Sunday, June 1, 2008

God the Father

As I mentioned previously, one of the Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” I would like to direct my comments today toward God the Eternal Father.

On the Nature of God

I do not believe in an incorporeal, unapproachable, unknowable God. The Bible does not paint such a picture of God, neither do other texts which I consider sacred scripture. Rather, “[God the] Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's” (D&C 130:22). Joseph Smith, one of God’s prophets, taught,

God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by His power, was to make Himself visible,—I say, if you were to see Him today, you would see Him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with Him, as one man talks and communes with another….


That God is unapproachable is likewise unscriptural. Jesus, Himself the Son of God, taught us how to pray to God, and that not by rote, but from the heart, as one speaks to one’s father. In fact, the imperative to pray always appears 14 times in scripture (Luke 21:36; 2 Nephi 32:9; 3 Nephi 18:15, 18; D&C 10:5; 19:38; 20:33; 31:12; 32:4; 61:39; 88:126; 90:24; 93:49, 50). Reasonably we might ask the question, “If we are commanded to pray to God, should we not expect direct communication with Him as the ancients had as recorded in scripture?”

That God is unknowable in any form is both contradictory to the idea of an approachable God and with the scriptural account. To the Athenians on Mar’s hill Paul declared, “I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God…made the world and all things therein… and hath determined…that [his offspring] should seek…and find him…” (Acts 17:23, 24, 26, 27).

Truly, finite “man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9)—including the infinite scope of God’s nature—but that doesn’t mean that God didn’t want us to understand Him to some degree. Else, why reveal in the scriptures that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, or just, or merciful, or truthful, etc.? To understand those characteristics of God is the beginning of knowing God.

Did not Jesus say, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent?” (John 17:3, emphasis added). Would Jesus have said that if He hadn’t meant it? We can only conclude that God is knowable. And how do we come to know God?

First, we must hear His word. Second, we must exercise faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Third, we must obey His commandments, one of which is to approach Him in prayer—a subject I have written about on a previous occasion. Finally, as God sees fit, He reveals Himself to His children by the power of the Holy Ghost. But note this: we can only know God by revelation. We can know of Him by other means, but we cannot know Him by any other principle. Thus, God remains largely unknown because many of His children do not seek to know Him.

God the Father

I believe in God the Eternal Father, and I believe that His relationship to humanity is that of a Father. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). Indeed, “have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us?” (Malachi 2:10). “And [God] hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth….For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:26, 28).

Of Job God inquired, “Where wast thou when…the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4, 7). Job could have answered, “Man was also in the beginning with God” (D&C 93:29). In other words, when God asked Job, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4) Job could have replied, “I was with thee; I was one of thy spirit children.”

Creation

One ancient prophet reasoned, “…If there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things” (2 Nephi 2:13), but here we are and that ought to get us thinking about things. Another stated, “…All things denote there is a God; …even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it…and its motion…and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator” (Alma 30:44). Thus, despite what some may say to the contrary, Paley’s observation that the complexity of the watch testifies of a watchmaker, and that the complexity of nature testifies of a Creator is, in my mind, still valid.

However, I do not believe in a creation ex nihilo. I believe that “the elements are eternal” (D&C 93:33); that matter is neither created nor destroyed; that God doesn’t make something out of nothing. Rather, I believe in the scriptural account which states, “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these [God’s spirit children] may dwell” (Abraham 3:24; emphasis added).

Clearly much more has been and could be written about God the Eternal Father. I have written previously on the existence of God and some musings on the consequences of atheism. Additionally, another blogger, Mikha’el, whom I don’t personally know, has an interesting series of posts about God. I encourage you to enter into the dialogue.

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