Thursday, October 08, 2009

An Answer to the Question "Did God Sin?"

Recently, a fellow CARM poster named Aaron Shaf has been creating threads and youtube videos asking LDS about our understanding of the nature of God as it relates to a comment by Joseph Smith in what is called the King Follett Discourse who said, "It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, . . . and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ Himself did.' The Father is a glorified, perfected, resurrected, exalted man who worked out his salvation by obedience to the same laws he has given to us so that we may do the same."

However, aside from a few other sources which comment on the King Follett Discourse, Pres. Hinkley, who was asked about this subject, was correct in saying that this statement and speculation in what Joseph Smith meant by this statement are not emphasized in the church. Therefore, I think a few persons enjoy asking LDS on this issue precisely because LDS members don't have much to say on the matter. That said, I do have a few things to say in response to Aaron's question of whether LDS believe that God sinned.

1. First, when I read this quote by Joseph Smith, I think it's important to focus on how this passage, like the Bible, describes God in anthropomorphic terms and teach us to pray to God as if He were standing beside us listening to us pray like Moses who was said to have spoken with God face to face. I think there is value in praying this way and I think this is a major point of the statement.

2. Aaron makes the assumption that being worthy of praise as God is dependent upon the quality of omniscience or omnipotence. However, the Bible does not teach that omniscience or omnipotence is the most important defining characteristic of God. While these attributes are necessary, according to the Bible, what makes God God, is His Love. God is love.

3. Accordingly, the Love of God which LDS and the Bible refer to as charity is said to be the greatest of all, for all things pass away, but charity never faileth. What did Paul mean when He taught that all things pass away and having all knowledge and spiritual gifts was like the tinkling of cymbals? What Paul meant, I believe is that in heaven, in the pre-mortal existence, and in the eternal world, there is no sickness, we probably all speak the same language, and we have access to all knowledge that we can perfectly retain. Additionally, time does not exist. God and all heavenly beings dwell in the ETERNAL NOW. Therefore, without time, just think of the implications. Anything can be known, and anything can be done perfectly NOW.

4. Let's say for example that Aaron and I were both given the assignment to design and create a gazelle. And lets say that it took Aaron 2 years and me 5 million years to finish the job. We could even say that I started on the gazelle project for a year, and then took 2 million years off, but then came back to it. In the end, both jobs would be perfectly completed NOW because time doesn't exist. So, the point of Aaron finishing sooner is irrelevant in heaven. There is no sooner in heaven. The only important and relevant fact is that we both produced a finished and perfected gazelle.

Maybe if time to finished gazelle didn't matter, maybe least gazelle mistakes would matter. Therefore, what if I was careful, and although I spent longer on my gazelle, my first gazelle was perfect, but Aaron had 5 failed gazelles but by trial and error was able to produce a perfect and completed gazelle sooner. Would I be more worthy of praise as a gazelle creator than Aaron?

What if Aaron already knew how to design and create gazelles but I didn't. What if I spent my 2 million years off attending gazelle design and creation school? On the other hand, because time doesn't exist, that 2 million years in gazelle school wouldn't even be a nanosecond on the eternal clock. If time doesn't exist, can it be said that Aaron knew more about gazelles than I did if at the same moment Aaron designed his gazelle, I earned my gazelle design degree, and designed my gazelle? My point here is that these criteria may not be relevant in heaven.

5. How does this relate to sin? We have all been commanded to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect. Christ was able to achieve this perfection at the start with the divine help of His Father. Yet the Bible still says He grew and matured in wisdom and favor with God and man. And the Bible teaches that Christ learned obedience by the things He suffered. But we know that Christ is God and stood next to the Father in the beginning, so, how could Christ learn anything. Well, we learn from the Book of Mormon that the Spirit knoweth all things, nevertheless, Christ suffered according to the flesh so that he could know in the flesh what he already knew by the Spirit. So, Christ did know it perfectly already, he just learned it again in a different way.

6. So, Christ was perfect from the beginning, but it will take the rest of us, with the divine empowerment of Christ, a full 1000 years in the Millennium to finish the work of our sanctification. Through the process of sanctification and the atonement of Christ, all sin will be disannulled, made void ab initio, and made like it didn't even happen. According to the perspective of heaven, does it matter that it will take us longer to arrive at perfection than it took Christ? Or will we be less worthy because we required the divine empowerment of Christ to become perfect who will become the Father of our Eternal Life than Christ who required the divine empowerment of His Father to be perfect?

7. Again, what makes God worthy of worship and praise is His love, and His ability to make us like He is, to give us all he has, to withhold nothing from us, to make us heirs of God, to exalt us and empower us to participate with Him in His work of creation and eternal parenting. God will be forever worthy of worship and praise because He is our Father in Heaven who empowered us who are gods en embryo already to become eternal parents. God said "ye are gods". Therefore what we become and what God empowers us to be is Fathers and Mothers and to participate with Him in His work of creation and eternal parenting. By participation in this work is the only way to truly come to know God. And according to the Bible, knowing God is the definition of Eternal Life. Well, how can you know someone, unless you are empowered to participate in the kind of work that they do? Is there anything about God's nature, or power that He cannot transmit to those He calls His children?

8. Regardless, the Bible says that Christ could do nothing but what he had seen the Father do, and Joseph Smith taught that God lived on an Earth like Jesus Christ. Therefore, since Jesus Christ is fully God and did not sin, LDS can also say that God the Father never sinned if we are to assume that Joseph meant what we are speculating he meant by the above statement.


Jettboy said...

I just want to thank you for this. It is a wonderful look at the nature of repentance and the Atonement. Regardless of the reason for this post, its message works alone.

SilverRain said...

I think a better understanding of the Atonement helps in understanding the nature of God-as-exalted-man.

I do not think that it matters whether or not the Father was as Christ is, or if He was as we are. In Christ, we become perfected in Him, one with Him . . . we become as He is. Therefore, our sins become nothing, as if they never existed. The line become what Christ is and what we are disappears.

In other words, if we welcome the Atonement into our lives, we all become Saviors as Christ is a Savior because we become One with Him.

Fred W. Anson said...

Unfortunately author has opened a can of worms with his final argument. He has cited (out of context) as his proof text a passage that affirms Christ's Trinitarian unity with the God the Father:

John 5 (Amplified)
16 For this reason the Jews began to persecute (annoy, torment) Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath.

17 But Jesus answered them, My Father has worked [even] until now, [He has never ceased working; He is still working] and I, too, must be at [divine] work.

18 This made the Jews more determined than ever to kill Him [to do away with Him]; because He not only was breaking (weakening, violating) the Sabbath, but He actually was speaking of God as being [in a special sense] His own Father, making Himself equal [putting Himself on a level] with God.

19 So Jesus answered them by saying, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the Son is able to do nothing of Himself (of His own accord); but He is able to do only what He sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does is what the Son does in the same way [in His turn].

20 The Father dearly loves the Son and discloses to (shows) Him everything that He Himself does. And He will disclose to Him (let Him see) greater things yet than these, so that you may marvel and be full of wonder and astonishment.

21 Just as the Father raises up the dead and gives them life [makes them live on], even so the Son also gives life to whomever He wills and is pleased to give it.

22 Even the Father judges no one, for He has given all judgment (the last judgment and the whole business of judging) entirely into the hands of the Son,

23 So that all men may give honor (reverence, homage) to the Son just as they give honor to the Father. [In fact] whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, Who has sent Him.

(Please note that I've chosen the Amplified because, IMO, it brings forth the subtle nuance of the original manuscripts that is hard to discern in other translations in general and the KJV in particular)

AND compounding the author's choice of this passage is that Christ is giving this dissertation as justification for working on the Sabbath.

Fred W. Anson said...

And, just so they didn't miss the point, Christ expounds further on this them in John chapter 8:

John 8 (Amplified)
26 I have much to say about you and to judge and condemn. But He Who sent Me is true (reliable), and I tell the world [only] the things that I have heard from Him.

27 They did not perceive (know, understand) that He was speaking to them about the Father.

28 So Jesus added, When you have lifted up the Son of Man [on the cross], you will realize (know, understand) that I am He [for Whom you look] and that I do nothing of Myself (of My own accord or on My own authority), but I say [exactly] what My Father has taught Me.

29 And He Who sent Me is ever with Me; My Father has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.
30 As He said these things, many believed in Him [trusted, relied on, and adhered to Him].

31 So Jesus said to those Jews who had believed in Him, If you abide in My word [hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly My disciples.

32 And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.
about an hour ago · Like

In BOTH of these passages the emphasis - when read in context -is on the unity of the members of the Godhead NOT Christ following some predetermined "Plan of Salvation" that was set forth by the Father in the preexistence so he could achieve deification.

To suggest the latter is, quite simply, eisegesis.
(see )