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Do Mormons believe in an Omni- God?

January 16, 2013

(Or perhaps, the better question might be: do Mormons know they don’t believe in an omni- God?)

Every so often, I’ll see a discussion on Facebook, usually of someone who is disaffected from Mormonism, asking some question about God. The thing is…they’ll usually address their question at a concept of God that makes more sense in a non-Mormon context, and makes little sense in a Mormon context. For example:

Sincere questions for those who believe in an intervening God:
1. Do you believe God is limited in his ability to intervene in everyone’s life? If so, how do you reconcile this belief with the concept that God is omnipotent, all-powerful?
2. If you believe God CAN intervene in everyone’s life, do you believe that he does, or does he intervene selectively? If selective, why?
3. If he does intervene in everyone’s life (assuming fairly), are some people just unable to recognize it?
4. If he intervenes just selectively, does believing in God’s selective intervention in your life require you to believe you are somehow chosen or more special than God’s other children who were not privileged to receiving his attention and care?

Sorry, lots of questions, but I am interesting in your thoughts.

The second question in number 1 just doesn’t really make sense. Mormonism doesn’t have the concept that God is omnipotent, all-powerful.

…Or does it?

I wonder if members of the LDS church aren’t even actually in agreement on this. I can imagine many members going about thinking that functionally, God has all the major omni-s — omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. I imagine that when non-LDS Christians talk about how Mormons believe in “another Jesus,” or whatever, Mormons are quick to highlight all the similarities or samenesses in belief — even when Mormons may actually have a distinct Christology.

In the same way, when speaking about God in general, I can imagine that many members would blanch at the critique that the Mormon God is a limited God.

…at the same time, I think there are many Mormons who recognize the limitations of an omni- God. Or, even if they don’t recognize the limitations, they will recognize what they find to be distasteful conclusions that must be drawn about an omnipotent God. The questions from above, I think, are meant to try to tap at those distasteful conclusions.

So, with The God Who Weeps, we see Terryl and Fiona Givens emphasizing the limitations of God to make him a more sympathetic character — he is worthy of worship because he exposes his vulnerability out of his choice. We have agency that he cannot touch (and since he’s not omniscient [???], it’s not like the choices we will make are already set down.)

 

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27 Comments
  1. Andrew, I think you put your finger on something really important here. This highlights part of the problem with Mormonism’s eclectic and oftentimes inconsistent theology. If I understand our history correctly, this was the subject of some heated discussion in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the problem has remained unresolved since then. I was looking just the other day at some correspondence between Eugene England (one of the patron saints of Mormon liberalism) and Bruce McConkie (one of its boogey-men), who apparently could not come to any useful consensus on the topic (see this: http://www.eugeneengland.org/selected-writings/from-his-papers).

    I wrote a little bit about this when I started my own blog (http://amateurmormontheology.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/chapter-1-the-nature-of-god/).

  2. Andrew, I must admit that the concept of a limited God is totally new to me. Perhaps it is because I’ve never read The God Who Weeps. So, this post kind of goes over my head. What I’ve read in the scriptures, and my own experiences with the manifestations of the Spirit, have given me an understanding that God is omnipotent and I haven’t drawn any distasteful conclusions about that. Perhaps, though, my understanding is different than the norm? I don’t know. What I do know, or what I assert as my understanding of the matter, is the following:

    That everything God does is an impossibility, meaning that He only works via miraculous means; that at the beginning, all things were a blank slate, so to speak, an impossible potential, or a potential impossibility, in other words, everything began as untapped potential, which was, itself, impossible to tap; that God did the impossible and tapped it anyway; that in doing so, He created a new set of possibles and impossibles, for all created things, including Himself; that the new, created (by God) set of of impossibles is a subset of the original impossible potential and insofar as He Himself is concerned, consist of things in which He doesn’t have faith; that impossibles, insofar as everything else is concerned, also follow the same principle and thus accord to the faith of God, meaning that the limitations of all things are the limitations that He has set by His faith; that all things that we say God is able to do are still impossibilities made possible by His faith, meaning that it is all still a miracle; that all things we say God is unable to do (or powerless to do) is another manifestation of his matchless power in creating impossible limitations in which there originally were no limitations, in other words, that the limitations of the Universe and the laws given by God are, themselves, miracles; that all such talk of limitations of God come from a limited understanding of how He wields His power, for He has all power that exists in the Universe and uses all those powers according to the purpose He has given it, vicariously through agents, etc.

    So, when a person says that God’s power is limited because He can’t take away agency or force people to do things, that is spoken from a limited understanding of the power of God. God has an agent that utilizes a power to destroy agency and forces people to do things they do not want to do. We call him Satan. Where did Satan get this power? From God. God uses many agents to serve His many purposes. Elder Chantdown recently wrote on the LDS Anarchy blog:

    This is the strange act of the same Father who stood not in conflict but in conversation with Lucifer. Notice even in the super-sacred-secret, copyrighted, intellectual property of the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Corporation Sole) video production of the Temple Drama, how cool and collect Elohim is in his correspondence with Lucifer. Lucifer ap-PARENT-ly sees his own PARENT as an enemy. But, God The Father appears to not be distressed in the slightest. Lucifer says “If you do that then I’ll do this!” God responds with a “Works for me” tone. Everything and everyone, including, yes, The Devil, works for Elohim.

    Again, the Creator possesses all power, both to create and destroy, both to enliven and to kill, both to set limits and remove limits. And He utilizes all His powers according to His divine purposes. What we see as a “limitation on His power” is a created limitation, meaning one of His creations. So, whenever people say God can’t do this or God can’t do that, claiming that He is not omnipotent because of these limitations, they are revealing their ignorance of His very nature, for it is in His very nature to set limitations and bounds to all things. Those bounds cannot be passed because no one or no group is more powerful than He is.

    So, when we find scriptures that state that God can’t lie or else He will cease to be God, this doesn’t mean that some greater power has bound God, but that God has bound God, or set a limitation even to Himself, according to His nature. This is why He is both all-powerful, but not a dictator or tyrant. All things love and obey Him voluntarily because of His magnanimity in binding Himself to all things in these ways.

    As for omniscience, yes, He is that, too. He can see all futures, both possible and impossible futures, but, according to His miraculous nature, His dealings are always with the impossibles. In other words, He works to give us impossible futures, too, like His own. All of this deals with the doctrine of God’s faith, which is absolute, meaning that whatsoever God has faith in, comes to pass, or is brought into existence. But I won’t go into that here, as this comment is already too long, as it is. Hopefully, I’ve explained myself to your understanding.

  3. LDS Anarchist,

    What an interesting comment…I can’t say I’ve ever heard anyone express all THAT before. I don’t really know how to respond, since I don’t think I really get it. But just to comment on one part.

    You say:

    God has an agent that utilizes a power to destroy agency and forces people to do things they do not want to do. We call him Satan.

    I haven’t really heard anyone describe Satan like this — I haven’t heard anyone say that Satan *forces* people to do things they do not want to do. My understanding is that most people who try to relate sin, temptation, and Satan together put temptation as being some sort of inclination, or desire, or want. It’s a prompting. So, firstly, one *wants* to do whatever he is tempted to.

    However, one is not forced to give in to temptation. That’s where agency comes in.

  4. Andrew, the concept of the devil forcing people to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do is known as the subjection of the devil. I’ve written in depth about this subject multiple times on my blog, but it’s scattered all over the place. Off-hand, I can think of the following posts that speak of it: The role of agency in political systems, Deep Waters: What would have happened if Lucifer had won the vote?, Teachings on hell and the spirit world, How to receive what you ask for, and Damnation. Many of these points are expounded even more in the comments sections, so if you read any of these, be sure to also look over the comments.

    When we’ve done something we know in our hearts is wrong, (and these deeds often happen, for example, in a fit of anger,) after coming down from that anger people tend to feel guilty. Guilt is a feeling associated with being controlled (or forced) by another entity into doing something we would not otherwise have done. When the devil rages in our hearts, during fits of anger, he can temporarily gain majority control over us, causing us to do horrific deeds. When that majority control subsides back into minority control, with the ceasing of the anger, and we “come to our senses,” people typically feel guilty over what they’ve done. They may not understand how they were capable of doing what they did and they often wish that they hadn’t done it. Guilt is the wound or mark or stain left over on our spirits after demonic possession subsides. The tares, or chains of hell, start out as “flaxen cords,” as Nephi wrote, which are then made stronger, or thicker, in persistent sin, until they become “strong cords” which then “bind us down forever.” The binding power of the cords is force or coercion, forcing us against our will, because once the tipping point of 51% reached, the devil no longer needs us to voluntarily give up our agency to him, for he simply takes it by force. His tare becomes the dominant force and he then subjects us to him, taking over our bodies and spirits.

  5. LDS Anarchist,

    I just took a look at the What if Lucifer had won the vote? post.

    I think most people would take that if there’s a limitation to godhood…that’s a limitation to god. Indeed, even you write about things that would make God cease to be God. You mentioned it in your first comment here, but said that God has bound God. But one question would be: couldn’t God unbind himself?

    It seems to me that you think that he could not, because his very nature restricts what God may be bound as. To go against that would make God cease to be God. But this is a limitation that many other theists would not recognize.

    When you talk about agency, the power of common consent, etc., you are talking about things that Mormonism believes are limitations on God. What I am saying is that traditional Christianity doesn’t have these limitations. These limitations are functional differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity that would make many traditional Christians think Mormons are absolutely heretical.

    Your last paragraph is interesting, but I would propose that many folks would say that agency still exists in a situations where one is angry/etc., With anger, the temptation is greater (e.g. one *wants* to do whatever he is tempted to do…so again, it’s his choice…it’s not as if his anger is not his own), but the individual is still responsible for what he has done (or, at least, as responsible as he would be in any situation.)

    You’re basically bifurcating one’s emotions outside of oneself, but then privileging a different emotion as part of oneself. But you can’t really have it both ways — if anger is not of a person, then you’re going to have to make a better case for why we should consider guilt to be. On the contrary, if guilt is part of a person, then you’re going to have to make a better case as to why anger is not

  6. Andrew, you asked, “Couldn’t God unbind himself?” The answer is, “Yes.” If God desired to unbind himself, He could do it. The concept is this: all things that God proposes to do, He does. Whatever He has faith in doing, is accomplished. God’s power isn’t really limited in any way. All His so-called limitations are self-imposed limitations.

    The idea of God being bound by His nature is absurd, considering that His nature is to do as He pleases. And who determines what pleases Him? He does. Therefore, He determines His own nature.

    The nature of something is determined by observation of what it does. We can view lots of lions and see patterns that they all follow and then, when we see one lone lion do something different, that no other lion does, then we are justified in saying that that lion went against the nature of lions. But in the case of God, what do we have to compare Him with? He is the only God that we know of, therefore, all that He does, even when He does something different than what we’ve seen before, must all be part of His nature. We are not ever justified in saying that what He does goes against His nature. And what determines His nature? Does His nature determine how He acts, or does He decide what His nature will be? It is the latter. The very nature of God is a creation of Him, or He has ordered Himself after this way because it pleases Him to be this way.

    So, the so-called limited nature of God is a created limitation. He made Himself this way, not anybody else. God is an infinite being who has taken His infinity and done the impossible, He confined it or placed limitations and bounds on it (by putting part of it into a sphere). Could He undo it all and go back to infinity? Yes. Does He? Yes. God’s powers are not limited in any way, whatsoever. Every power of God has a purpose, given by Him, and has a use. In other words, a power is useless if it is never used. So God uses all His powers, in the way that He has designated, not in the way that we think He should use them. “Many worlds have passed away by my power,” He says. The Creator can bind and unbind, create and destroy, in all things. This omnipotence is one reason why we can trust Him implicitly. The other reason is that He will never break a promise, or never lie. Could He lie, or does He have power to lie? Of course, He does. Does He lie or does He use the power to lie? Yes, He does. But He uses some of His power directly, and others vicariously, all of them working to His glory and praise. Like Chantdown said, even when we are trying to fight against God, we end up working for Him and furthering His work, for He has taken all things into consideration and cannot be frustrated, not in the least. “The works and purposes and designs of God cannot be frustrated,” says the scripture.

    The idea that God’s power is limited because He has put limitations on it is false. We see or hear what God has done and think that since He has decided to do it this way, that He couldn’t have done it another way. He can do whatever He wants to do, whenever He wants to, in whatever manner He desires, and this would still be the nature of God, for it is His nature to do whatever He pleases to do. And that’s the point. It may not please you or I or others how He does things, but we can’t do a damn thing about it. He has power to do as He pleases and He does as He pleases, always.

    One more thing, the idea that God would cease to be if He sinned is a pattern that applies to everything, for all things that sin and are not redeemed will also cease to be. So, these laws are not exclusive to God, but apply to everyone. The difference between Him and us, is that He doesn’t ever sin, whereas we do.

    Regarding the agency and anger thing, this doctrine deals with the spirit of the devil, the chains of hell, hell, unclean spirits, the angels to the devil and the like. From what you’ve written, it doesn’t look like you’ve read any of my writings about that, so I think we’ll keep talking past each other until we come to some understanding of what we are talking about.

    Nephi wrote that the devil will “rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” This is done through the chains of hell, or tares, which exert power or control over men. The chains of hell take away light and truth (or agency) but while we are in the flesh, agency is never totally destroyed (except for the sons of perdition). However, once we die, if the chains are still attached, they then have power of bind us down to hell, against our will. But even while in the flesh and not a son of perdition, sin can and will strengthen the chains sufficiently that the devil can temporarily take possession of us, by inciting us to anger, causing us to do things that we normally would not do. This can be done spiritually, physically, and also mentally and emotionally, or through a combination. To give an example that many are aware of, drugging the body can relinquish the control we have over it. This is a fact that many will attest to. You can think of the power that the devil can exert over the spirit as a spiritual drug, which causes us to temporarily lose control over our actions. A drug fiend who commits atrocities while drugged is still held responsible for his actions, despite not knowing what he did. So, an evil spirit fiend, partaking of an evil spirit “drug” is also held responsible, for the drug and the spirit “drug” were voluntarily taken by the individual, causing him or her to “lose control.” All these things have their counterpart. The same things apply to the mind and heart. This is how the MK-Ultra programs are said to make mind-control slaves of people, making them “sleeper assassins,” etc. All these things have solid, scientific basis, but the spiritual realm, the realm of Satan, also comes into play. Thus, the devil desired to destroy agency, and was given power, by God, to do so, according to his desires. And this is the reason why the gospel was given to us, for we cannot beat the devil on our own. Once a tare is sown, the game is over for us. The gospel is the only way it can be removed.

  7. Continuing with the previous comment…Agency is defined in the scriptures as “power to act and not to be acted upon.” So, since God has all power to act and nothing can act upon Him, or force Him to do something against His will, He has a fullness of agency. All other things, which aren’t yet at that level, has power to act to a degree, and also are acted upon to a degree, whether greater or lesser. A person whose agency has been destroyed would be a person who had no power to act, whatsoever, and who was only acted upon (externally manipulated.)

    In the above comment, I mentioned the tares, chains of hell, spirit of the devil, etc., but forgot to mention the captivity of the devil. The captivity of the devil, or the devil’s power to captivate is a characteristic of the sown tares. This is the agency destroying property of the tare. After we reach the age of accountability, Satan can tempt us. When we finally heed one of those temptations, we sin, and by that sin, a tare is sown in our hearts. Now, this isn’t some metaphorical tare, but an actual spiritual thing, or plant, that becomes attached to our spirits, the contact points being first the heart and then the mind. The tare is a plant, a spiritual plant, and required nourishment to grow. Sin nourishes the tare, while repentance withers it, kills it, and causes it to be plucked out of our hearts. As long as we have even one unrepented sin, the tare can survive there, and, upon death, will bind us down to hell, for once out of the physical body, which is mass heavy, the spiritual tare is fully capable of binding our unembodied, mass light spiritual bodies. However, while in the flesh, the tare cannot bind us, unless it grows up.

    Therefore, the devil’s strategy is to use deception to get men to sin, in order to sow and grow the tares. Every plant has its unique properties, and the spiritual tare has the effect of darkening the minds of men and hardening their hearts. The stronger the tare, meaning the more it has grown, through sin, the greater the influence it has on the spirit of man.

    Now, we see this in all areas of life. Just as the physical body can affect the spirit, so the spirit can affect the physical body. A food or medicine or drug, administered to the physical body, can cause effects “against our will.” Regardless of our agency choice, these physical elements “force” effects upon the body, which “force” effects upon our spirits. To give an example, if you feel hunger and you desire to continue to feel hunger, but eat lots of food until you are stuffed, you can try to use your agency to continue to feel hunger to no avail, because despite your agency, you now feel full. The food has forced an effect upon the body, which has forced an effect upon the spirit. Thus, although we have agency (power to act and not to be acted upon) it is not absolute like God’s, but of a limited nature. The food has acted upon our body, which acted upon our spirit, giving us a full feeling, regarding of us trying to exert power (agency) to remain with a feeling of hunger.

    Although I have agency (power to act and not be acted upon), other people’s agency may take away some of my agency by acting upon me against my will. In the same way, the devil, that spiritual being, has agency, which has been given to him by the 1/3rd of the fallen hosts of heaven. His power to act is immense, but requires that a tares be sown before he can exert power to act upon others. But just like food, medicines or drugs, or even other people, the tare, sown in the heart and attached to the heart and mind of man, exerts an influence upon the spirit of man. When the tare is weak, like a flaxen cord, it may have mere homeopathic potency. Even though the tare is poison to the spirit, and will kill a spirit once its physical body is separated from it in death, it must be grown to see its full poisonous effects while in the flesh.

    At some point, if we take enough arsenic, we will get sick and then die. Prior to that, at exceedingly small dosages, arsenic does not have noticeable effect. Nevertheless, no one thinks for a minute that one can take strong poison and their agency will nullify the poison’s effects. No. The poison exerts a power to act upon us, regardless of our agency. So it is with the tare. When strong, its effect are so potent, that the mind becomes blind and the heart becomes stone hard, so that we can no longer feel or care about whether something is right or wrong. Our blind minds call good evil and evil good, at that point, cause we can’t see things clearly, the tares reversing the polarity of our brains. Since the tares is connected to us, one must ask, where does it lead? Where is the other end of the tare? It leads to the devil. He controls the tare, therefore, he exerts greater or lesser influence on us depending on the maturity, or how much the tare has grown.

    Thus, there are two demonic influences upon mankind. One comes from the temptations of the devil, to sin. In these cases, we have agency to resist or yield. The other comes from the sown tare, which exerts a yielding influence upon man, to get him to more easily yield to the temptations of man, which blinds the minds, hardens the heart, and, if grown sufficiently, has power to completely take control of the spirit of man temporarily in bursts of great wickedness. Thus, it becomes harder and harder to resist the devil and repent of sins, the more sins one engages in, directly in proportion to the strength of the tare.

    In other words, if we start out with a set amount of power to act and others entities with a set amount of power to act upon us, this balance become unequal the moment we start to sin. The point of no return occurs when we the power to act upon us is greater than the power we have to act. At that point the scriptural term, “the captivation of the devil,” comes into play. He then overpowers us and rages in our hearts, so that we commit all manner of wickedness.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that although agency is a fundamental principle of the gospel, it doesn’t mean that all satanic influence is but a mere enticement, which we can heed or ignore by our agency. Initially, yes, that is how it works, but once the tare is sown, then the devil’s power of captivation is the fundamental principle, for agency alone cannot remove a tare. If so, we would not need Christ. But only Christ’s atonement has power to remove a tare, through faith and repentance on His name. This is because tares are permanently attached and can only be removed through the miracles of God.

    One more thing. Trauma-based mind control, in which trauma is administered to the victim, to get them to split their personality into alters, which can then be programmed, is based upon the original trauma based mind control, used by Satan. The body, mind, heart, emotions are all traumatized and deceived, creating psychic scars, or deep, pervasive guilt, which cause a person to compartmentalize their psyche, so that they don’t have to deal with the guilt, by living in the other alter personality. Guilt, then, comes from sin or perceived sin (due to deception) and is a psychic wound, or really, a spiritual wound, that results from spiritual trauma. Because the body and spirit are connected, you can traumatize the body and cause the spirit to likewise be traumatized. The devil, then, is the originator of trauma-based mind control, since he uses spiritual trauma to control both our bodies and spirits, through his tares, which enables his power of captivation.

  8. Typos are all over the place, but in particular, the fifth paragraph should read “homeopathic potency” not “homopathic potency.”

  9. LDS Anarchist,

    Do you frequently find yourself having to write such long comments and posts explaining your thoughts like this?

    Do you ever suppose that the reason you have to do this is because most people (even most Mormons) aren’t taught these things in their church or other religious experiences?

  10. Lol, Andrew. I use my blog as a repository for my thoughts. But sometimes, when I find myself on someone else’s blog, I use theirs as a repository. (If I feel in the mood to expound, I expound, regardless of where I am.) I apologize for taking up so much space.

    As for your first question, usually the first thing i say to people either totally confuses them or offends them. Either way, no one ever believes me, so I typically don’t get to expound anything to anyone. However, on those rare occasions when people have asked me to explain myself, I’ve found that the problem typically lies with me, in that my topic assumes that my audience has already accepted the same fundamental concepts I have, upon which I built the topic. So, I usually end up having to start from the beginning and expound the whole thing. They then understand me, but still don’t believe me, since I’m not a General Authority. ;)

    Concerning your second question, I don’t have any idea why no one understands me when I speak succinctly. I learned what I know about the gospel from the scriptures and the Holy Ghost, so one would think that a unity of faith and understanding would result, if everyone is following this same process. The only conclusion I can come to is that no one is living the gospel in the same way. Each person has tailored the gospel to suit him or herself, producing different fruit, like Zenos prophesied in his parable.

  11. LDS Anarchist,

    I mean, I don’t have a problem, since it’s pretty interesting, but I don’t think I’ll really do a point by point response, since my major impression is, “This is very rigorous and systematic, but I’d have to essentially learn a new religion to understand it all.” That’s kinda my reaction whenever I read most things from most of the writers at LDSA though.

    Relating to your last paragraph though, I think one thing that I’ve found to be especially true is that the scriptures aren’t self-explanatory. In other words, I don’t think it’s true that you can give someone the scriptures and then expect them to come out with one conclusion. This is even with the supposed influence of the holy ghost. So, I don’t think that a unity of faith and understanding is going to happen. So yeah, I think that people are living the gospel in different ways.

    …but it seems to me that even though there is a tremendous diversity, there’s still a contrast in, say, how you would say things, and how a general authority would say things. Or what you would hear in the average Sunday School lesson. Or what you would hear in seminary.

    …and maybe that’s just because all of these sources don’t really go in depth, and you do. But in any case, whereas the concept of a limited god goes over your head, most of the stuff you’re writing here goes over mine. I wonder if more members would find what you have written to be closer to what they believe?

  12. The contributors to the LDS Anarchy blog seem to know what I’m talking about. Also, many of the visitors. Other than them, all the “in real life” LDS I know just follow and believe what their leaders teach them, allowing themselves to be molded by the GA’s, even if it contradicts what they believe they have felt from the Spirit or any other beliefs they may have had. Since joining the church, I’ve tried to follow the Spirit, even if it contradicts a leader. So, maybe that’s the difference.

    Also, I used to think that some things were basic and some things were “deep doctrine” in the gospel, hence my group of posts titled, “Deep Waters.” Now, though, I don’t see the gospel as shallow and deep. It’s all very profound stuff, from the first to the last, and I guess I treat it as such.

    Personally, when I say people are living different gospels, I’m including myself in that assessment. I don’t see anyone living the gospel of the scriptures, including me. If so, there would be certain signs, which I don’t see. This is the reason, in my estimation, that a true unity of faith is not brought about. But I am hopeful that someone, somewhere, will learn and live the actual gospel, producing the signs, and when that happens, he or she will teach others, who will do the very same thing, and then faith will go forth on the earth and the people will see a people truly united under one faith, with power and authority from God.

    Regarding the scriptures being interpreted in many different ways, I think there is much depth to them, but a problem I’ve seen in my own life is a reliance upon manuals, commentaries, etc. So, I’ve pretty much thrown everything interpretative out and just read the scriptures alone. I don’t even read the chapter headings. It’s amazing how easy it is to get pointed in one direction with just a single, interpretative suggestion. When the scriptures are accepted as stating the truth and man-made interpretative tools are removed, both divergence and convergence is seen in them, at least, that’s what I see. Yet, this diversity does not equate with disunity or contradiction, because of the simultaneous convergence.

    Many man-made interpretative tools remove the divergent aspect of the scriptures, since men don’t like too much diversity, as that tends towards anarchy (removing centralization of power.) But then there is another type of man-made interpretation which removes the convergent aspect, causing a multiplicity of differing beliefs, churches and religions. The former creates a similitude of unity, without gospel depth, while the latter creates a similitude of depth without gospel unity. Both are powerless to save.

    The entirety of the Lord’s gospel is summarized in this blog post. We are to approach the scriptures alone, without any external influences, just us, the Holy Ghost, the Son and the Father. But this is often extremely difficult, hence it being called “a wrestle.” The easy way is to just believe what the next guy believes.

    Your example of giving the scriptures to a person and expecting them to come to one conclusion (on their own) is not what we do. We give the scriptures to people along with our interpretations of them. The people then rely upon the interpretations to understand the scriptures and not the Spirit. People pray to obtain the witness that the scriptures are true, and once the Holy Ghost tells them this fact, they then go about their lives, reading the scriptures but learning the interpretations. No one takes the scriptures up, prays to learn they are true, and then, after learning they are true, prays to learn what they mean, repeating the process. No one does this.

    Everyone is under the impression that we already understand the scriptures, at least, the parts that pertain to our own salvation. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, so to speak, so nobody needs to get revelation to understand each and every part of the scriptures. But this is yet again a man-made interpretation over-laid on the scriptures, since this is not what the text plainly says.

    Your idea is the proper one. You give the scriptures and only the scriptures, teach a man how to pray, and tell him that he must pray to God to get God to explain (expound) this stuff to his understanding,and then you shut your own mouth, giving no interpretations, unless you yourself are a prophet, having the spirit of prophecy and revelation, in which case you may unfold it by the power of the Spirit and testify of your own experiences with the Holy Ghost. Were we to do it after this fashion, there would be a unity of faith, everyone coming to the same divergent and convergent views.

  13. This post of yours, Andrew, has got me thinking. I now see that perhaps you are right about the varying Mormon views concerning God’s omnipotence. The King Follett Sermon is, I think, the thing that has tripped everyone up. Perhaps I will blog about both subjects.

  14. Let’s try that again…(please delete the previous, badly formatted comment.)

    From an interaction I had with hawkgrrrl, in which she wrote, quoting someone else’s blog post:

    Here’s a quote: “In mainstream Christianity, God is considered an eternal being who created the world and the universe in which we reside. Furthermore, he is a perfect being who cannot be controlled by any part of creation. However, in Mormon thought, we see God not as this platonic ideal but as a being subject to the natural laws of the universe who does not have power to overcome free will.” This is my view also. My speculative view.

    Emphasis mine. So, there you go. Proof that some Mormons actually do believe that God is not omnipotent. This is cultural, traditional (as in handed down traditions) or speculative Mormonism at its worst, for it totally contracts scriptural Mormonism.

    I would imagine that those who conform to this belief system also believe that God created the Universe by His great knowledge and not by His faith. In other words, He knows all the preexisting laws of the Universe, and thus, like a scientist or mechanic, was able to build everything according to scientific principles, reducing miracles to mere super-advanced technology. All these ideas are heretical, false and contradictory to what the actual word of God says. But hey, “To each his own,” I always say.

  15. In case you come online and ask me, “Does God have power to overpower free will?” The answer is, “Yes.” All power comes from God, even the demonic powers. But these powers are divvied up, or delegated to those who desire to use them. So, the angels get power from God to do angelic stuff, and we call these things “angelic powers.” The power from God given to the devils is termed, “demonic powers.” (If you’ve ever been through the temple endowment, you know that Lucifer also wears an apron, which is an emblem of his “priesthoods” or demonic power and authority which God ordained him unto.) The power given to man also comes from God. Then there are powers which God reserves to Himself alone, or gives to those who exercise exceedingly great faith. All these powers originate with God, meaning that they are all the powers of God (even the power demons use.) He either uses them directly, or indirectly through agents, giving them to those who desire them, to further his righteous purposes. Although delegated, it’s still in His possession, for all things (and powers) within His kingdom are His. Sometimes, a delegated power is taken back, such as when the demons get cast into outer darkness, and thus lose power to destroy agency. What happens to that power they lose? It “returns” back to God (as if it ever left, lol), to be delegated again as He sees fit, according to His own will and pleasure. And so on and so forth. I could unfold all these principles even further, but you’re probably sick of all these comments, so I’ll stop.

  16. I think it’s pretty easy for someone to dismiss a viewpoint that doesn’t agree with theirs as being cultural, traditional, speculative, heretical, false, and/or contradictory to the word of God.

    But it really ignores again that not everyone is going to read the same thing form the scriptures, and pretty much everyone is susceptible (if they don’t check for that) to reading something from the scriptures and thinking that their way of thinking is the one right way to read it.

    So I mean, I’m not really “sick” of all these comments, but I probably won’t substantively reply, because to me it just represents another highly idiosyncratic exegesis of scriptures and the religion.

  17. Well, it certainly is cultural, since this is peculiar to Mormon culture. Traditional, also, since we are talking of unique Mormon traditions. Speculative, also. Heck, even hawkgrrrl herself admits it’s speculation. Heretical, sure, since the scriptures expressly state that God is omnipotent. (But heresy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on the religious environment and the heresy.) False. Now, you got me there. i call it false, another will call it true. Yet another will say neither one can know for sure (the agnostic approach.) Yet another will say it is both false and true, depending on how you view it. (The perception approach.) Contradictory, well, how do you get around the express omnipotent scriptural statements? By taking a symbolic approach to the scriptures, of course! God is then symbolically omnipotent, not literally omnipotent, whatever that means. Etc. (Applying symbolism to literal things can get you out of theological jams, apparently.)

    So, I understand your point about everyone reads the scriptures differently, but I don’t think this comes from scriptural interpretative variance. This comes from extra-scriptural sources, from the King Follet Discourse and perhaps other sources. I’d be willing to bet that should you ask someone why they believe that God is not omnipotent, where this idea came from, or how they first learned it, etc., I’d be willing to bet that it has its root outside of the scriptures.

    For instance, if you ask a person how they learned about agency, perhaps they’d point to the “church,” or manuals, or general authorities, as the source. It is doubtful that they’d point to the scriptures and say, “This is where I learned it.” Likely, they learned a theological theory from theological preachers (their parents, missionaries, whatever) and then started reading the scriptures with the parent/missionary/whatever filters on, interpreting what they read by what they learned from those sources. If you were to take someone unfiltered by religious filters and say, “Here are the Mormon scriptures. I want to you read them and tell me whether they describe God as being omnipotent,” you’d find that he or she would tell you that the books do, in fact, claim that God is omnipotent.

    So, the issue isn’t one of people reading the scriptures and coming to differences of opinion regarding God’s omnipotence. It is one of going beyond the scriptures, of speculating beyond them. This is why even hawkgrrrl admits it’s speculation. Everyone knows that the scriptures only speak of God as being omnipotent. This is a plain, indisputable fact. But then there is Joseph’s King Follett Sermon. And then there is all the traditional views that surfaced among Mormons that speculated about God’s origins, other gods, God’s apparent inability to create a spirit, again according to that particular sermon of Joseph’s, etc. All of this is extra-scriptural, or non-canonical.

    People are free to believe what they want. They are free to believe things that contradict what the scriptures expressly say, and in this case there are express statements, which is why the Christians fall off their chair when they hear Mormon views concerning God’s apparent power limitations. But, just because people have this freedom, doesn’t mean it is inappropriate to call their beliefs contradictory to the express scriptural statements.

  18. LDS Anarchist,

    I think you’re assuming way too much.

    For example:

    Heretical, sure, since the scriptures expressly state that God is omnipotent.

    Firstly, “heretical” does not mean “contrary to scripture” — especially because scripture in many traditions isn’t the only source of doctrine.

    This is especially true for Mormonism, which is all about a canon that is open for more revelation. Written scriptures cannot be the only doctrinal thing…and believe it or not, but lots of things in Mormonism disagree with some scripture one way or another. The scriptures are not self-consistent on many issues, so to say, “Here’s what the scriptures say” collapses a lot of intra-textual differences. (That is why, among protestants, who mostly also take the sola scriptura position you seem to be advocating, there is wide variation on a number of things — are we able to freely choose salvation or not? Works + faith vs. faith alone? etc.,)

    …I would point out that God’s omnipotence is seen in the scriptures of Mormonism that are *least* distinctively Mormon. E.g., the Book of Mormon is basically protestant theology. The New Testament is not Mormon but proto-Christian. And the OT is Jewish. (although a lot of Christians read Christianity into the OT, and a lot of Mormons read Mormonism into the OT and NT).

    In any event, I don’t know why you are disagreeing that even if you think God is omnipotent in Mormonism, that omnipotence is certainly of a *different* quality than is seen in most Christian denominations, and that omnipotence would probably not even be seen as omnipotence by some of those Christians.

    Getting back to the scripture vs. doctrine point…one of the major things about Mormonism is that scriptures aren’t a standalone thing. Rather, they are an object tool to be employed by the leaders. This is something that is likely driving many liberal Mormons batty about the new D&C lesson manuals (as has been evidenced by many posts within the Bloggernacle…even you have made comments about eschewing “manuals and commentaries.”)

    …but one thing that’s important to realize is that in Mormonism, proof-texting isn’t a bug. It’s a feature. If the leaders want to take *out* the context of certain scriptures to instead reinterpret it for x value, that is their prerogative — that is part of doctrine. In this view, you can’t look at scripture alone.

    So, when you take a position of looking at scripture alone, you already are taking a position that is not a typical Mormon position.

    In fact, I’d point out that if you did the exercise you suggest:

    . If you were to take someone unfiltered by religious filters and say, “Here are the Mormon scriptures. I want to you read them and tell me whether they describe God as being omnipotent,” you’d find that he or she would tell you that the books do, in fact, claim that God is omnipotent.

    You would have someone who would not be recognizable by most members as being Mormon. You’d probably have someone who would be very protestant (up until they got to *maybe* the Pearl of Great Price. But hey…scriptures from the Pearl of Great Price form the backbone of the Givens’ “The God Who Weeps.”) Because the tell-tale aspects of being Mormon are not gotten “unfiltered by religious filters” — and for that matter, the scriptures are not “unfiltered by religious filters” either.

  19. English is interesting, in that words often have many shades of meaning. Obviously I was not using “heretical” in the sense of the current church beliefs. I was using it in the sense of the church standards, meaning the standard works, meaning the only thing the membership is bound to obey. That itself, may sound strange to you, but no one can be tried for transgression outside of what is written in the scriptures. This is why the D&C says that the scriptures are the “law of the church.” Although there is a body of “unwritten, oral law” such as what the Jews had, for example, the CHI and all other whims of the leadership which are not written down, there is only one written law for which a member can be tried, and that’s the scriptures. That is, the canonized scriptures. That’s why we canonize stuff. Anyway, I was using the word in this strict sense, not in any of the other senses.

    Obviously, modern Mormonism does not match many of the things that are written in that standard, thus we might say that modern Mormonism is heretical. And it is, in varying degrees. Some might say it is apostate. And it is also that, nearly since its inception. That is just the history of God’s people. They fall short of the standard time and time again.

    Most of the meaning of heresy, or heretical, refer to departure of what the current church body believes and accepts. So, I can understand you jumping on that. But I’m not using it in that sense, for it is possible for God’s people to all believe heretical things, by simply ignoring the law of the church as given in the scriptures. That might not make sense. How can the church of God be heretical if the definition of heresy is to go contrary to church dogma? The answer is that the scriptures were also written by the church, the ancient, or former church. The past church of God. When a modern church of God goes contrary to what the former church of God taught and wrote down, well, you can say we’ve got heresy going in both directions. The one church’s contrary beliefs are heretical to the other.

    Again, it is in this sense that I used the word, viewing the scriptures as containing teachings given to a more ancient church. But I understand you jumping on that.

    Now, talk of an open canon and written scriptures not being the only doctrinal thing, etc., is a confusing topic for many, and many adopt the view that there is doctrine that comes from living prophets and apostles and also written in the canon, and that the living kind overrides what is written in the canonized kind. This is preached everywhere: follow the prophet, he won’t lead you astray, etc. I won’t get into this topic here because I’ve covered this many times on my own blog.

    What I will address is this:

    In any event, I don’t know why you are disagreeing that even if you think God is omnipotent in Mormonism, that omnipotence is certainly of a *different* quality than is seen in most Christian denominations, and that omnipotence would probably not even be seen as omnipotence by some of those Christians.

    And this.

    When you talk about agency, the power of common consent, etc., you are talking about things that Mormonism believes are limitations on God. What I am saying is that traditional Christianity doesn’t have these limitations. These limitations are functional differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity that would make many traditional Christians think Mormons are absolutely heretical.

    I can’t talk of anyone else’s Mormonism, what Mormonism is to other people. I can only talk of my own Mormonism, or what Mormonism is to me. And my own views are very Mormon, for they don’t match anything else out there in the religious world, except maybe for what you find in the Mormon scriptures. It may not be what is generally believed by most Mormons (as if we even knew or could find out what that is, with so many members), but it is still uniquely Mormon. There is the “general church” and then there is the “me” church. In other words, I am the church. And so is everyone else who pertains to it. Thus, when I talk of Mormonism, I may be speaking either of what I understand to be doctrinal Mormonism, not what others may or may not believe, or I may be giving my opinion as to what other Mormons believe.

    Let me state that again. On the one hand is my understanding of Mormonism, its doctrines, and on the other hand is my opinion of what most other Mormons possibly believe. Typically, I don’t like to speculate on what other Mormons believe, since there is no accurate way of assessing that. So, I just stick to my own understanding, which, again, is validly called Mormonism, since it derives from the Mormon scriptural canon and from no other source..

    So, when I say that according to my understanding, given to me from the Mormon scriptures and the manifestations of the Holy Ghost, God is omnipotent, I mean that in the most literal sense. He can do anything, at all, that He wants to do. Now, if you compare my “brand” of God’s omnipotence (which comes of Mormonism alone) to the Christian “brand” of omnipotence, you will either find that both Christians and myself agree on no limit to His power, or that they put limitations on His power that I do not. As I am not all that versed on Christian beliefs, I can’t even offer an opinion on them, as I could with other Mormons.

    If there are differences between me and Christianity, it may not be regarding God’s omnipotence, but regarding how he exercises His power. Does God have power to lie? Yes. Does He lie? Yes (through agents.) How would a Christian answer that question? I don’t know. Does God have power to cease to exist? Yes. Does he? Yes. Does agency limit God’s power? No. Does God have power to violate agency? Yes. Does He exercise this power? Yes, (through agents.) Does God have power to directly violate agency and still remain God? Yes. Does He ever directly violate agency? No.

    In other words, all of the “does God have power to…” questions I would answer with a, “yes,” and all the “does God use this power” questions I would answer with a, “yes, either directly or through agents.” But the “how does God use this particular power” questions might elicit a response different than the Christians, for they don’t hold the same beliefs that I do. (For example, Christians might believe that God routinely, directly violates agency, which thing is not my understanding.) But if they truly believe in God’s omnipotence, as I do, they should also answer a “yes” to the first set of questions.

    When you and I converse in this fashion, the sense that I get is that you assume to know what “most Mormons” believe, and therefore, think that I stand out as something not distinctly Mormon. I don’t feel confident to assess the views of the guy sitting next to me in the pews, let alone trying to put my thumb on the views of the majority of the 14 million or so members. Although there are definite cultural “tell-tale aspects of being (a stereotypical) Mormon,” belief-wise, we are quite diverse, at least from what I’ve been able to determine.

  20. LDS Anarchist,

    I still think you’re conflating and assuming too much. For example here:

    I was using it in the sense of the church standards, meaning the standard works, meaning the only thing the membership is bound to obey.

    The “church standards” does *not* mean the “standard works,” and the “standard works” does *not* mean the only thing the membership is bound to obey.

    That itself, may sound strange to you, but no one can be tried for transgression outside of what is written in the scriptures

    It’s not that it sounds strange to me. It’s that it doesn’t sound particularly Mormon. But I talk to enough Protestants for it not to sound strange. Although I would say that your attempt to harmonize and hybridize the very different perspectives does sound strange.

    Obviously, modern Mormonism does not match many of the things that are written in that standard, thus we might say that modern Mormonism is heretical. And it is, in varying degrees. Some might say it is apostate. And it is also that, nearly since its inception. That is just the history of God’s people. They fall short of the standard time and time again.

    I think that when you have to say that modern Mormonism, and in fact, Mormonism in general (“nearly since its inception”) is heretical or apostate, then you’re by default positing something very different than what most members believe. And you don’t really disagree — in fact, that’s what you’re pointing out. The difference is that you think that what you believe is the most legitimate, most authoritative, most “standard” or “nonheretical” or whatever.

    OK, fine.

    I’m just pointing out that you are not taking a typical Mormon perspective. When we ask, “What do Mormons believe?” we can’t really rely on what you’ve been writing. (Maybe what you write speaks more to “what Mormons should believe” or “what Mormons would believe if…”)

    Most of the meaning of heresy, or heretical, refer to departure of what the current church body believes and accepts. So, I can understand you jumping on that. But I’m not using it in that sense, for it is possible for God’s people to all believe heretical things, by simply ignoring the law of the church as given in the scriptures.

    I am aware that you are not using it in that sense. Most of my past couple of comments or so have been about pointing out how idiosyncratic and foreign your interpretations are to Mormonism.

    Your response basically is to say, “I’m not the foreign one — it’s everyone else who is missing the mark.” e.g., “it is possible for God’s people to all believe heretical things, by simply ignoring the law of the church as given in the scriptures.” But you assume that the law of the church is primarily or solely given by the scriptures. I’m pointing out that a sola scriptura approach isn’t typically Mormon.

    And my own views are very Mormon, for they don’t match anything else out there in the religious world, except maybe for what you find in the Mormon scriptures.

    This is begging the question. Under question here is the implied premise: “Mormonism is defined by what Mormon scriptures say.”

    I say, “Your views aren’t very Mormon, because Mormonism isn’t really sola scripture. You can’t just look to what scriptures say to derive a Mormon position.”

    Your retort is: “my position must be Mormon, because they match what is in Mormon scripture!”

    You also have a false dilemma…Please note that it’s not like the only options are “Mormon” or “some other existing religion.” Your views could be a totally separate option to all of these.

    So, I just stick to my own understanding, which, again, is validly called Mormonism, since it derives from the Mormon scriptural canon and from no other source..

    Let me try to point out my complaint: you’re assuming that something that “derives from the Mormon scriptural canon and from no other source” is sufficiently for something that can be validly called Mormonism.

    …but I’m asking: “What is “Mormonism” requires more than a scriptural canon?” for example, what if, to be called Mormonism, one’s understanding must not only derive from Mormon scriptural canon, but from the canon of modern-day revelation and guidance from latter-day prophets?

    If this is the case, then your understanding would not validly be called Mormon.

    …now, of course, whether that is the case is an open question. I’m just saying that you’re assuming too much to assume that it must not be the case.

    If there are differences between me and Christianity, it may not be regarding God’s omnipotence, but regarding how he exercises His power.

    Fair enough. Point taken.

    When you and I converse in this fashion, the sense that I get is that you assume to know what “most Mormons” believe, and therefore, think that I stand out as something not distinctly Mormon. I don’t feel confident to assess the views of the guy sitting next to me in the pews, let alone trying to put my thumb on the views of the majority of the 14 million or so members.

    Actually, I do recognize the very problematic undertaking of talking about what “most Mormons” believe. If you’re looking at the 14 million number, then most of those members never engage in the church. They may have been baptized, but many of them do not self-identify as Mormon. Many of them never attend a meeting.

    So, if that were our threshold for what “most Mormons” believe, then we’d come up with some *very* different answers.

    However, in terms of what would be stated in a church meeting and would be affirmed, what would be stated in a church publication, what would make it to General Conference, etc., then you can see certain trends in beliefs. The very mechanism of correlation speaks to a Mormonism that is *not* solely about scripture, but which is about interpretation, manuals, supplements, and exegesis by leaders and General Authorities.

  21. The “church standards” does *not* mean the “standard works,” and the “standard works” does *not* mean the only thing the membership is bound to obey.

    Andrew, you are getting hung up on definitions. When I stated, “I was using it in the sense of the church standards, meaning the standard works, meaning the only thing the membership is bound to obey.” I defined the terms that I used. In other words, I wrote the term, “church standards,” and then defined it as meaning, in my sentence, “the standard works.” For you to say that “church standards” (in my sentence) does not mean “the standard works” is simply not true. I defined it as such and then used the term. You are getting hung on “church standards” meaning something else. But I didn’t use the term as that “something else.” Stick with what I’m saying and we’ll understand each other better.

    Likewise, when I say that the standard works is the only thing the membership is bound to obey, this is also the truth. Now, let me explain, since it is obvious you are again, using cultural assumptions, meaning that you are using what latter-day saints that you know perhaps believe. Every LDS is put under covenant, upon their baptism, to obey the commandments of God. Not the commandments of any man, just of God. When they are baptized, they accept that the commandments of God is found in the scriptures, also termed the word of God. It is that written word, the commandments of God, that every LDS is bound, by covenant, to obey. No LDS covenants to obey any word proceeding from the mouth of any man, whether within or without the church, only insofar as it is given of God. Canonization in the LDS religion is how the latter-day saints affirm that a word spoken or written by a man is the word of God, binding upon them. It is what makes a man’s word authoritative, meaning that it no longer is considered just the word of a man, but the word of God. Canonization binds the LDS to obedience, through their covenants. So, although you, perhaps, think, that a LDS can be tried for disobedience to their leaders, they cannot. They can only be tried for breaking their covenant to obey the commandments of God, as found in the canonized scriptures. This is the order of the church, otherwise, the saints would be tossed about by every wind of pretended doctrine spoken by whatever leader. This is why the Lord, in the Book of Mormon, states that He will judge the children of men, according to what is written in the books, not spoken by their leaders. You may find many LDS who believe it is their duty to obey their leaders, no matter what, but they are under no such covenant to do so. Now, I previously said I wouldn’t get into this, so I’ll stop on this topic.

    I think that when you have to say that modern Mormonism, and in fact, Mormonism in general (“nearly since its inception”) is heretical or apostate, then you’re by default positing something very different than what most members believe. And you don’t really disagree — in fact, that’s what you’re pointing out.

    No, Andrew, most members would agree with me that the church is apostate in some form. Zion is the non-apostate church, and we ain’t at Zion, yet. Everyone agrees with that. There are two shades of meaning that people think of when using the word, “apostate”: completely turned away (totally corrupt) or turned away by degrees. So, if you ask a member, “Is the church apostate, meaning totally corrupt?” they’d say, “No.” But if you ask, “Is the church in any degree apostate, meaning turned away from or not living some of the laws God gave to them?” And they’d say, “Yes, though I’d rather not use the term apostate.” Perhaps they’d think of the law of consecration or the condemnation of the church spoken of in the D&C, etc.

    The difference is that you think that what you believe is the most legitimate, most authoritative, most “standard” or “nonheretical” or whatever.

    There is no difference, whatsoever. Everybody thinks the same way. It’s either, my ideas are most correct because they conform to [the scriptures]/[the living prophet]/[what my parents taught me], etc.

    I’m pointing out that a sola scriptura approach isn’t typically Mormon

    I’m not advocating a sola scriptura approach, nevertheless I am stating that only canonized writ is what is binding upon the people of God, not anything else. This is why important revelation or prophecy is written down. Writing the word of God down is what makes it binding upon the saints, or a law. This is why I quote the scripture in D&C about the scriptures being the law of the church. I’ve had my fair share of heavenly revelations, prophecies, visions and the like, but none of that is binding upon anyone, because they weren’t written down and canonized.

    Under question here is the implied premise: “Mormonism is defined by what Mormon scriptures say.”

    Yes and no. Mormonism is defined by Mormons. Mormon (the first “Mormon”) wrote the Book of Mormon, therefore, the Book of Mormon defines Mormon’s Mormonism. I am a Mormon, therefore, Mormonism is defined by me and the revelations I’ve received. Joseph was a Mormon, therefore, Mormonism was defined by him and the revelations he received. And so on and so forth. The question must then be asked, what makes a Mormon a Mormon?

    for example, what if, to be called Mormonism, one’s understanding must not only derive from Mormon scriptural canon, but from the canon of modern-day revelation and guidance from latter-day prophets?

    There is no such canon, Andrew. There is no modern-day revelation and guidance that is canonized, except what is stuck in the pages of the quadruple combination. Thomas Monson can get all the revelation he wants, just as I do, and his revelations mean diddly-squat to anybody but himself, unless they are canonized in that book.

    However, in terms of what would be stated in a church meeting and would be affirmed, what would be stated in a church publication, what would make it to General Conference, etc., then you can see certain trends in beliefs.

    There is the outward projection, the public persona, so to speak, and then there are the private conversations. People profess a great many things in public, where there is pressure to conform, which they do not privately believe. We might be able to ascertain what the fifteen men in Salt Lake City believe on a variety of religious topics, but whether their words are accepted at face value by those listening, I ain’t so sure of.

    The very mechanism of correlation speaks to a Mormonism that is *not* solely about scripture, but which is about interpretation, manuals, supplements, and exegesis by leaders and General Authorities.

    And that’s exactly what it should be called, “a Mormonism,” not “the (one and only) Mormonism.”

  22. LDSA,

    Andrew, you are getting hung up on definitions.

    You bet I am. Definitions matter.

    Because you’re going around saying, “I’m talking about the church standards” — and then you describe something that incompletely describes the church standards. That’s critical. It is critical to your rhetorical move of defining everything that you disagree with as being cultural.

    Let me use an analogy from earlier. Earlier, you mentioned that a particular belief might be “traditional.” This description can be neutral, positive, or negative, depending on the theology one employs. In Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism, to say something is traditional is a positive thing, because the tradition of the church is part of doctrine in these churches. In sola scriptura protestantism, if something is traditional, that will not be seen in the same way.

    I’m not using this as a specific example for Mormonism, because I don’t necessarily think that Mormonism has either a protestant or catholic/orthodox flavor on this…but when we talk about Mormonism’s relationship to leaders, then what I’m saying is that it would be strange to reference Mormon church standards *without* reference to latter-day leadership.

    No, Andrew, most members would agree with me that the church is apostate in some form.

    You’re equivocating on the definition of “apostate.” You use the definition far differently than what most members would agree to.

    Like, even if most members would agree that there are some aspects of “culture,” “tradition,” “speculation,” etc., in the church, it’s equivocating to say that most would agree that there are these things *in the same way that you do*. Because when you are talking about what is “culture,” “tradition,” “speculation,” or “apostate” in the church, you are saying a lot of stuff that most members would not say are these things.

    Thomas Monson can get all the revelation he wants, just as I do, and his revelations mean diddly-squat to anybody but himself, unless they are canonized in that book.

    That’s fine for you to think that, but that’s not a typically Mormon position to take, is all.

  23. Andrew, I guess you are right. I do use terms in a different manner that others do, but when there is confusion, I try to define the terms so that you know what I’m talking about. Take, for example, the word apostasy. If a faith consists of 10 commandments, and you keep only 9 of them, breaking the 10th, are you apostate? Have you abandoned your faith? At what point does a person become apostate? What is the magic number? 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1? Now, everyone will agree that at 0, meaning you break all 10 of the commandments, you are definitely apostate, but a case can also be made that since the commandment is to live all 10 items, by breaking one of them, you are now apostate. And so on with the other terms. English isn’t static and can be molded to one’s speech, new shades can be added, current shades can have nuances added (those a. b. c. entries) and so on. It almost sounds like you are an English major and reach for the dictionary each time you hear someone use a word in a way you are not familiar with. That’s a fine practice, if that’s what you do. But if, when you don’t find the nuance that I (or others) use in speech (or writing), you get hung up on the new variance or shade and focus on the language and not the concepts communicated in the language, it almost appears to be a mental block of some sort.

    For example, you are hung up that I have used the term “the church standards” in an unconventional way. Yet I also use the term “the church standards” in speech in a “normal” way. But your mind seems to focus on the nuance you’ve never heard before, and then assign it to me as if it is the only nuance I ever give to a word. When I was younger, I used to have fun with people by taking a word that had many different shades of meaning and nuances, and then employing it in different sentences for each of those shades, causing confusion to ensue. Each use was technically correct, but because people got hung up on “one shade” of meaning, which they were thinking of (which wasn’t the shade I used), their brains weren’t able to process the other uses of the word. It is unfortunate that English doesn’t have a one word = one word meaning, for then no confusion would result. So, we must use context to figure out just what a person is saying, meaning how they are defining the terms that they use.

    Or take what you wrote, “defining everything that you disagree with as being cultural.” Now you came to your conclusion by my statement: “This is cultural, traditional (as in handed down traditions) or speculative Mormonism at its worst, for it totally contracts scriptural Mormonism.” “This is cultural…Mormonism at its worst,” is what I said, but you projected your own meaning onto that, that everything I disagree with I label as cultural. But, that’s not what I said, is it? Also, I defined my use of the word “cultural” later on didn’t I? “Well, it certainly is cultural, since this is peculiar to Mormon culture,” is what I wrote. So, my use of the word cultural meant that it was peculiar to Mormon culture. Now, maybe the word “peculiar” threw you off, since I used it as meaning “characteristic of only one group.” Perhaps you thought I meant “different from the usual or normal.” Peculiar has both these shades of meaning. I used the first, you assumed the second (perhaps.) So, when I stated “cultural Mormonism at it worst,” it was with the understanding that there is also “cultural Mormonism at its best.” In other words, I don’t label everything I disagree with as cultural. There is good culture and there is bad culture. There are good traditions and there are bad traditions. Etc.

    Earlier, you mentioned that a particular belief might be “traditional.” This description can be neutral, positive, or negative, depending on the theology one employs.

    Exactly my point. A word can imply more than one thing. Which description was I employing? By context, I was using the word neutrally and using “at its worst” to imply the negative. Again, I try to always define what I’m talking about, because people generally don’t understand what I’m saying. For example, I wrote above

    Now, let me explain, since it is obvious you are again using cultural assumptions, meaning that you are using what latter-day saints that you know perhaps believe.

    In this sentence, had I stopped at assumptions, confusion would have resulted. Had I said merely

    Now, let me explain, since it is obvious you are again using cultural assumptions.

    But I knew you wouldn’t understand what I was talking about, so I defined my use of the term “cultural assumptions” as “meaning that you are using what latter-day saints that you know perhaps believe.” “Using cultural assumptions” in my sentence equals “using what latter-day saints that you know perhaps believe.” In other words, the sentence could have been written this way, with the same intended meaning:

    Now, let me explain, since it is obvious you are again using what latter-day saints that you know perhaps believe.

    What I am finding in these conversations with you, is that regardless of my explanations of the terms that I use, your mind still chokes on the usage. You see “cultural assumptions” and assign your own meaning to it (rejecting the one I assigned.) Then you get upset over both the original term and the assignation I gave to it. Both things put your mind in a spin.

    I may be wrong in my assessment, but that’s what I get from your responses. Now, let me try, once again, to explain “cultural assumptions.” The law of man is written down in a law book, right? Well, all Americans are expected to know the law. They cannot use the excuse, “I didn’t know there was a law against that!” and get the charges dismissed. It is there responsibility to follow the law, as it is written down in the law books. A “cultural assumption” is what a person thinks the law is, regardless of whether it is, or is not, the actual law. If I come from a state where you cannot turn right on a red light, and then go to a state where you can do that, I may continue to not turn on red light, because of my cultural assumptions. The culture I was brought up in was no right turns, and so I assume that’s the law. But the new state has no such law and the people behind me are getting pissed at my stopping at a red light with my turn signal still blinking. Sometimes “cultural assumptions” are right on the money (in the original state) and sometimes “cultural assumptions” are completely wrong. The only way to know for sure is to check the law books.

    The people of the Lord are set up in the same way. We have a written law book and are expected to know it and abide by it. It doesn’t matter what a cultural assumption is, regarding the laws and doctrine of the Lord, the only thing that matters is what is written in that law. We will not be able to use the excuse, “Well I didn’t know that! My bishop said this and I followed what he said!” Etc. No one will be judged by the Lord, at the last day, by how closely they followed a man in a leadership position over them, they will only be judged by what is written in those canonized books, by how closely their life matched those principles. I realize it is a romantic notion that the leadership can do whatever they want to do, without restrictions, and their words are law which we must follow, but that really is not the case.

    You obviously have a profound interest in Mormonism, what latter-day saints believe, etc., you having once been a member yourself. But “follow the leader” is not the full story. And a “follow the leader” member is not the only kind of Mormon there is. It may be the only kind you have ever talked to, but there is much diversity among the Mormons, and Mormonism cannot be pigeon-holed into just one type. All of my views, which you think have protestant flavors, derive from Mormonism alone, not from Protestantism, Catholicism, or eastern religions. I’ve only studied Mormonism, my whole life. I am a product of Mormon culture, through and through. My Mormonism comes from a study of the law of the Lord, not from a study of the words of the leadership. It is every bit as valid as any other flavor of Mormonism, I assure you. And there are many Mormons who live their religion in a similar vein as I do.

  24. LDSA,

    If a faith consists of 10 commandments, and you keep only 9 of them, breaking the 10th, are you apostate?

    We aren’t even at this stage, yet.

    We’re at the stage where you’re saying a faith consists of 10 commandments, while, someone else is saying it consists of 12.

    Or, let’s say both groups say a faith consists of 10 commandments. You’re saying that the commandments are A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J.

    Others are saying it consists of Z, Y, X, W, V, U, T, S, R and Q.

    Even if both parties agree that not following all the commandments makes one an apostate, the fact is that when one party says someone is an apostate, they mean something very different than the other party.

    But if, when you don’t find the nuance that I (or others) use in speech (or writing), you get hung up on the new variance or shade and focus on the language and not the concepts communicated in the language, it almost appears to be a mental block of some sort.

    No, actually, I get hung up on the fact that you’re confusing something that is that is idiosyncratic and unrepresentative as being authoritative.

    In other words, I don’t label everything I disagree with as cultural. There is good culture and there is bad culture. There are good traditions and there are bad traditions. Etc.

    But you are not saying that culture — whether good or bad — is doctrinal, standard, etc., What you are not saying is that tradition — whether good or bad — is doctrinal, standard, etc.,

    Again, I try to always define what I’m talking about, because people generally don’t understand what I’m saying.

    I would suggest that the reason people generally don’t understand what you’re saying is because you use idiosyncratic uses. When you define what you’re talking about, this becomes clearer.

    What I am finding in these conversations with you, is that regardless of my explanations of the terms that I use, your mind still chokes on the usage.

    This is because the conversation is about your unconventional usage of terms. That is the conversation. That is not a bracketed point.

    The law of man is written down in a law book, right?

    You can have laws that are not written down in a law book. This is the basic difference between a common law jurisdiction and a civil law jurisdiction.

    They cannot use the excuse, “I didn’t know there was a law against that!” and get the charges dismissed.

    For example, in the United States, this principle is not written down as code. So, if the totality of your laws were summarized as, “The law of man is written down in a law book,” then in many countries, you would not have the principle against ignorance.

    The only way to know for sure is to check the law books.

    Let’s go with this. Tax has a “law book.” It usually tries to be relatively clear…but no law book can be clear. So, you know what happens instead? there are commentaries. There are revenue rulings. There are revenue procedures and IRS field manuals (so that the IRS states how it will conventionally interpret whatever Congress had intended). There are private letter rulings, so that individual taxpayers can get guidance for themselves. There are court cases. There are interpretive sources. And these things are *all* binding in various venues. But they are *not* the Internal Revenue Code (the “law books.”)

    (If you say: “But all of those things are written down, so they are part of the law!”, then there’s a response for that, too.)

    So, let’s apply this to your analogy for the church:

    We have a written law book and are expected to know it and abide by it.

    The religion has a “law book.” It usually tries to be relatively clear…but no law book can be clear. So, you know what happens instead? there are commentaries. There are lesson manuals. There are pronouncements from General Authorities and other leaders. There is personal revelation, so that individual folks can get guidance for themselves. There are courts of love. there are interpretive sources.

    And I’d say most members — especially the leaders — would recognize that too, these are *all* binding in various venues. But they are *not* the scriptures. Alternatively, you might say that they *are* scriptures in different forms. Either way, they bind.

  25. Okay, so from here: “We aren’t even at this stage, yet” to here “Others are saying it consists of Z, Y, X, W, V, U, T, S, R and Q.” I agree with. And my response would be, “It wouldn’t matter what they considered to be the commandments, for they would still consider the church as apostate, in this sense. This is because Zion is the end goal, and everything that falls short of Zion is in some measure of apostasy.” So, one side would say, the church is righteous for this, but sinning for that. While another would say the church is sinning for this, and righteous for that. Either way, both sides agree the church is in some measure under condemnation (per E.T.B., if nothing else), yet still is the church of God, regardless of the way they arrive at their determination. (Now, I might be wrong in this assessment, since I haven’t polled every member…)

    But you are not saying that culture — whether good or bad — is doctrinal, standard, etc., What you are not saying is that tradition — whether good or bad — is doctrinal, standard, etc.,

    Culture and tradition, in regards to the gospel, could be gospel-based, non-gospel based but non-conflicting with the gospel, or non-gospel based but conflicting with it. The gospel isn’t culture specific. It can be lived in American culture, Russian culture, etc. Culture and tradition can be gospel neutral, gospel-boosting or gospel conflicting. When they are gospel conflicting, the culture or tradition becomes an impediment to gospel seeding and growth. To give an example from the Book of Mormon, you will notice that when the Nephite missionaries went to preach the gospel to the Lamanites, they had a two-fold mission: convince the Lamanites of the falseness of the traditions of their fathers and preach the gospel. The first part was necessary because if the gospel is preached in an environment of false traditions (traditions that conflict with the gospel) the gospel doesn’t take. Do a keyword search on “tradition” in the Book of Mormon to see what I’m talking about.

    So, culture and tradition can be doctrinal or a gospel standard, but it might not be. It depends upon its origins and effects.

    I would suggest that the reason people generally don’t understand what you’re saying is because you use idiosyncratic uses.

    I will not argue with you on this point. If you choose to believe that, then it’s fine with me.

    You can have laws that are not written down in a law book.

    That’s true and I did mention above that in the church there is an “oral law,” such as was had among the Jews of old. (Notice, also, that Jesus never felt bound to obey that oral law.) There are also judgments from the councils, etc. The church is a dynamic organization and there are many points to consider, but there is an order to it. We have both canonized words and policy regulations and councils and judgments. All these things have their place. The church is composed of checks and balances and the Holy Ghost can manifest in many ways. It is not inflexibly rigid, nor is it totally fluid. It’s a semi-rigid structure. Throughout it all is the principle of common consent, which can make or authorize changes as it sees fit. But the form of the vessel is given by its framing, the written (canonized) laws of God. Within that framework there is much diversity that can be done. As long as things remain within the gospel parameters, everything is hunky dory. If things go beyond that framework, the boat can slow in its progress or founder altogether.

    Now, this principle is found within the scriptures, for example, Zenos’ parable of the tame and wild olive trees. There were roots (the word of God) and there were lofty branches, which began to take strength “unto themselves” and not from the roots, causing the fruit to begin to wither and perish.

    In the church of Christ there can be no trials for not following a manual, commentary, leader or whatnot. So, none of these things bind, except in an individual’s own head, according to their misinformed belief. Judgments and common consent votes, of course, are different. But apart from that, no one can be either excommunicated or disfellowshipped for anything other than breaking a commandment of God, as found in the scriptures.

    A person must have sinned somehow and not repented of it. Binding, or being bound, is in regard to the covenant one takes, not in regard to any external regulations that might pop up after the covenant. When we are baptized, we do not covenant to do everything church leaders tell us. It is almost as if you, when you were a member, had this view and that you have applied it to all of the other members. Also, you continue to assert the absurd notion that you know what “most members” believe.

  26. Let me expand upon the notion of knowing what others believe. It is one thing for you to say, “When I was a member, I believed this, and all other members I knew also seemed to believe it.” It’s quite another to say, “Most members believe this, therefore, your beliefs do not appear Mormon.” The first is what Mormonism meant to you and your perceptions of the Mormons you grew up with or around. How many Mormons did you know? I don’t know. How many people can a person really know, anyway? 50? 100? Whatever the number is, it is likely small. Of those Mormons you knew or know, how many of them did you get into theological discussions with, so that you could really know what they believed about Mormonism? Probably much less than the number of people you knew/know. So, taking that subset of a subset of the greater Mormon community, can you really apply your perceptions of other people’s Mormonism to all of Mormondom? Well, you could, but would it be at all accurate?

    I have never lived in Utah, but I know people who have been there and come back, telling of their experiences. They said that Utah Mormons are different than the Mormons here. They’ve said that they consider their traditions as if they were commandments of God. I’ve been in various places of the world and the saying that the church is the same everywhere you go is cosmetic, only. The saints over here do things differently, or see things differently, than the saints over there. Despite the manuals and correlation, thought cannot be restrained, and differences in belief ensue. However, that said, I do see a sameness of thought in those who remove the study guides, commentaries, manuals and the like. In other words, in those who remove the external interpretations, and just approach Mormonism from the word of the Lord, as written in the scriptures, inevitably they arrive at the very same conclusions, time and time again. They arrive to a united perspective on a great many things. Not a cosmetic unity, but a real doctrinal unity. This is not the same with those who read the commentaries or manuals.

    Anyway, you are entitled to believe that you know what others believe, or that you know what Mormonism is for the majority, but according to my understanding, the Mormon church is broken into factions or camps of belief or unbelief, hidden from our view. I have no idea how many are in each faction or camp and I doubt you do, too. The “most Mormons believe” arguments are just a fiction, an imagination, a superficial veneer. Eventually we’ll know what everyone believes, but until then, I can only tell you what I believe and what my understandings are, and you can only tell me what you believe, or what you used to believe.

  27. So I just got through all these comments — and I can say that I’ve never heard taught nor thought about God having power to do evil things like lie in the LDSA presented it. The way I personally understood Mormonism, God does “have” the power to lie or control people’s mind [like the devil does] — but were He to exercise that power, He would be removed from His station of “God”. Just like I have the power to shoot myself in the head — but by so doing, I forfeit my life — so effectively-speaking, I never exercise that “power” of mine.

    But the rest of LDSA’s exposition, I had heard before I read what he wrote. The idea of how God works miracles and about the standard works being the only common standard we have to conform doctrine/practice.

    But even if I hadn’t — Andrew, didn’t you ask:

    Mormonism doesn’t have the concept that God is omnipotent, all-powerful.

    …Or does it?

    I wonder if members of the LDS church aren’t even actually in agreement on this.

    It appeared that you were [at the start] actually asking for what members of the LDS church think on this subject and were wondering what concepts Mormonism has about God’s character — but then in these comments, it seemed that you already were the expert on what the Mormon concepts were and what LDS members think ??

    E.g.,

    That’s fine for you to think that, but that’s not a typically Mormon position to take, is all.

    You didn’t ask for the typical Mormon position, did you? If you wanted that, then couldn’t you have just done a poll or something at Wheat & Tares? I found it strange that you asked what the opinion of Mormons was about this, then got the opinion of a Mormon, and then proceeded to explain why that opinion isn’t “typically Mormon” or what “most LDS believe”.

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