15 Comments

  1. Paul E. Black

    May I suggest another reason that God may withhold incontrovertible proof of his existence? Perhaps absolutely knowing of God AND not obeying him is an unforgivable sin. We are shielded from God’s full glory so that when we falter, our lack of faith is forgivable.

  2. @Paul, absolutely. Thank you. How can one deny the sun while it shines? Of course, by so doing, one cannot be forgiven (D&C 76:30–38). Again, this allows for a probation in which our free will and agency is tested, tried, and we gain experience tasting good versus evil, and choosing to following God or not, allowing the Atonement to work when we falter.

  3. Clark

    It seems to me there are two different issues. The first are the classic proofs of god’s existence. Those are really about a necessary being with certain characteristics Mormons might not agree with. Often, in philosophy, such a being is called the “god of the philosophers.” While sometimes the proofs are interesting on their own terms (I rather like Anselm’s Ontological Argument myself) none of them are technically proofs. More importantly I don’t think such a being lines up with the typical Mormon view of God – especially not if you take the traditional reading of the King Follet Discourse and Sermon in the Grove seriously.

    The issue of divine hiddenness is a bit more of a tricky issue. I think Mormons should be sympathetic to this for several reasons. For one our theology of mortality tends to see our presence before God in our pre-mortal life as inherently problematic to our development. In most Mormon theologies the typical view is that we have to have a veil of forgetfulness so that we could be tried and progress. A natural corollary to that is that God has to be hidden in a serious way. I also think that our theology (in places like D&C 93) indicates that we learn line upon line and we move from very vague knowledge of God into a deeper and more fulfilling one as we come to be like him. Put an other way you only get sufficient knowledge of God when, in a certain sense, you don’t really need that knowledge for belief. Instead we are to work and develop out of ignorance with the ignorance having a pragmatic role.

  4. Kerry Shirts

    How does knowing God 100% refute the meaning of our lives? This is completely illogical considering Joseph Smith’s First Vision. He KNEW (provided he was telling the truth) that God existed, but did that destroy his free agency, or wipe out the meaning of life for him, or make it so his life’s test was over? Not a bit.
    If it is true that God is so concerned that we know Him, why doesn’t He simply do the obvious? Just show Himself to his children and then we can proceed. Obviously, based on the lack of evidence, God apparently isn’t all that concerned about the world or how it is treated by us or how we treat each other. He sure doesn’t come and help strike a balance back so famines don’t exist anymore and millions suffer. He obviously doesn’t tell everyone who claims they have burnings in their bosoms the same truths, so that there is more confusion now than ever before about what God wants, who he is, etc. Politicians and advertisers certainly KNOW how to get the word out, but God apparently doesn’t. And if he does and chooses not to, then obviously it doesn’t appear to be critical to understand him much. I am just sharing some of the logical ramifications with you about the logic here.

  5. Hi Kerry! You are right. It’s a difficult question. Why does God withhold Himself, and not just show Himself? I perceive it has to do a lot with preparation. Perhaps a correlation (a good one that that) could be made with the temple ordinances, where President Packer notes that they are “kept confidential lest they be given to those who are unprepared. Curiosity is not a preparation. Deep interest itself is not a preparation. Preparation for the ordinances includes preliminary steps: faith, repentance, baptism, confirmation, worthiness, a maturity and dignity worthy of one who comes invited as a guest into the house of the Lord.” Perhaps it is these same reasons that God does not simply show Himself. We aren’t ready for it. Those who are sufficiently prepared may step into the Lord’s house, and have that witness.

    In the majority of cases I think our knowledge of God comes very slowly, line upon line, as it were. We don’t come to know God exists in one fell swoop, but piece by piece, as God is willing to grant us.

    As far as the prophets go (such as Joseph Smith and the First Vision), who knows. Maybe there is an exception to the rule in the calling of a prophet. There must be a starting point for the declaration of God’s word (Amos 3:7). Even so, Joseph prepared himself through reading the scriptures, and sincere faithful prayer, before receiving the First Vision.

  6. “If it is true that God is so concerned that we know Him, why doesn’t He simply do the obvious? Just show Himself to his children and then we can proceed. Obviously, based on the lack of evidence, God apparently isn’t all that concerned about the world or how it is treated by us or how we treat each other. He sure doesn’t come and help strike a balance back so famines don’t exist anymore and millions suffer.”

    I wonder if this might not be the right question to ask. As a humanist and a believer in God, I find this prayer of R. Israel of Ruzhin much more helpful.

    “Dear God, I do not ask You to explain to me why the world was created, or why the good suffer and the evil prosper. Only, please tell me: What am I doing in this world of Yours?”

  7. Chris in Virginia

    Wonderful, very personal post.

    Random question I pulled out – you bring up Moses and his vision in the first few chapters of Moses. Bryce you state that Moses had a personal visit, but that it “was with God the Son, not the Father”.

    I have always found it interesting those that say it is the Son and not the Father. I take the first chapters of Moses as a direct communication from the Father to Moses. Some could say a depiction of Moses receiving his higher priesthood ordinances/a fulness.

    Be interested to know additional thoughts.

  8. Hi Chris! In nearly every case I’ve read about, the appearance of God in the scriptures is likely that of the Son, since He is the intercessor with man. Sometimes this can be difficult to determine because the Son can speak with divine investiture of authority, as if He is the Father. That’s what makes the First Vision so spectacular since they both appeared, yet it was Christ that did most of the teaching. Whenever the Father has made an appearance (or His voice is heard), it is usually solely to introduce the Son. At least this is what I perceive from my studies. I’d be interested to learn more on the subject.

  9. Chris in Virginia

    That’s what I always hear/have heard, but I have to admit, the older I get, the more I visit the temple and listen to who is talking to me, I have become more and more interested in this subject.

    I understand the premise behind divine investiture of authority (DIA), but in this case – with Moses – my thoughts as to why it would be the Father as opposed to the Son comes from many things, but probably the key for me is in D&C 84:19–25, especially verse 22. I think it’s a wonderful point about the priesthood, it’s functions, covenants, our potential, and what had ACTUALLY happened to Moses. Verse 23 makes it seem that the previous information we are reading (at least verse 22, if not more) is what Moses taught to the people; and the reason Moses could teach the people how to “see the face of God, even the Father, and live” is because he had done it. But they weren’t ready for it. They were not ready, as Moses had been, to see the face of “the Father”.

    Does/can the Savior/Son speak for the Father…yes, I have no doubt. But when one reads the first few chapters of Moses as it is written, without trying to fiddle with DIA, it’s beautiful and I think very instructive, and opens up other scriptural meaning (i.e. D&C 84:19–25).

    At least that was my experience.

  10. Chris in Virginia

    Very interesting to ponder…good scripture. Seems Philip wanted, for lack of a better way to put it, a sign, and Christ was trying to help them understand that they needed the foundation (i.e. Christ) and that would suffice, because he is one with/leads to/is like the Father.

    I still believe there is room for the Father to visit. As you mentioned above, that’s what makes the first vision so special.

  11. Interesting.

    For one, I think that atheism is not to doubt God’s existence the way any believer has room for a little doubt from time to time. Atheism is to deny that God exists, to say that there can be no incontrovertible proof for an imaginary character. I’ve had plenty of atheists say either or both of those things.

    Then, I also think that an incontrovertible proof of God would frustrate God’s plan. It is based on faith, not knowledge.

    While many people say they “know” that God lives or Jesus is risen, or something–and I have said it more than once–that knowledge is more based on a gut feeling and experience with prayer or indeed visiting the temple or hearing a heart-touching testimony. Usually a mixture of all those things.

    This is different from the kind of knowledge, that is, for example, that 2+2=4. It is a formula that is always the same, that works the exact same way no matter whom I give it to. But if I give a Book of Mormon to someone, share my own experience with it and suggest they try the same, I have no right to expect that it works with a 100% reliability (this I have learned by experience, too).

    Because what happened to me, didn’t happen during those 21 days that it took for me to go from my first contact with the Church to my own baptism. I was ready, I had been thoroughly prepared, and when the switch was turned, the light went on. That’s just how it is. Some people start their journey from the first contact, for me it was the final step in a way that is difficult to fully explain. And these 30+ years since, there have been plenty of challenges, dark days and sleepless nights.

    If you could turn God and religion to a 2+2=4 kind of formula, you’d take away any need for faith. And also, you’d take away any excuse from the millions who want to follow their own reasoning, regardless of God, who have been blinded by those who are sometimes so convincingly able to make error look like truth in the best Orwellian fashion.

    Now, we have agency, and we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. I am grateful for it, because God knows I have made at least my share of mistakes, and hopefully learned a little.

    And all of the above is in a way very logical with the idea that we came from the presence of God to learn what it is like to be out of it. I think that has something important to teach us, and I think by now I’ve learned some of it. We’ll see.

  12. brent

    I actually think, or am persuaded by scripture, that many have seen the Father…many more than we might think or that are recorded in scripture, and that we do not hear of it because of it’s sacred and special nature. For example, consider John 14:23, D&C 84: 19–23, JST 11:27, Acts 7:55, (there are others, but I’ll be brief), McConkie’s Ten Blessings of the Priesthood (#10) http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1977/10/the-ten-blessings-of-the-priesthood?lang=eng, JST-Gen. 14:30,31, and the testimony from the minutes of the School of the Prophets, OCT 3, 1833. In most cases, it seems, the manifestation of the Father is to testify of the divinity of His Son in order to fulfill His law that by the mouth of two or three witness shall the truth be established.

    Concerning Moses, we know better than to limit his heavenly manifestations to just one experience. In the NT, Jesus clearly claims that he is the Old Testament Jehova (I AM) that spoke with Moses on the mount and modern prophets and scripture make that clear. In the creation of the earth visions that we have in the Pearl of Great Price, could it be the Father himself? Why not? Jesus speaking under DIA…possibly. Remember that Jesus said, “he who hath seen me hath seen the Father” so the experiences must be very similar and just as overpowering. However, I am persuaded that the Father must have appeared at least once to Moses in order to testify of His Son, as it seems He has done in other cases.
    An aside, the Apocalypse of Abraham has an interesting depiction of Abraham being taken (fig. 3-20) by his guide (Yahoel) by the right hand (always the right hand) up to the throne of God who sits behind multiple veils (fig. 3-23). I think you’ll enjoy this reading: http://www.fairlds.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2010-Jeffrey-Bradshaw.pdf

  13. Andrew Lacayo

    Very interesting arguments. I agree with both in certain ways. I don’t agree with Cleon Skousen’s “Meaning of the Atonement” theory. This is not doctrine, it is just his opinion and it doesn’t make sense because it says that God is subordinate to the will of his creations/intelligences. That somehow they have control over him or that God has to appease them somehow. God is a god because he obeys the same laws and ordinances that His Heavenly Father obeyed. Skousen’s argument nullifies that part of this argument because it’s not doctrine.

  14. Andrew Lacayo

    Chris, I agree with Bryce, Christ is the one Moses saw, and it sounds like it was Heavenly Father, but Christ is acting with the DIA in those chapters. I’ve taken classes on that idea. Joseph Smith and Stephen are the only ones in history, that we know of, that have seen both the Father and the Son, Jehovah is who Moses saw. We know that Christ is the veil of the temple (Hebrews 10:20) and it is through Christ that we are introduced to the Father. Christ is the gatekeeper so seeing Heavenly Father in the temple is represented in the Celestial room, not at the veil.

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