that because of who he is, creation can depend on him for its existence, since he depends on no one or nothing, other than himself, for his existence. And as Sanday and Headlam note, “God needs no recompense, for all things that are exist in Him, all things come to man through Him, and to Him all return. He is the source, the agent, and the final goal of all created things and all spiritual life.”33 To this we may offer an “Amen.”
Finally, however, a third verse dealing with the independence, or aseity, of God, which is perhaps even more explicit in its meaning that John 1:3 or Romans 11:33-35 is Acts 17:25. In that verse Luke recorded a speaking engagement that the apostle Paul embarked upon with some Greek philosophers of his day, while visiting Greece during his second missionary journey. Paul had noticed the spirituality of the patrons of the city of Athens, paying special attention to the “objects of [their] worship,” and an inscription which read, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.”34 In his defense of the Christian faith the apostle began with the Christian concept of God, his omnipotence in creation, and his independence from his creation. Paul stated, beginning in verse 24,
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things; [emphasis added].
It is Paul’s comment regarding need35 that is directly linked to God’s independence. God is not in need of anything, yet serves as the focal point of providing for the needs of all creation, especially for its very existence. Paul’s assertion probably came as a shock to many at the Areopagus that day, since the Greeks prided themselves on individualism and service to the gods.36 To others of the Athenians, a look of incredulity became their countenance as they sneered (v. 32) at what Paul had to say, particularly when his discussion progressed to the resurrection of the dead, which God is also solely self-sufficient in accomplishing.37 Nevertheless, as Bruce states, “Far from their supplying any need of his, it is he who supplies every need of theirs.”38 Therefore, given these three passages of Scripture, what conclusions may we draw?
There is a gargantuan difference between what Mormonism and Christianity teaches and believes about the person of God. This paper has attempted to look at only one aspect of that difference, namely, God’s independence or aseity. Nevertheless, by examining just this one fundamental attribute ought to cause everyone to stop and think for a moment about not only who God is, but the consequences and ramifications for ascribing to a view of God that characterizes him as someone who is not totally dependent upon himself for his existence.
Mormonism would have everyone believe that God did not always exist as God, yet eternally existed among a pool of “intelligences,” prior to him (it?) becoming a spirit-child of his parents, and then a human being. That after living a relatively normal life as a human, he died, was resurrected, and with some assistance from his “godly” parents, became a God himself. Christianity advocates that God has always existed as God, that nothing existed prior to his bringing it into being, and that he did not live among exalted human beings, who were already gods and goddesses prior to him becoming one.
Mormonism would have everyone believe that God never created anything, but merely rearranged eternally existing “elements” in the universe into what they currently are. Hence, that which has been reformed, since it is self-existent, does not necessarily have to abide by the will and purpose of God, given that he, too, is a part of the elements himself. Christianity, conversely, asserts that without God’s miraculous and gracious decision to bring into being that which did not otherwise exist, creation would remain non-existent. And that because God is independent of his creation—existing as a being who is wholly-other, supreme, sovereign, and infinitely omnipotent—it must obey his every command as he works out his perfect will.
Finally, Mormonism would have everyone believe that the creature may become as God is, with enough time and effort. That God is just like humans are, since humans are “created” in his physical image. That if humans will simply trust in what God has done for himself, they too, many duplicate his efforts and move from the finite to the infinite, and eventually supervise their children one day, as they go through the same dependent process. Christianity, though, unreservedly states that there never has been, nor ever will be One like God (Is. 43:10). That regardless of how much effort one puts into becoming “like God,” creaturely limitations, including creation’s total dependence upon God for its existence, relegate those lofty aspirations to the realm of mere, unadulterated fantasy.
In a day and age when more and more people are seemingly confused as to the nature of God, it becomes imperative that Christians be careful not to add to the confusion by advocating ideas about God that are either untrue, or only half-truths. Furthermore, it would in the best interest of the redeemed to return to a more thought-provoking form of worship and learning, whereby theological indoctrination is emphasized at the expense of sentimental emotionalism. Why? Because groups like the Mormons proliferate through confusion, half-truths, and emotionalism, as they promote ideas like the one discussed in this paper. If the Christian Church should, however, continue to ignore the obvious strategies of its enemies, as the enemy continues to propagate confusion, then the Church will essentially be useless, having lost its effectiveness (Matt. 5:13). And it might as well go ahead, then, and join the ranks of Mormonism, with its dependent God, for it will then be obvious that the independent God of Christianity will be unworthy of recognition, due to his distinction and inability to co-exist alongside humanity as it gradually deifies itself.
1 “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (Doctrine & Covenants [D. & C.] 130:22).
2 According to Carl Mosser, “Almost all converts to Mormonism come from a nominally Christian background.…A well-known saying within LDS circles, based on the average size of a Baptist church in America, is ‘We baptize a Baptist church every week.’ He adds, “Mormon growth largely depends on the prior success of Protestant and Catholic missionaries.…Mormon missionaries don’t evangelize, they proselytize. Mormonism is religion that gets its life mostly from preexisting forms of Christianity.” Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen, The New Mormon Challenge (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 67.
3 Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1997), 239.
4 Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, stressed that, “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1976), 345-46.
5 Mosser argues, “I am convinced that a major factor contributing to Mormon growth is the widespread biblical and theological illiteracy among the laity of Protestant and Catholic churches. People in our churches need to be grounded better in basic biblical doctrine” (TNMC, 69). Millard J. Erickson adds in respect to the decline of doctrine in the church, “A further reason for studying this important doctrine [the Trinity] is the general decline of doctrine in the church, or a least in some parts of it, today.” He continues, “This aversion to doctrine in turn both reflects and is reflected in the popular piety of the day. There is a great deal of romanticism in the general culture, and a consequent considerable amount of pietism in the church. There is a decided preference for feeling over against reflection or cogitation. One has only to observe the type of music currently popular in many churches to note this trend. A significant number of people want to come to church to feel good. Doctrine is not conducive to this, however. The study of doctrine is hard work, and hard work is not necessarily pleasant.” God in Three Persons (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 25-26. Given that so much of Mormon doctrine is based upon “feeling good,” it is no wonder that too many Christians are easy targets for Mormon proselytization.
6 Aseity is a Latin word derived from the preposition a, meaning “by” or “from,” and the third person, reflexive, pronoun se, meaning “himself,” “herself,” “itself,” or “themselves.” Leo F. Stelten, Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin (Peabody, MA: Hendricksen, 1995), 1, 241. According to Robert Broderick, “Aseity is the characteristic of a being that exists by virtue of its own nature, independent of all else. If affirms absolute existence; it excludes any external causality. Aseity means a being whose existence proceeds from a nature that is in itself its own existence—thus, only God is such a being. It is the prime attribute of God from which we infer all other attributes, and it expresses the very essence of God,” The Catholic Encyclopedia (Nashville & New York: Thomas Nelson, 1976), 54-55.
7 “Those natural or earthy substances of which the earth in all its parts is composed and which make up the physical or temporal bodies of all created things are called elements… ‘The elements are eternal,’ the Lord says; and when they are organized into a mortal body, those elements become the tabernacle of the eternal spirit that comes from pre-existence,” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 218.
8 Brigham Young once wrote in relation to Eternal Progression, “The whole mortal existence of man is neither more nor less than a preparatory state given to finite beings, a space wherein they may improve themselves for a higher state of being.” Discourses of Brigham Young, compiled by John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1978), 87. Daniel Ludlow adds, “The principle of eternal progression cannot be precisely defined or comprehended, yet it is fundamental to the LDS worldview. The phrase “eternal progression” first occurs in the discourses of Brigham Young. It embodies many concepts taught by Joseph Smith, especially in his king follett discourse. It is based on the proposition that “there is no such thing as principle, power, wisdom, knowledge, life, position, or anything that can be imagined, that remains stationary-they must increase or decrease.” Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 465 on Infobases Gospel Library CD-ROM [IGLCD].
9 Joseph Smith preached, “The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is coequal with God himself.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [TPJS], compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1976), 353. According to D. & C. 93:33, “For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy.” Furthermore, Lowell Bennion commented that, “Latter-day Saints reject the ex nihilo concept of creation. Intelligence and the elements have always existed, co-eternal with God. He is tremendously creative and powerful, but he works with materials not of his own making. This Mormon theory of creation leads to very significant conclusions regarding both our view of God and of human beings.” “A Mormon View of Life,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 24/3 (1991): 60, on New Mormon Studies CD-ROM [NMSCD].
10 Joseph Smith defined intelligence as, “…a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it.” TPJS, 354. Supposedly God’s intelligence was not the only one in existence. One distinction, however, set God the Father apart from the rest of the intelligences. According to Mormon thought, God supposedly possessed more intelligence than all the rest. Why this is assumed by Mormon authorities is unclear. Nevertheless, Abraham 3:19, states, “And the Lord said unto me [Abraham]: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.” The Book of Abraham is located in The Pearl of Great Price, which is considered to be Scripture among Mormons, alongside the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, pronouncements from the living prophet, and the Bible.
11 “Gods in embryo” is an expression that is not often heard among contemporary Mormons, yet it is a perfect idiom of how Mormons see themselves. The reason why is explained by former LDS President, Spencer W. Kimball. He said, “Man is created in the image of God. He is a god in embryo. He has the seeds of godhood within him and he can, if he is normal, pick himself up by his bootstraps and literally move himself from where he is to where he knows he should be.” Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year (Provo, UT: BYU Press, 1965), 26 on IGLCD.
12 TPJS, 373; Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 8 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1950), 6:476; Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1932-51), 6:476, on IGLCD.
13 Christian philosopher and author, J. P. Moreland, noted of Pratt, “In the earliest days of Mormonism, Orson Pratt (1811-81) was among the most prolific and influential of the LDS apologists and apostles. Pratt, one of the original twelve apostles of the LDS Church, was so influential in Mormon thinking that he has been called the ‘Paul of Mormonism’ and is acknowledged as having unrivaled intellectual stature in the first one hundred years of Mormonism,” TNMC, 244-45. The reason Moreland’s comments are significant is the general ambivalence contemporary Mormons have toward Pratt, particularly as seen toward his work The Seer, in which this author has witnessed repeated denunciations of the work as being non-authoritative, particularly as it deals with God’s liaison with Mary in the conception of Jesus.
14 Orson Pratt, The Seer (London: Franklin D. Richards, 1853), 132.
15 “Thus, our Father in Heaven would have experienced a mortal death and the subsequent resurrection just as we will. In that process, he would not have had the power and dominion he now possesses. Godhood would have been acquired.” Errol R. Fish, Promptings of the Spirit (Mesa, AZ: Cogent, 1990), 21, on IGLCD.
16 An often quoted statement from Joseph Smith bears out the fact that Mormons have consistently taught God’s human existence prior to his “exaltation” unto deity. He said, “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible” [emphasis added]. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 8 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1980), 6:305; TPJS, 345-46; Paul R. Cheesman, Monte S. Nyman, and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds., Book of Mormon Symposium Series (Provo: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1988-95), 34, on IGLCD; Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-73), 1:191, and The Messiah Series (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1978-92), 12, 41, 80, and A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1985), 64, on IGLCD; Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 547, and Latter-day Prophets Speak: Selections from the Sermons and Writings of Church Presidents (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1948), on IGLCD; General Conferences Reports: James A. Cullimore (Oct. 1970), William J. Critchlow, Jr. (Apr. 1961), Milton R. Hunter (Oct. 1948) on IGLCD; Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saint's Book Depot, Apr. 6, 1844) on IGLCD; Robert L. Millet and Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Life Beyond (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986), on IGLCD; James R. Clark, ed., Messages of the First Presidency, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-75), 1:213, on IGLCD; ; B. H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1903), 227, and New Witnesses for God, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1911), 1:461, and The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965), 198, on IGLCD; Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary (Milton R. Hunter, 1951), 52, on IGLCD; Errol R. Fish, Promptings of the Spirit (Mesa, AZ: Cogent, 1990), 21, on IGLCD; Milton V. Backman, Jr., Donald Q. Cannon, Arnold K. Garr, Clark V. Johnson, H. Dean Garrett, Larry C. Porter, Susan Easton Black, eds., Regional Studies in LDS History Series (Provo: Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1988-95), 217, on IGLCD.
17 Many Mormons are under the false impression that they may take all of eternity to eventually repent to the point of becoming a god. Former LDS President Spencer W. Kimball, and Mormon apostle, Melvin J. Ballard, made it quite clear that the here and now was the time to truly repent. Kimball said, “One cannot delay repentance until the next life, the spirit world, and there prepare properly for the day of judgment while the ordinance work is done for him vicariously on earth. It must be remembered that vicarious work for the dead is for those who could not do the work for themselves. Men and women who live in mortality and who have heard the gospel here have had their day, their seventy years to put their lives in harmony, to perform the ordinances, to repent and to perfect their lives.” The Miracle of Forgiveness (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969), 313-14. Ballard added, “A man may receive the priesthood and all its privileges and blessings, but until he learns to overcome the flesh, his temper, his tongue, his disposition to indulge in the things God has forbidden, he cannot come into the celestial kingdom of God—he must overcome either in this life or in the life to come. But this life is the time in which men are to repent. Do not let any of us imagine that we can go down to the grave not having overcome the corruptions of the flesh and then lose in the grave all our sins and evil tendencies. They will be with us. They will be with the spirit when separated from the body.” Three Degrees of Glory (Salt Lake City: Joseph Lyon & Associates, 1975), 12.
18 “Spirits are actually born as the offspring of a Heavenly Father, a glorified and exalted Man,” stated the late Mormon apostle, Bruce R. McConkie. “They will be born in a future eternity to future exalted beings for whom the family unit continues.” Mormon Doctrine, 750.
19 According to Mormon scholar, Hugh Nibley, there is a very good reason why the Heavenly Mother is not mentioned. “You notice that we don’t have a lot of Heavenly Mother in our teachings because the Heavenly Mother has her particular job, which is to keep the store while the others go forth on missions. You notice that all the angels and all the missionaries are male. The mother is the eternal hearth and home. She has her work to do there.” Ancient Documents and the Pearl of Great Price. Transcript of 26 Lectures In An Honors Class on the Pearl of Great Price at Brigham Young University, Winter Semester 1986. Edited by Robert Smith and Robert Smythe. n.p. [FARMS], n. d., 12, on IGLCD. In other words, HM is busy with her chores; she is in her place; don’t bother her. Now that’s family compassion and togetherness that everyone ought to want to take part in!
20 This may be due in part to the alleged “veil of forgetfulness” that has been placed over the minds of every individual who has ever resided on the earth. According to Brent L. Top, “Each of us comes into this life without a recollection of our former home. There may be several reasons why God imposed this memory block on all of us as we enter mortality, but for now we do not fully understand his reasons. The scriptures offer no explanation,” The Life Before (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), n. p., on IGLCD. Later, current LDS First Presidency leader, Thomas S. Monson, added, “How grateful we should be that a wise Creator fashioned an earth and placed us here, with a veil of forgetfulness on our previous existence, so that we might experience a time of testing, an opportunity to prove ourselves and qualify for all that God has prepared for us to receive.” "First Presidency Message Invitation to Exaltation," Ensign (June 1993; May 1988; June 1984; Liahona, September 1983; 1986), on CMCD.
21 Former LDS President Joseph F. Smith wrote, “There are so many demonstrated, practical, material truths, so many spiritual certainties, with which the youth of Zion should become familiar, that is appears a waste of time and means, and detrimental to faith and religion to enter too extensively into the undemonstrated theories of men on philosophies relating to the origin of life, or the methods of adopted by an Allwise Creator in peopling the earth with the bodies of men, birds and beasts.” Gospel Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1986), 38. He continued, “Philosophic theories of life have their place and use, but it is not in the classes of the Church schools, and particularly are they out of place here or anywhere else, when they seek to supplant the revelations of God. The ordinary student cannot delve into these subjects deep enough to make them of any practical use to him, and a smattering of knowledge in this line only tends to upset his simple faith in the gospel, which is of more value to him in life than all the learning of the world without it” (Ibid., 38-9).
22 In an oft-mentioned quote from an LDS periodical (New Era) in 1945, is the prevailing attitude among Mormon layman, and elite alike, when it comes to accepted doctrinal statements, even though it was supposedly rebuffed by then President of the LDS, George Albert Smith. It stated, “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan--it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.” In other words, whatever the spiritual leadership has to say about a subject, be it right, wrong, or contradictory, “the thinking has been done.” How tragic!
23 “The infinitude of God, so far as space is concerned, includes his immensity and his omnipresence. These are not different attributes, but one and the same attribute, viewed under different aspects. His immensity is the infinitude of his being, viewed as belonging to his nature from eternity. He fills immensity with his presence. His omnipresence is the infinitude of his being, viewed in relation to his creatures. He is equally present with all his creatures, at all times, and in all places. He is not far from any one of us,” Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint 1977), 1:383. “God has been styled ‘The Absolute,’ which is an attempt to express the fact that he exists eternally by no cause whatsoever outside Himself and that He alone is the sufficient cause of all that is. This is infinity in its outmost demonstration,” Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. in 4 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993), 1:216.
24 G. H. Clark asks in relation to God’s eternality, which is directly related to the subject of God’s aseity, “What confidence could man have in any of God's attributes, such as His mercy, wisdom, righteousness, goodness, and truth, unless He were immutable, eternal and almighty? How could man entertain hope of a resurrection unless God were everlasting?” He concludes by stating, “In times of distress, decline, or apostasy, the doctrine of the eternity of God provides assurance and comfort. The God who never was born cannot die; and although declension and unbelief may corrupt the visible Church, the eternal God has said, "I will build my church, and the powers of death [or gates of Hades] shall not prevail against it" (Matt 16:18),” Merrill C. Tenney, ed., The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, 5 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), s. v. "Eternity" by G. H. Clark.
25 The Early Church Father, Mathetes, in his letter to Diognetus wrote, “For He that made heaven and earth, and all that is therein, and gives to us all the things of which we stand in need, certainly requires none of those things which He Himself bestows on such as think of furnishing them to Him. But those who imagine that, by means of blood, and the smoke of sacrifices and burnt-offerings, they offer sacrifices [acceptable] to Him, and that by such honors they show Him respect,—these, by supposing that they can give anything to Him who stands in need of nothing, appear to me in no respect to differ from those who studiously confer the same honor on things destitute of sense, and which therefore are unable to enjoy such honors,” Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, 3, “Ante-Nicene Fathers,” 1: 56, on Master Christian Library 6.0 CD-ROM (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998). The seventeenth century, Puritan theologian, Stephen Charnock adds, “It is as easily deduced that he that was before all creatures is eternal, as he that made all creatures is God. If he had a beginning, he must have it from another, or from himself; if from another, that from whom he received his being would be better than he, so more a God than he. He cannot be God that is not supreme; he cannot be supreme that owes his being to the power of another,” The Existence and Attributes of God, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint 2000), 1: 282.
26 Ex. 19:5; Deut. 10:14; Job 9:5-10; 26:6-10; 28:24; 41:11; Ps. 24:1; 33:11; 50:11-12; 115:3; Dan. 4:35; Jn. 5:26; Rom. 9:19-ff; 1 Cor. 8:6; 10:26; Eph. 1:5, 9, 11; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11.
27 “The verb ‘were made’ does not in itself mean specifically ‘were created’ so much as ‘came into being.’” Gordon D. Fee, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, 16 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), The Gospel According to John by Leon Morris, 71.
28 The late Greek scholar A. T. Robertson noted that the word “became” (Gr. evge,neto) is a “constative aorist,”—Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1960), 5:5—which Wallace explained as the type of aorist that “covers a multitude of actions. The event might be interative in nature, or durative, or momentary, but the aorist says none of this. It places the stress on the fact of the occurrence, not its nature,” Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 557. Dana and Mantey adds, “This use of the aorist contemplates the action in its entirety. It takes an occurrence and, regardless of its extent of duration, gathers it into a single whole,” A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto: The Macmillan Company, 1955), 196.
29 “The term [su,mbouloj] implies great wisdom, perhaps even superior wisdom, on the part of the adviser (who takes advice from one who is clearly inferior?).” Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint 1997), 428.
30 “To admit the existence of a need in God is to admit incompleteness in the divine Being. Need is a creature-word and cannot be spoken of the Creator.” A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961), 39.
31 John Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994), 310-11. Morris adds a valuable insight here as well by commenting, “No person can ever be in a position where God is required to make a fair requital. That would require an element of equality that is infinitely beyond the capacity of the greatest of the [human] race,” Romans, 429.
32 Barth would rebut this notion of God’s insubordination to something or someone else by stating, “God is insubordinate to no idea in which He can be conceived as rooted or by which He can be properly measure. There are not first of all power, goodness, knowledge, will, etc. in general, and then in particular God also as one of the subjects to whom all these things accrue as a predicate. But everything that God is, and that is in God, is--as the origin of all that is distinct from God and that can be the predicate of other subjects too--first and properly in Him.” Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance, eds. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), 2.1.334.
33 S. R. Driver, A. Plummer, and C. A. Briggs, eds., The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1977), The Epistle to the Romans by William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam, 340.
34 According to Spencer, “The Athenians had manifested their ardent religiosity (which in fact amounted to no more than superstition) by including among their many altars one which was dedicated to “the Unknown God.” This was apparently to prevent an omission due to oversight or ignorance. Paul took this as an admission of at least partial ignorance or uncertainty and addressed this need.” Stephen R. Spencer, “Is Natural Theology Biblical?”, Grace Theological Journal 9 (Spring 1988): 64.
35 prosde,omai, “need” or “requirement” is only used once in NT (Acts 17:25). Geisler connects need with necessity, as he discusses God’s aseity, and cites Acts 17:25 as one of the verses to support the connection. He states, “Hence, a necessary Being is one who is not contingent, and a contingent being is one who is not necessary. A contingent being is one who can not exist, and a Necessary Being is one who cannot not exist.” He concludes his comments in relation to aseity by asserting, “That God is a necessary Being also follows from the fact that He has self-existence or aseity. God as a self-existent Being is an independent Being, and what has an independent existence is a necessary existence. Hence, God is necessary existence.” Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2003), 2:64, 65.
36 “While Greeks in general and Athenians in particular were elitists, claiming supremacy because of their appeal (in the case of Athens) to unique origins by divine action, Paul proclaimed the unity of the human race. Reversing the pattern of the Greek anthropomorphic gods, Paul proclaimed a humanity in the image of God.” (Ibid., 65).
37 Richard Longenecker observed, “If Paul had talked about the immortality of the soul, he would have gained the assent of most of his audience except the Epicureans. But the idea of resurrection was absurd. Outright scorn was the response of some of his hearers. Others, probably with more politeness than curiosity or conviction, suggested that they would like to hear Paul on the subject at another time.” Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositors Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), The Acts of the Apostles by Richard N. Longenecker, 478.
38 F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 241.