Our Imperfect GodBy: Wayfarer
When we do a really careful study of what JS taught about God and gods, when we understand the history of God, and when we understand the nature of God as presented by Jesus in what little we have of his authentic teachings, we see that God is not the platonic ideal. The LDS answer to the theodicy is that God does not have power to overcome free will. As well God, or a god, is subject to laws: natural laws of the universe, either a higher or lower law, as stated in section 88.
The idea of a god with limited power is anathema to mainstream christianity. The idea that God works within law places supernatural miracles within the ‘myth’ category, or at least in the realm of unexplainable technology. But more importantly, in understanding God’s nature as taught by JS and where LDS theology leads puts a lie to the idea that everything has to perfect if it is associated with God.
The church today teaches perfection whereever it can. And even in some places that it doesn’t make sense. Open up Gospel Principles to the honesty chapter. You will find there an absolute standard of honesty that none of scriptures support. While I think honesty is an ideal worth living, especially as it comes to personal authenticity, the church has never consistently pursued honesty as it’s first priority.
The story of Nephi and Laban is extremely important in this sense: that lying or killing for a higher purpose may be permissible by the spirit. While I don’t like the message, it at least is consistent with church history, and better explains some of the church history than the idea that everything was just exactly as it was supposed to be.
When I presented the lying and deception of Nephi in a church lesson on honesty, no one in the congregation had an answer for it. It just didn’t make sense to them given the lesson material. The lesson, flat out, taught that lying is never acceptable. Again, that would be great if true, but the church has never practiced this. Deception continues, and I do not mean this as a negative, because it serves the church’s mission to continue to deceive, to cover up, and to provide ‘milk before meat’. The problem with teaching a principle of perfection is that members are never prepared to receive meat when it becomes apparent to them.
Apologetics is an attempt to keep the milk alive, to use the metaphor. I believe this does members a disservice because they (1) do not learn the truth, and (2) are not prepared for the truth. Hence, when the truth comes out, very active, true believing members go completely negative in a hurry. The cognitive dissonance is just too painful.
Now after 180 years, the church has painted itself into a corner with hard-line dualistic statements of ”its all true or the biggest fraud in history.” It’s neither. The truth of the church is in restoring the idea that God continues to reveal His will through the heart and mind of those who listen to that still, small voice. God is not to be found in the creeds and orthodoxy, but rather, in the one to one personal experience that we call testimony. And this testimony is not the rote version so familiar to us, but rather the discovery, line upon line and precept upon precept, that God is nearer to us as humans than we think. The truth of the church is that we have a divine nature explained by a plan of salvation that uniquely lays out pre-mortal existence and the possibility that all may be in a realm of glory. These things cannot be proven, and truly are unknowable in logical terms, but they can be felt. To know that God is one of us leads us to a higher knowledge that we can be one with god in many unique ways. God is not so distant, but as one of us, fully knows our weakness and has more compassion than we possibly can realize.
Such intimate knowledge of God is beyond apologetics and beyond words. In fact, I feel that apologetics continues to try to make literal and perfect and perfectly harmonious a set of concepts in scripture that were never meant to be harmonized. It’s a disservice to the spiritual nature of scriptural history to literalize scripture. When we embrace the myth and fiction as such, we begin to realize the God that is beyond all realization.