Mormonism has a distinctive view of God that differs quite a bit from that of traditional theism. And though we as Latter-day Saints recognize and most often celebrate the differences, in our Sunday and typical discourse about God and God’s power and influence, we very often sound as if there is little distinctiveness. One way into a discussion of things like this is through the term “worship.” The Bible and LDS scriptures all speak of “worshiping” God, yet the term has pretty distinct meanings in wider theism that perhaps don’t match up with the kinds of attitudes toward God that Mormon claims might suggest. (For instance, in the LDS view, would God even be interested in being “worshiped”?) This concept of worship, then, becomes a good diving off point into the wider discussions about LDS versus traditional theism, concepts like omnipotence, and whether the LDS God could really even be considered a God with a “capital G” (God) or if better described with a “lower-case g” (god).
In these episodes, Dennis Potter poses such questions about Mormon views and language about God, calling for greater clarity. Jim McLachlan and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon respond with reasons for their still preferring the LDS view of God and why terms like God and omnipotence and worship should be allowed breathing room and a chance to evolve in ways that avoid charges of dodging certain issues or equivocating on terms in order to still have a coherent and compelling view.
These two episodes have an interesting history. The second one (Episode 183) was recorded first, but it was ultimately rejected as not being a good fit for Mormon Matters podcast as it ended up being just too philosophically technical, too jargony and with too many side trips that took it away from the topic of LDS vs. traditional theism. It truly unfolded as two friends—Dennis and Jim—who hadn’t been able to speak in a long while, catching up and doing what they love to do, while employing all the shorthands and assuming each other’s previous familiarity with the philosophers and history of discussion they are engaged in. The philosophy geeks among the Mormon Matters listeners will likely enjoy this discussion, so we still post it here (though).
Episode 182, then, is the discussion that took place after we shut down the other one, a discussion in which we stayed much more on topic and went far less into subtle philosophical distinctions. Though still a few side trips! Impossible to avoid, but these, we think, are still of general interest to most listeners.
We hope you will enjoy and share comments below! No guilt please if you only listen to the first episode!
It could be my phone, but I’m not seeing episode #183
Thanks, Riley. Not up yet (later today). Mentioned it in the FB posts but forgot to note it here. Sorry!
I am glad that you included the second (deep dive 183) episode. I actually enjoyed it more than the first. I am glad that you decided to include it.
I was struck by the Dennis’ insistence that the theoretical/ideal was of greater value than the actual thing because as he put it — the actual thing can let you down.
Dennis also kept referring to the Abrahamic sacrifice of Isaac during the discussion, and during one of those times an idea occurred to me that perhaps Dennis actually prefers a God that does demand one to sacrifice their own son, as to not have an ultimate attachment that can actually let you down. This God he seems to reason is one that, if he or any exists at all, is the only kind of one that makes sense to worship. He alone can guarantee your salvation.
I wonder if I might be so bold (and foolish) to try and derive
meaning from Abrahamic story (if there is any redeemable qualities to it at all). Perhaps what Abraham learned that day was that God is not the type of being that demands ultimate obedience to his every whim in order to feel loved and worshipped, rather it was a lesson to demonstrate that one’s own ethics should not be abandoned in lieu of some ultimate authority (no power of influence — expect persuasion, love, etc…), but instead one should choose to love real people over imaginary love affairs with their gods and their egos — and that the only God worth worshipping is the one that would make himself the sacrifice.
In response to the suburban hillbilly version:
Listening to three men argue over the nuanced manifestations of a male-gendered god without one iota of consideration to the female narrative is mind numbing. Step out of the man-cave, guys. In regards to the Mormon god, even if I were to ascend to the perfected being I have been told I can become, I am still bound to eternal deference and submission to my husband who is, within the male/female hierarchical framework, my god. Dan, you say we choose how much like God we want to be? Well, I don’t have that choice. As a woman, I am and always will be bound to the worship of a male god. Jim, Mormonism isn’t a hierarchy? Coercion isn’t essential to Mormonism? Really? Ask that question to the women in your life.
Gentlemen, besides Dennis throwing the female listener that tiny speck of a bone by his passing mention of gender essentialism, when you can’t constructively bring 50% of the population, without bias, into the argument then all of it becomes moot. In other words, if women can’t be factored in as equal beings to men then aren’t we all just wasting our time?
Allison, I’m sorry your experience was so negative. I don’t recall any real openings in this episode to speak much about God as Divine Couple (talking broader about Big and small G Gods/gods), so you’re right that we didn’t really make that a point, but it is certainly always in my consciousness. (And clearly included in many MM discussions.) My strong habit (though still imperfectly kept to, unfortunately) is to never use male pronouns for God except when quoting someone who has, preferring “god” and godself.” And certainly every empowerment we spoke of in this episode, I’m sure all of us on this panel would agree, are empowerments women are called to equally. In the same way, none of us here claim that Mormonism isn’t hierarchical, but we also expounded on a higher version (closer to LDS core sensibilities) of that. You talk of coercion. Would any of us really have said it’s “essential to Mormonism”? Are you hearing this slant? Jim and I are process thinkers who see deep similarities in Mormon thought: coercion or unilateral power play is never an ideal–God only works through love and persuasion and calling/luring. It’s the only power God has and uses. We choose to respond positively or negatively to those lures.
If the Church hasn’t caught up to its metaphysical first principles/deeper teachings on these things, and if women are still relegated to have a male god as primary model, that only strengthens our critique that we all need to keep pushing these deeper sensibilities. They are the ones that keep me engaged with the tradition. They are ones I try to find openings to give attention to in every LDS setting I can. I’m sorry you didn’t experience me doing that here with regard to female deity. It was always in my heart even if the discussion didn’t call it out from my mouth this time around.
Dan, I appreciate your response and acknowledge your continual push towards a deeper sensibility. Your personal efforts to keep God gender-neutral did not go unnoticed by me. However, the introductory graphic used for this podcast is that of a male god (was that intentional or unintentional?), which I’m actually okay with because we’re talking about the Mormon god here who is undeniably male. When I stated “female narrative” I was speaking of my own narrative as a woman and probably should have used “female perspective” instead. In my perspective, the Mormon god is constrained by gender. As I look at the Mormon god through the constraints of my own gender, no matter how loving He is, I don’t see that I have any other choice but to worship Him. I think you may have misread my comment about coercion. I was referring to Jim’s statement that he believes coercion is NOT essential to Mormonism. But I wonder, because of the human limitations of gender alone, could it be possible that the Mormon god can only function through coercion? For me, the question isn’t if He is worthy of worship but if our worship is necessary for Him to function as God. I can’t ask these questions within any other framework than that of gender.
The God you describe in your above response, who’s only power is love, that’s the God I am drawn to. But I wouldn’t characterize God as “using” that power. The God I can relate to IS that power and does not seek worship in the form of a verb but is worthy of worship in the form of a noun.
Good to chat. I definitely can’t inhabit the female perspective, so take the following for what it’s worth, but isn’t the LDS view of Heavenly Parents (no God can be God without a partner) pretty well established these days? I’m sure it isn’t carefully noted in typical discourse (see your original comment, which I really appreciated!), but when you say things like “I don’t see that I have any other choice but to worship Him,” it doesn’t seem to me that you’re giving yourself the permission that you certainly have (even in orthodox Mormonism) and certainly from God (whatever Deity is). Habit and culture are definitely hard to break through to reach a different level of experience, but it’s the soul’s call/THE human journey to do so. I can only speak from my own experience on that, but I seriously cannot remember the last time I have felt constrained by Spirit or my own soul’s whispering to not trust my own experiences against those who have not brought the things to consciousness and worked over in the ways I have, just as you are bringing them to yours. With that confidence, you will then find yourself able to speak these truths to power in a very effective way. And in this case, the good news is the “truth” being spoken to power is already accepted doctrine–it’s just covered over, not held up enough. It’s a job for all of us who have met God for and in ourselves–our gendered bodies included.
Your comments on whether a god like the Mormon one needs to be worshiped in order to function ties to big questions in philosophy. Have you ever read Plato’s dialogue called Euthyphro? Dead on target here. And my response is yes, given Mormon starting points, Gods are not gods unless they have persuaded and keep persuading other eternally existing entities to join with them, see them as the most loving beings in the universe and beings who model types of joy and happiness and rich experience that is possible for us, etc. Otherwise we are free to go to other parts of the universe in search of better Gods. I don’t think what I just said is “worship” in the way Dennis described it, but it is an honoring, an attraction toward, a paying attention to. And it’s a zero coercion model.
What am I missing here in terms of the gender piece? For me, all this operates way below/prior to gender.
Thanks for any response!
I may be guilty of oversimplifying the matter to make my point. When I say “I have no choice” I say it rhetorically. I say it because, despite the established LDS view of Heavenly Parents, the female partner in the Mormon narrative is, for the most part, undeniably absent. The female version of Diety is not equal to her male partner in ways I’m sure you are aware of. Because of this, and because I am a woman, I can’t help but see the Mormon version of God through the lens of my gender. Men, on the other hand, have the luxury of seeing the nature of the Mormon God through the lens of God because even though God is God, the Mormon God is also a man. So I still stand by my original comments. Even though inherently implied in this episode that the conversation was, as you stated, “closer to the core LDS sensibilities,” I personally find it impossible to have (or listen to) a discussion about the Mormon God without considering the hierarchical nature of Mormonism. Perhaps, at the very least, qualifying the discussion by stating that the established “LDS view of Heavenly Parents” is something you are intentionally choosing to overlook in order to “expound on a higher version” would have made it more palatable for me.
I really appreciate and have an understanding of what you have to say about the need to overcome habit and culture within Mormonism. Allowing myself to step outside the constraints of Mormonism and (using your words) trust my own experience has set me on a course–lured me–towards my soul’s call. With that includes my need to abandon the model of Heavenly Parents. But just because an anthropomorphized God doesn’t work for me certainly doesn’t mean I can’t recognize “truth” or God or the nature of God within orthodox or even cultural Mormonism. However, those truths do not reconcile untruths. I have met God because God lives in me through love. Am I persuaded by that love? Absolutely. No coercion involved. Would Mormon orthodoxy agree with this model? Probably. But, there are a lot of mixed messages in Mormonism which can make it hard to navigate. Harder for some than others. These messages muddy the waters of truth. Does this mean I deny those truths? No, I don’t. Neither do I deny the untruths. If my inability to examine truth without considering untruth proves a weakness on my part then I’m okay with that.
(No, I have not read Euthryphro.)
I’m sorry if my statement that “coercion wasn’t essential to Mormonism sounded off to you. I didn’t mean by it that there hasn’t been a lot of coercion in Mormonism. What I meant is that it seems to me that coercion is contrary to what I hope is it most essential nature. If I believed otherwise I’d have to leave too.
One thing that I thought I’d said in the podcast was that I believed was a community. I tend to think of them as ancestors who have achieved a far more perfect love than we have but invite us to participate in that love. That would be men and women and not just heavenly parents. I don’t like the idea that God is just an old white guy anymore than you seem to. What I hope for is that the divine is personal, meaning that it’s persons that I can love, communicate with, and respect.
But all this is just theory and story. What I really like about Mormonism is that whether there is anything beyond this life or not I should see others as potentially or perhaps already divine. They are my brothers and sisters and I need to respect them. I’m don’t regard myself as a very spiritual person but that particular aspect of Mormonism is why I stay in.
I think its important to stay, though I don’t blame anyone who leaves, because I think that each of us can work to improve the community and bring it closer to the kind of Zion society where coercion might finally end.
Jim and Dan,
Thanks both for your thoughts. I absolutely don’t doubt that the influence of Grace can be found within Mormonism. Jim, regarding our ancestors, if I were to hold reverence for anything within Mormonism it would be for the men and women that toiled with dedication to create a soft path for us to follow if we chose to do so. Without them, Mormonism dissolves. That path can be a blessing and a burden but if we choose it, the richness of their testimonies can help to sustain. It sounds to me as if you have gotten past “the story” and have gone straight to those we call our brothers and sisters for the divine. In this case then I agree with your conclusion on coercion.
I have only just got around to this episode and have been reading the discussion here with interest. I know this is extremely late, but this idea of a male versus female God or of a male God having a female partner has intrigued me. Personally because I’m not LDS I don’t see God as a gendered deity married to another gendered deity, but as a deity where gender does not apply in the way it applies to us humans. I think it’s probably a product of the cultural patriarchy that God got referred to as a “he” but I personally think God has this kind of yin and yang nature that combines the best qualities humans like to attribute to each gender.
Christ as an incarnation was biologically and socially male, but isn’t it amazing how he shattered those gender stereotypes in his own life, and how his nature seems to have contained the best of both genders regardless of his biological gender – how he was complete in that sense. And actually, I think that’s a pointer to us, biologically male, female or, in some cases, other: Not to be constrained by social stereotypes of what males and females “should” be – not to allow part of our potential natures to be underdeveloped or amputated.
So I guess I don’t see it as female and male entities needing to complete each other in perpetuity, as much as each person needing to develop freely as a person, regardless of gender… and perhaps genders being pointers to a need for development in other directions, rather than meant as eternal constraints.
Femaleness and maleness are not always so simple and unalterable in nature. There are barnacles who live in stacks one on top of each other, for instance. The top one is always male. When a new barnacle lands on top and starts to grow, it becomes male, and the one underneath it changes from a fully functional male to a fully functional female. That process continues while the stack grows higher and is just an expression of survival advantage for that species. It’s effective for the male gametes to get to the female gametes that way. Garden snails are hermaphrodites and can function as both males and females, often simultaneously. Many plants are functional hermaphrodites. As a person with a biology background, I just don’t see gender in the usual binary way that humans usually see it because of self-referencing.
So as a human female I’ve never really felt left out by my God. I think in Christ there was a lot of inclusivity, not only of females into a bigger sphere of importance than their culture commonly assigned to them (Jesus was forever talking to women as equals and closely befriending them and defending them and talking theology and other serious things with them) but also because Christ’s own nature was so well balanced regardless of external biological gender. I think it’s many of the guys that inhabited Christianity after Christ left who tried so hard to put women back into a box, and you can see that in so many places in the epistles. But that doesn’t unduly concern me, because they were written by flawed humans, and so I don’t have to take them so seriously. Christ’s actions speak so much louder than anyone’s words. 🙂
Episodes 182 &183 were friggin fantastic. Loved the free-form, unfettered, yet robust and respectful dialogue and debate! These two have been among my favorites. Great work and outstanding topic!
I’m trying to hunt down the quote you briefly mentioned from Joseph Smith about “not wanting to be trampled upon”. Can you help out a brother?
My notes have it from History of the Church 5:340. Context, if I recall, was a man named Peletiah Brown being called up for excommunication over teaching something about the spirits of animals.
Full quote (at least that I have; I no longer have a HC set to check more fully) is:
“I do not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”
One other thought. As I felt Mormonism slipping away, I began to question the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth as well as the existence of God. Both Jesus and God were saved by sources outside our faith tradition – Bart Ehrman and Natural Theology. The problem with the latter is that the arguments for the existence of God, as presented in Natural Theology, argue for the God of classical theism; not the God of Mormonism. So, I have to agree with Dennis. The God of classical theism is based on philosophical arguments. And I find the arguments very compelling.
So here I am. Still an active, believing Mormon, but now struggling because I like the God of Mormonism yet the Natural Theology arguments are very compelling. The God(s) of Mormonism are not immutable; they are ontologically the same as us; they are literally our Heavenly Parents. But just because I like the God(s) of Mormonism, does it make them true?
Wow, the irony – looking down on Mormons as being smugly judgemental in such a smugly judgemental way. Astounding!
I’d like to hear more about why Dennis thinks Darwinism eliminates purpose and final cause. If anything I think such theories must necessarily be based on teleology.
i think a core mormon definition of worship is found in section 93, right after the verses about Christ growing “from grace to grace”, the Lord says, ” I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.” So understanding and following the same process as Christ is true worship, which i think is a distinctly different view of why the LDS God might require and deserve to be worshipped.
Excellent, Steven. Thanks! Definitely different from the definition that Dennis was proposing (puts forth as the standard one), but this is a good way to think of a decently unique Mormon view that still fairly uses that term. I like it.
Jim and Dan,
I would have to say that you two are arguing for what you would like Mormonism to be, and Dennise is arguing for what Mormonism currently is. I hate to tell you, but as you remove the hierarchy Mormonism will not stand. I feel It is the dogma and hierarchy that currently sustains it. This is especially true in light of all the historical issues. I’m afraid you will never see the Mormonism that you two envision (as wonderful as that might be). Sadly, most people thrive on the current structure and never want to see it changed (submit to leadership authority, follow the prophet, when the prophet speaks the thinking has been done, etc). Have you ever heard the expression that you are “peeing in the wind”. I’m afraid that is the case here.
Speaking to the conversation about Jim and Dan being self-deceived by staying in the church, I want to add that if everyone in the church who ever has a faith crisis leaves, there will be no one left to help people like me who have suddenly gone through their own faith crisis. Part of life is not just moving forward yourself, but looking back to help others.
Both podcasts were such great discussions! I wasn’t only inspired by the content, but by the mere fact that there was this open discussion. Our current Church culture may not be like this (and may never be), but as I person struggling/wrestling with faith it awesome to hear an open discussion. I am not a trained theologian or philosopher, but so many of the ideas that were discussed and put forth by Dan and Jim are consistent with so many truths I have come to through my own seeking.
I also appreciate the comments that others have posted. It gives me a place to potentially be a part of more great discussion.
Really enjoyed this one, particularly the deep dive session as they both seemed more relaxed in that one. Enjoyed them both. Hope Dennis hangs around the church, its a big tent and we could use more folks around (even if they’re not members) with his passion for ideas. I’ve become a huge Jim M fan from Mormon Matters. Big ideas in his paper “Of Time and Eternity”. I recommend it. The idea that we can’t be saved alone, only with others and as we try to help others save themselves gave me a richer idea of the Savior’s teaching that we would find our life by losing it. More Jim!
Another thoroughly enjoyable/enlightening/disturbing (all equally good things) discussion. I remember Dennis fondly from a Chauncy Riddle class at BYU and loved his paper “Did Christ Atone for Our Sins?” which I have surreptitiously quoted in sacrament meeting. I was waiting with eagerness for his Book of Mormon Liberation Theology project which it seems will now probably not happen.
That is why it is sad to lose one to the atheist materialists, it was just more fun to have them as mormon-style limited-theist materialists. Oh well, you have to break some eggs.
I would not be so quick to worry that the “deep dive” was too inaccessable. I would have been very sad not to have heard it. Non-PhD-in-philosophy-holders like myself could still keep up. There was a lot of focus on the size of the “g”, though. I am not certain that if the god/God of Mormonism were to really appear to Dennis he would be so sanguine about not worshipping Him/him/Her/her/Them/them. But that is just me.
And, by the by, Dan: you always have me after about 5 minutes. I have to totally agree that despite the Orthodox veneer, most Mormons are little “Liahonas in Embryo”. You just have to speak their language and reason together in love. That is what I have found. And, isn’t that what Elder’s Quorum is for?
Dan, keep fighting the good fight and bringing us the great material.
Jim, I’ve not met you, but you are one of the good ones. Dennis, you too (despite the loss of the liberation theology thing which would have been salutary for the still-Mormon).
Dan said at the 51 min mark that Mormonism doesn’t require that the leaders be followed as God’s authority. He claims that Mormonism isn’t focused on obedience to authority, not on judgement, not on exclusivity. For me, this confirmed that I love Dan and Jim’s version of the Gospel better than Mormonism, and what they advocate is not Mormonism.
Dan’s version of the gospel is fowler + plato + selective Joseph Smith–not mormonism.
Great discussion, both times. Although, on try 1 I wish Jim would have focused on the Mormon God instead of attacking Spinoza and Dennis. The troubles of Spinoza’s ethics (which Jim outlined well) stole the show, while the harder job of defending the mormon’s God (note the big G) was neglected.
Interestingly, i think the answer to the title question: “is the mormon god worthy of worship?” wasn’t really answered directly. I think however, that you would all answer NO since you all agree the only mormon god that makes sense is a limited or little g god and therefore can’t be our primary concern. Further, because he could cease to be god and is subject to laws and principles that are bigger than him, we must focus on living principles like love and look to god only as an empowered exemplar.
Am I right that the mormon god is not worthy of worship (according to the definition offered in the podcast 183)?
I realize I am responding quite late, but I am just starting to listen to these, and am only half way through the first one. But I have to stop and make a comment because I feel strongly about something (and maybe this gets resolved later on…). I have to agree with Dennis about the Mormon view of God and salvation being very exclusive. Dan says that if you just give him 10 minutes with the “exclusive” Mormon, he will eventually admit to a more inclusive God. I strongly disagree with Dan, and agree with Dennis. I’m an active Mormon (secretly liberal) and my husband is very orthodox. I have tried to talk to him about some of these things on Mormon matters and Mormon stories, in a pretty decent way (i.e. not judgemental of him, more of excitement for my own ideas), and it has backfired every time. He gets more rigid, more fearful, and it has even gotten to the point where he has warned some of my older kids about me and my ideas. So, because that is very hard for me (and we have talked about it), I have chosen to keep my “liberal and inclusive” ideas to myself rather than have my kids think I’m “dangerous”. And it’s not just my husband. It’s one of my sisters and her husband, it’s some of my neighbors, it’s my in-laws. I kind of wonder what world you are living in Dan (not to be offensive) where you don’t realize how strongly Mormons can be orthodox? And exclusive? One day I should invite you to one of my primary presidency meetings, and you should hear what they all say when I bring more “inclusive” ideas up- they look at me like I am from the Devil. What about “saving” ordinances? What about the view that everyone has to have gone through our temples (living or dead) in order to be “saved” in the Celestial Kingdom? I totally agree with Dennis about the mindset of missionary work in our church. I went on a mission too. I was drilled in the MTC and on my mission about how we needed to convert the “elect” who were waiting for us, those who were ready and willing to accept the “full truth”. We weren’t out there to promote love and kindness, everything we taught related to getting people to be baptized into the Mormon church, and how to become “good LDS people” who can go through the temple in a year and then be saved. And pay tithing. (boy do I remember the nightly calls to district leaders to report our glorious numbers) I don’t remember much of our purpose being to go out and encourage people to love one another and Jesus loves you or to realize we all worship the same GOd who will save all of his children, etc. etc.. It was all about joining the ONE and ONLY true church. Also, as a kid (and even up until about a year ago, and I’m 40 now) I remember growing up with this kind of fear about nonmembers. That it was only Mormons who had these great standards about moral living. Hanging out with nonmembers would be bad for me because they would surely tempt me to do bad things. And as an adult, my view of nonmembers included only relationships that would eventually lead to their conversion to the church. Not JUST to be friends. Always a push to get them to join. This is exclusivity in practice. This church may have scripture and words of prophets that don’t seem so exclusive, but it’s certainly not promoted or emphasized or taught regularly in church and conference. The exclusivity is. And that is part of why I have “changed” to be a more liberal Mormon- I got sick of it. I am really enjoying the permission I have given myself to be friends with my nonmember neighbors just because I like them. And I don’t have to convert them. Ever. But I get this from websites like yours and mormonstories and Feminist Mormon Housewives. Not from regular church or conference. And I have chosen to be “secret” about it because of the negative responses I get from the orthodox people I am surrounded by. I sure wish 10 minutes would do it, but frankly, I would consider anyone who can do it with the orthodox people I know a miracle worker.
Finally I found a very useful website about Mormonism on the web! I wish I would have found it 2 years ago…you are doing great.
I’m new to Mormon matters, and I am loving it so far. I consider myself to be a fairly conservative, mainsteam Mormon, but I see the gospel in much the way Dan described it, as a profound and beautiful message of self growth and development and wherever we end up on that journey is completely up to us. Rather than being at the mercy of an angry, vengeful God, we are blessed to be succored by one who knows the way because he (Christ) has walked that way himself. I do not in anyway identify with how Dennis described Mormons, nor do I believe most members in my ward or stake, including the leaders I serve closely with, would fit Dennis’s description of the typical Mormon.
I must admit though that I found the constant comparisons between God and Buddha a bit odd, at least from a worshipability standpoint. Buddhists do not believe that they are the spirit children of Buddha, or that Buddha created the earth and sent them here as place for them become as he is. Buddhists do not believe that Buddha atoned for them as Christ did in order to succor them in all their challenges, or that Buddha can dwell in them as the holy ghost can. Nor do they believe that Buddha will grant them a perfect resurrected body. About the only similarity seems to lay in Buddha as an exemplar. All this makes the Mormon Godhead far more worthy of our devotion and trust than Buddha.
Thank you Dan for pointing out that if one is to judge Mormonism, they should do so with full acknowledgement of the best parts of Mormonism rather than focusing solely on the inevitable human tendencies found within the church..
Hi all, I’m a non-LDS listener, I really enjoyed these two podcasts, especially the “nerdy” version. It’s really interesting to think about how different philosophical and religious traditions have dealt with the concept of God.
A few thoughts: I don’t see God as anthropomorphic (thereby also avoiding the problems of anthropocentric ideas about the human race and its allegedly superior position in the biosphere, which has been used to justify so much abuse of this planet and other species) and I do see God as still being personal and accessible, without any loss of omniscience, omnipotence etc. I don’t think God has to be confined to time and space to be personal, I think God can make himself personal to us, and at the same time still be beyond total comprehension and a mystery – that idea that all the oceans in the world would still only represent a drop of understanding, etc. I don’t have a problem reconciling those ideas, but then as a science buff I am used to things like wave-particle duality as well. In philosophy I often see extreme positions argued rather than syntheses that could reconcile those positions. I think the syntheses are the most interesting positions in general, and I have a hunch that they are often closer to what’s actually going on in reality.
In traditional Christianity, the biggest step God has taken to be comprehensible to us is to become temporarily embodied as a human being in Jesus Christ. Jesus used a lot of metaphor in his theological discussions to point to things that couldn’t be defined by or confined to human concepts or language, and he was clearly at odds with the religious establishment of the time (and I think churches and organisations who think they would be beyond that critique if Christ repeated a teaching appearance are kidding themselves).
In Christ’s own words, if you’ve seen him, you’ve seen the Father: And I don’t think “see” is synonymous with “understand completely” either, or that this is necessary. I think the potential relationship between a human and God only get bigger when the concept of God is given more space… I don’t think God can be crammed into a box, nor should we attempt it.
I do think the more limited concept of God that I see in Mormonism looks like short-changed theology there, which is a pity because in so many other ways you guys go outside the box and outside restricted thinking – like not being confined to the idea that you convert to Christianity in this lifetime or perish in a superheated frying pan (or, in more moderated views, become eternally cut off from God, which is less childish but not less painful, I think for either party), and by thinking the inspiration of God can be found in so many things, and by not generally running down other religions and calling them instruments of Satan (at worst) or useless (at best), and by generally tending to think that all life is also spiritual rather than just Homo sapiens. At least, those are attitudes I’ve seen in LDS friends and in MM and MS podcasts.
Anyone here who read CS Lewis’ “Out of The Silent Planet”? Now that was an interesting take on how the divine might exist in this universe. A really nice novel to read because it goes counter to the usual human idea of “species on other planets must be sci-fi monsters out to get us” – and shows how humans are actually projecting as a species there. It also shows an alternative possibility of how different intelligent species might co-exist and appreciate each other – which really shows us up as a species, in our behaviour to each other and to the planet as a whole.