Chapter Eight

The Nature of God

"On the subject of divorce the bishop was very bluntly clear and his tone was stern! He explained that since I had, by accepting the Good News, blocked my wife’s ‘eternal progression’… she did have the right to seek a divorce and find a mate that could satisfy her desire for a Celestial Marriage. I asked the bishop if he could find scriptural support for this point of view and he said, ‘I don’t know of any.’"—David

BYU professor James E. Ford sums up Mormon theology this way:

Mormon doctrine means that ultimately we are not dependent upon God for our existence. And since we can make ourselves as godly as the Father, we don’t feel any jealousy toward him. (1)

Joseph Smith claimed: "Man is co-equal with God himself." (2) God, Joseph said, found himself among spirits and glory." (3)

Cults always part company with the Church of Christ over the nature of God. And with Mormonism, the doctrinal differences are fundamental and irreconcilable. It is essential and extremely profitable to discuss this subject with Latter-day Saints. The discussion of the nature of God is, as far as I’m concerned, the best dialogue we can have with Mormons.

You must prepare yourself, however, to talk accurately about the nature of God. You don’t have to be a theologian, but you do need a working understanding of His nature. You need to be sure of your own theology in order to understand the basic doctrinal errors that continue to crop up in the cults.

So these pages are designed to help us review our own beliefs as a foundation for discussions with a Latter-day Saint.

 

Monotheism: The Correct Choice.

To understand the error of Mormon theology, it is helpful to look at the choices one faces when thinking about God. (See Chart B: "Thinking about God" on pages 80-81.)

The first choice a man makes is between theism and atheism. Theism is the term for someone who believes in God; an atheist does not believe in God.

Atheists do not believe in a Creator God. They are materialists. They believe that all we see in nature is the result of matter, which was not created, but which has eternally existed. Materialists believe that the universe had no beginning. That, throughout time, it simply pulsates from one Big Bang to another, evolving only through natural law.

Theists, on the other hand, believe in some kind of Creator. But, they may be deists, pantheists, dualists, polytheists, or monotheists.

A deist believes in one Creator God. But the God of the deist has withdrawn from His universe. He is the clockmaker who wound up the universe and now leaves it to run according to natural law. He doesn’t interfere in any miraculous or supernatural way.

A pantheist is one who believes that the universe is God. In other words, the sum total of all creation adds up to God.

A dualist believes in a Good God and an Evil God who are locked in mortal combat for the universe. There are few dualists around these days. Zoroastrianism was one of the grander expressions of dualism.

A polytheist believes in many gods. Polytheism is the formula of Hinduism, which boasts millions of gods.

Only monotheists believe in the God of the Bible. A monotheist believes in one Creator God who is separate from His universe, but present in it and actively involved with it. There are only three monotheistic groups: Jews, Muslims, and Christians. All three of theses groups trace their history back to Abraham. Jews and Muslims fail to recognize Jesus Christ as God incarnate in human flesh.

 

Degeneration to Polytheism

Chart B(large-325KB)

Polytheism is the belief in the existence of more than one God. (Note: it is not essential to worship more than one god to be a polytheist – it is merely necessary to believe in their existence. Poly-many, theos-god.)

Polytheism fails to answer the philosophical questions of creation. Polytheism fails to ask these questions: "Where did the god I am worshipping come from? How was he created? If he is not the First Cause, who is?"

Polytheists, by failing to ask these questions, end up blindly serving demi-gods.

Polytheism is paganism. It is a degeneration of thought. In the past, anthropologists taught that monotheism evolved upwards out of polytheism. The scenario was that primitive man saw lightning fall and worshipped the god of lightning. He saw fire and worshipped the fire god. Eventually he evolved to the worship of the gods of Greek and Roman mythology. And, finally, as he became more sophisticated, he decided to believe in one God.

However, recent anthropological research indicated that monotheism actually predates polytheism. The Encyclopedia Britannica says the most primitive societies actually were monotheistic, worshipping one Creator God. This is the anthropological concept of "High God." (4)

Christians teach that God has, throughout the ages, revealed Himself as the One True and Living God, beginning with His fellowship with Adam and Eve in the Garden.

But the Bible tells us that because of sin mankind became separated from God, lost intimate contact with Him, and eventually became completely degenerate:

The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth…" (Genesis 6:5-7).

After the Flood, God restored fellowship with mankind. But again man degenerated into wickedness and occult worship. It was out of evil, polytheistic Babylon that God called Abraham to the Promised Land where He sought to establish a people to worship Him and to avoid the polytheistic worship of Egypt and Babylonia.

The heartbeat of the Old Testament is the story of God calling His people away from the worship of "stumps and stones" – that is, the worship of idols made out of wood and stone. God censured Israelites because they had "prostituted themselves to other gods" (Judges 2:17). But the Israelites continued to intermarry with pagans and to worship the Baals and Asharah poles. Even Solomon returned to honoring the polytheistic gods of the pagans.

God, in every age, has commanded men to worship Him and Him alone. But, because of man’s degenerate nature, he has sought power from the dark world of the occult. And the evil one, the enemy of our souls, is always ready to respond through demon powers.

Joseph Smith entered the religious arena through the door of the occult. (See Chapter Three.) He did not have well-defined ideas about God, and he abandoned the Bible for necromancy, communication with spirits of the dead supposedly to learn future events. As time went on he developed his ideas about God into a polytheistic nightmare.

 

The Polytheism of Mormonism

What Joseph Smith said, "God found himself among spirits," he showed his paganism, because God by definition must predate everything. He is the Creator, the Prime Mover, the First Cause. Anything greater, bigger, older, more knowledgeable or more powerful than God, would itself be God! Any being who "finds himself" in the midst of other gods must, himself, have a creator.

Nothing can predate God. He is first, or as He says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega," the first and the last (Revelation 1:8).

But Joseph Smith not only believed and taught polytheism, he boasted about it! He claimed he had "always preached plurality of Gods," and told his congregation:

You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves… the same as all Gods have done before you … until you are able to dwell in everlasting burnings and sit in glory. (5)

Brigham Young, as he so often did, expanded Joseph’s thinking, saying, "Man is King of Kings and Lord of Lords in embryo." (6)

Eventually, Mormon apostle Orson Pratt would say that there were more gods than there are particles of matter in a million planets like the earth. (7)

Today, every active Mormon is a polytheist, although he would not use that term. Every active, orthodox Latter-day Saint recites: "As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become." Every practicing Mormon hopes that one day he himself will be a god.

In addition to believing that men can become gods, Mormonism teaches an infinite number of gods. Orson Pratt stated:

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 mind, how far back the genealogy extends, and how the first world was formed, and how the first Father was begotten. (8)

Those are exactly the right questions Mormons should, but fail to, ask. Pratt tells us we shouldn’t bother thinking about the first Father – that it is a waste of time. Such speculation, he says, would simply produce an endless succession of personal gods. Let’s not trouble ourselves with the question because "in worshipping any one of these Gods, we worship the whole." (9)

Thus, Mormonism starts in midstream, worshipping a god who happens to be "our" god, since he’s in charge of this world.

Most Latter-day Saints have not really thought through the implications of their polytheism. They have a vague sense that there are lots of worlds and lots of gods, and they believe they are destined for godhood. As strange as it seems, concerning beginnings, Mormons are required to believe two different theories at the same time. First, they believe they are co-eternal with the rest of the gods. On the other hand, they believe they were born spiritually to the God Elohim and existed as "spirit children" in heaven before they came to earth to "take on a body" (natural birth).

Mormons commonly think of God as "Heavenly Father" (Elohim). Jesus is one of Elohim’s spirit sons, "the Savior." Satan was another and, for that matter, so were all the men of the earth, as well as all the demons. Thus, Elohim is your spirit father, the spirit father of Jesus, and also the spirit father of Satan. Which makes you, Jesus, and Satan brothers.

The process by which God has spirits is a little foggy, although most Mormon theologians teach that Elohim has several spirit wives by whom he conceives his spirit offspring. He experienced mortality on another planet, where he received a body and eventually, through the process called "eternal progression," has come to be our God. (10)

That means that throughout the universe men are becoming gods, receiving dominion over their own planets and conceiving spirit children in heaven so they can send them to earth to be born in mortality and repeat the process, "worlds without end."

Such theology is philosophically and emotionally unsatisfying and can be difficult to discuss. But there is a way to talk to Latter-day Saints about the nature of God. A way which can lead to real breakthrough.

 

How to talk to Mormons About the Nature of God

To talk to Mormons about the nature of God, you need to do these things:

First, you need to commit them to the fact of their polytheism.

Second, you need to demonstrate the philosophical basis for monotheism. That is, to walk them through to the logical conclusion that God cannot have been created.

Third, then you can show them that the Bible is clearly and absolutely monotheistic.

That may sound like a rather large order, but it’s a process you can learn – and fairly simply. I really suggest you study this chapter several times and then go through these three points in order.

First, commit them to polytheism. Your Latter-day Saint friends will be reluctant to admit to polytheism. In fact, many of them will not even be familiar with the term. You will need to clarify terms. The phrase they do understand is "plurality of gods."

Be patient and stick to the point. Your Mormon friend, if he is up on his religion at all, believes in a plurality of gods. He may even be very surprised that you don’t.

To nail him down on plurality of gods, I ask leading questions. For example, I’ll ask, "Do you agree with the statement, ‘As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become’?" I have yet to have an active Mormon deny believing that.

You can ask, "Do you really believe you will be a god?" Again, you will probably have no trouble getting that admission.

It is important that you get your contact to commit to polytheism before you begin your philosophical or biblical discussion.

Second, demonstrate the philosophical basis for monotheism. Mormonism would have us believe the Elohim was once a man and that he grew up on a planet and advanced to godhood. "God sits enthroned in yonder heavens an exalted man," Joseph Smith said. "He became God the same way as all the other Gods before him." (11)

But think it through. Mormon theology makes it essential for all gods to have first been men. So where did the first man come from?

Notwithstanding the protests of Orson Pratt, that is the philosophical mistake of Mormonism – there is no first Father. There is, therefore, no Creator! No First Cause! In reality, there is no God as defined by any rational definition.

Joseph Smith’s god who "found himself" in the beginning is not good enough. Where is the Creator? Joseph Smith said he had a doctrine calculated to exalt man:

… the soul – the mind of man – the immortal spirit. Where did it come from? All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens men in my estimation…. The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself. (12)

Mormonism’s failure is its inability to push itself back philosophically to the beginning.

God cannot have had a grandfather. Nothing can predate Him. Any being predating Him would Himself be God. God must be the Being beyond which no greater can be imagined. If something is bigger than your god, you are worshipping a demi-god.

When you do come to God, He stands alone. There is none like Him. We can never stress that too strongly. That is why God makes this concept the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods beside me." That is the foundational revelation of God: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord, our God, the Lord is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4).

Third, demonstrate the biblical basis for monotheism. This part is easy. Once you have your contact thinking about the rational necessity for monotheism, you then open your Bible and quickly and decisively demonstrate the biblical monotheism. This is a telling moment because Mormons will tell you they believe the Bible is the Word of God, though they do not see it as infallible. Here is what you say:

"Let me show you just a few Scriptures that indicate monotheism in the Bible. I could go to any book in the Bible from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, but I just want to read a few Scriptures from the book of Isaiah."
Then, without waiting for an answer, you open your Bible and start reading the following Scriptures. You will want to have them underlined.

"You are my witnesses," declares the Lord, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior" (Isaiah 43:10-11).

This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it (Isaiah 44:6-7).

When I’m talking to a Latter-day Saint, I say, "If He is the first and the last, how many Gods are there?

"You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one" (Isaiah 44:8).

"I am the Lord, and there is no other, apart from me there is no God… so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there in none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other." (Isaiah 45:5-6).

About this time your Mormon friend will be saying to himself, "Well, obviously we are talking about the god of this world, here." That means that the Mormon thinks that Elohim or Jehovah (whoever is talking, and he won’t be sure which one is) is the god over the planet earth and no other.

When I see the "god of this planet" look in their eyes, I am ready to proceed with Isaiah 45:12:

It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hand stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts.

That deals with the "god of this planet" theology. This God, according to Job, binds the Pleiades and looses Orion and brings forth all the other constellations in their season, not just earth (see Job 38:31-33). We are talking about the God who consistently claims to have created and to rule all the heavens and all the stars: "Through him all things were made" (John 1:3). "He stretches out the heavens like a canopy" (Isaiah 40:22).

For this is what the Lord says – he who created the heavens, he is God…. He says: "I am the Lord, and there is no other…. There is no God apart from me…. There is none but me…. I am God, and there is no other" (Isaiah 45:18-22).

Then I like to look them in the eye as I recite this last one:

"Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me" (Isaiah 46:8-9).

The reading of these Scriptures quickly and in order, with authority, is one of the most powerful experiences you will ever have witnessing to Mormons. The verses are so clear and powerful that they are devastating.

Your contact may try to interrupt you and sidetrack you. He may say, "That is talking about the god of this world."

I respond by saying, "The god of this world is the devil. We are talking about the Creator of the universe here. He says He created all the starry host…." Then I just keep reading.

 

Talking About the Trinity

I love to talk to Mormons about the Trinity. The Trinity seems to be a frightening thing for most people. Maybe that’s because they’ve been told so many times that you can’t understand it. When I hear preachers say something glib like, "Well, the Trinity can’t be understood, you just have to take it by faith," I get upset. One 74-year-old lady wrote me poignantly after listening to my tapes on the Trinity. "Why haven’t we heard this before?" she asked. "We can understand it."

Of course we can’t fully understand the Trinity. But that’s no reason not to try. We can’t understand electricity, and yet we train thousands of electricians every year. I was an electronics technician in the Navy. We were taught that nobody understands how electricity "flows." We didn’t know if it flowed from positive to negative or from negative to positive. In fact, the best theories said the electrons didn’t flow at all; rather the "holes" between the electrons flowed.

The doctrine of the Trinity, simply stated, is this: "In all the universe there is but one God and within the nature of the one God are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

Here’s what we know about God from the Old Testament.

He is one.

He is infinite.

He is eternal.

He is omniscient – He knows everything.

He is omnipotent – He is all-powerful.

He is omnipresent – He is present everywhere.

Only after we have the God of the Old Testament fixed in our minds are we able to move to the New Testament. And when we do, we are presented with Jesus. Of Him we read:

Jesus is omniscient (Revelation 2:18-19. John 1:48, 2:24).

Jesus in omnipotent (Revelation 1:18, 21:5-7, 22:12-13, 16).

Jesus is omnipresent (Matthew 18:20, 28:20).

Jesus is called God (John 1:1, 5:18, 10:30-33, 20:28; Colossians 2:9-10; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:12-13; Hebrews 1:8).

Jesus is worshipped – an act reserved by Jews only for the one true and living God (Matthew 14:33, 15:25; Luke 24:52; John 9:38; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 5:11-14).

Jesus is the Creator of all (John 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:10).

After discovering that Jesus is God – that all the attributes of the Father are ascribed to Him – we then discover that, likewise, every attribute of God is reserved for the Holy Ghost as well!

Then I say to my Mormon friend: "Jesus said, ‘Wherever two or three gather together in my name, there I am in the midst.’ Do you believe Jesus is really here present with us?" (Had I asked him that earlier in the conversation he would have said no. But now, he almost always says yes.)

Then I ask: "If a prayer meeting were going on in China right now, do you think Jesus would be there?" He usually says yes.

"What if there were a prayer meeting on Mars? Would Jesus be there? Or on a planet in another galaxy?

"See," I continue, "Jesus claims to be omnipresent." I use the passage from the King James Version, John 3:13. Jesus, talking to Nicodemus said, "No man hath ever ascended up to heaven, [except] he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven (KJV)." So Jesus was talking to Nicodemus and He "is in heaven."

The nature of God is that most difficult of all the foundational doctrines. But it is also the most rewarding. You will see results more quickly talking about the nature of God with a Mormon (after you have become sure of your own theology) than you will in any other area. You may get bogged down talking about salvation theory with a Mormon, but I can promise you joy as you speak intelligently about the nature of God.

In the next chapter I will give you the material to deal with another great foundational stone: Revelation, both general and special. With a strong working knowledge in the area of the nature of God and revelation, you will be ready to talk solidly with any Mormon you encounter.

  1. Newsweek, "What Mormons Believe," September 1, 1980, p. 68
  2. History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 310-312.
  3. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1977, p. 354.
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1981, Vol. v, pp. 35-36, Vol. 14, p. 1042.
  5. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 4.
  6. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 10, p. 223.
  7. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 2, p. 345.
  8. Orson Pratt, The Seer, Washington D. C., 1854, p. 132.
  9. Pratt, p. 132.
  10. McConkie, pp. 238-239; Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 3.
  11. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6 pp. 1-7.
  12. Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 352-353.