Mormon and Arminian Beliefs

Related posts: Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil; Grace

According to Mormon beliefs God’s work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). And we share, along with out Christian cousins, the belief that “God is love.” But Mormons are extremely bothered by some of the tenants of Calvinism. For example, the Westminster Confession says,

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestinated and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished…The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will…to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath, for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice. (Chapter 3)

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Omnipotence and the problem of evil

Related posts: Opposition in all things; Creation ex nihilo; The Fall of Man: The Doctrine

Classical theism affirms that God is omnipotent. But the meaning of this varies from person to person. Can God do only what is logically possible? Are there only non-logical limits to God’s power? Is God’s power limited by our free will? If God has all the power are we powerless? If we have some power then to what extent is God limited?

Most people don’t believe that God can make 1 + 1 + 1 = 1, but do believe God can cure the sick and prevent accidents. But understanding omnipotence to mean God can do only what is logically possible isn’t enough: It’s logically possible God doesn’t exist. Consequently, some Christians define omnipotence as having all possible power, or maximal power. Continue reading

Omniscience: Does God Learn?

Related posts: Omniscience; Immutable, Omnipresence; Whence God? Talking about God; Creation ex nihilo

Does God Learn?

If you were to ask a typical Mormon the question “Does God learn?” you would most likely get a negative response. Mormons today tend to believe in what is called the neo-classical view of God, which as it applies to divine learning means that God knows everything.

However, this was not always the case. During the 19th century the common belief among Mormons was that God is forever progressing to greater knowledge. In 1857 Apostle Wilford Woodruff (who became 4th president of the church in 1889) said, “God himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power, and dominion, and will do so, worlds without end” (JD 6:120). Brigham Young said, “The greatest intelligence in existence can continually ascend to greater heights of perfection” (JD 1:93).[1] George Q. Cannon (Apostle; d. 1901) said, “There is progress for our Father and for our Lord Jesus…It is endless progress, progressing from one degree of knowledge to another degree” (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, p. 92). General Authority B.H. Roberts (Seventy; d. 1933) wrote, “God is [not] Omniscient up to the point that further progress in knowledge is impossible to him; but that all knowledge that is, all that exists, God knows” (Seventy’s Course in Theology, vol. 4, p. 70-71).

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The Attributes of God: Omniscience and Fate

Related Posts: Immutable, Omnipresence; The Fall of Man: Defense of the Doctrine; Election; Creation ex nihilo; Omniscience and divine Learning; Whence God? Talking about God

Omniscience and Fate

Immutability leads to timelessness. And timelessness leads to ubiquity. If so then God is omnipotent and free from all spatial and temporal limitations. God is also omniscient. In contrast, the LDS belief in spiritual omnipresence does not entail timelessness or immutability, and it still allows us to believe God knows all things.[1]

A typical definition of omniscience is that God knows all truths and holds no false beliefs. Traditional omniscience includes God’s certain knowledge of past, present, and future. Of knowing past, present, and future, absolute knowledge of the future is most controversial.

In this post I explore how omniscience affects beliefs about freedom, moral responsibility, and the nature of man. If one billion years ago God knows that today I have a veggie sandwich for lunch, and because God cannot be wrong, I have no choice but to realize my fate. If God knows me completely, does that mean I am a mechanism? If I am a mechanism and/or my future was determined without me, can I be held morally responsible for my actions? Continue reading

Attributes of God: Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent

Related posts: Omniscience and Fate; Omniscience and divine learning; The Fall of Man: Defense of the Doctrine; Whence God? Talking about God

Immutable; Omnipresent; Impassible

In this six part series I explore Mormon conceptions of the attributes of God and compare them to traditional Christian beliefs. By conceptions I mean that Mormonism has no prescribed conception of the attributes of God. There are guidelines but few specifics. We don’t adhere to the traditional belief that God has one essence and three personal distinctions; we don’t accept God’s plurality and unicity. Not in any traditional sense at least. We believe the Godhead consists of three separate persons, each a God. (See Godhead: God or Gods?) Though we believe they share an intimate unity such that they may be spoken of as God, our language is along the lines of social trinitarianism; generally, that is the sense of our unqualified monotheistic language. In the posts comprising this series, when I use the word God in an LDS context it is in this generic sense. Continue reading

Whom do we worship?

Related Posts: Who is Jesus?—to a Mormon; The Nature of Christ; The Trinity; Godhead: God or Gods?

See also “Worship” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism

In the mind of most Mormons the objects of worship are God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.[1] The Holy Ghost is necessary for the true worship of the Father and the Son; it is through the Holy Ghost that we worship in spirit and in truth, for “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 5:5).

The concept of worship in Mormonism is not strictly defined. Those in heaven “sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost” (Mormon 7:7); the ordinance of baptism is performed “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 20:73); our prayers are directed to God the Father and are done in the name of Jesus Christ; and the first words every newly confirmed church member hears are, “Receive the Holy Ghost” (D&C 49:13-14). Continue reading

The First Vision

Related Posts: Godhead: God or Gods?; Who is Jesus?—to a Mormon; Whom do we Worship?; The Trinity

Joseph Smith’s first revelatory experience is known among Mormons as the first vision. Joseph’s four known accounts of this experience are from 1842, 1838, 1835, and 1832. These accounts were either written by Joseph himself or were dictated by him to a scribe.

The first vision experience

Between the age of fourteen and fifteen Joseph began to wonder which of all the religious denominations is correct, and was concerned about his own standing before God. One night as he was reading the Bible he came First Visionacross a passage from the book of James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). Joseph decided to do as James suggested and pray for guidance. He writes, “for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (JS-History 1:12). With these questions in mind he retired one morning to a secluded place to pray. As he began to offer his prayer Continue reading

Creation ex nihilo

Related posts: Immutable, Omnipresence; Omniscience; The Fall of Man: Defense of the Doctrine; Election

Creation ex nihilo refers to the act of God creating all things (other than himself), without the aid of and precluding the existence of any primeval matter. In simple terms it means creation out of nothing. This concept is accepted by most Christian denominations including the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches, and Protestant denominations.
Hebrews 11:3 is a common defense of this belief. It reads, “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Or as it reads in the New American Standard Bible, “that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (See also 2 Macc. 7:28). Continue reading

Adam-God Theory

Related Posts: The Fall of Man: Part I; Adam-ondi-Ahman and Eden; Angels

Anti-Mormon writers use a theory called the Adam-God Theory, with which they make the claim that Mormons believe Adam is God the Father; and also, that within the Mormon faith, this is (or was) a deeply held and secret belief.

The theory stems from a sermon delivered by Brigham Young on April 9, 1852. Here is the passage in question.

Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken–He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later.

…Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. (JD 1:50-51)

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