For many who find themselves in the middle of a faith crisis, casting about for new footing and ways of orienting to life and others, one of largest stumbling blocks is often their view of God. All of a sudden, as they find themselves far more aware of the confusion that marks life on earth, of the horrendous suffering experienced by so many, or the multitude of paths and choices we all must face, the idea of an omnipotent God who is also loving begins to crack. A frequent refrain we’ll hear is for the need to dismiss the idea of a God who regularly helps people with small things such as finding their lost keys yet who does not stop the terrible evils all around, such a that of people being sold into sexual slavery. Interestingly, for Mormons who encounter this disconnect between a God of power and God of love, already built into its theology—however, one that is too often overlooked—is a radically different view of God that mitigates some of this sting. This episode is designed to serve as a reminder of the fundamentally different view of God, God’s power, God’s life, God’s relationship with persons and other existents in this world that Mormonism holds. And it is these views that, though they don’t make suffering go away, for many Latter-day Saints still allow them to have a deep and abiding faith in a God. For them, it is a wonderful God, even in this God’s vulnerability.
Fiona Givens, James McLachlan, and Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon are three such Latter-day Saints who find the LDS framing of God to be rich, deep, and empowering. They find themselves drawn toward this God who is “in the fray” with the rest of creation rather than being outside it, a God who cannot, even if God wanted to, control what unfolds in life, yet who will always return love for hate, largeness whenever faced with smallness, and who suffers “with” us as we meet life’s vicissitudes. In this two-part discussion, they describe this God and why they are attracted to this Being. They also discuss God’s power and its limits, and how this affects their views of scripture (which often depicts an angry God who destroys cities and persons), and God’s ways of intervening in things like healing. In the final section, they argue as well for the superiority of time over eternity and why a God who exists in time alongside other free agents is the only one they could ever truly love.
Terryl Givens and Fiona Givens, The God Who Weeps: How Mormons Make Sense of Life (Deseret Book, 2015)
James McLachlan, “Of Time and All Eternity: God and Others in Mormonism and Heterodox Christianity,” Sunstone, July 2008
Daniel Wotherspoon, Awakening Joseph Smith: Resources in Mormonism for a Postmodern Worldview (doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate University, 1996)