Mormons and the Nature of God

I recently attended the funeral of the youngest son of a friend and neighbor.  While it was a sad event, the funeral was short and the speakers did a good job.  The sermon by the Bishop was short and to the point.  After the Bishop spoke, another neighbor (a former Bishop who is now in the Stake Presidency) made a few brief comments about the deceased.  Here is where it got bizzare for me.  He related the following story.

He (the former Bishop) was headed to SLC to visit a young ward member who was in the hospital (a 5-year-old girl suffering from an inoperable brain tumor).  After leaving Orem (located 40 miles south of SLC), he noticed he was out of gas.  But he didn’t want to gas up, because it was a Sunday and he didn’t want to do business on Sunday.  (About this time in his story, our former bishop started to weep.)

In his story, he prayed that he could make it to the hospital without running out of gas, which, in fact, he was able to do.  After visiting the young Ward member in the hospital, he was then able to drive past Orem to Spanish Fork (located 10 miles south of Orem) and visit my neighbor’s son at his apartment.  He then returned to his home without gasing up.  Thus, he was able to travel approximately 80 miles on an empty tank of gas.  This “miracle” was attributed to the intervention of God.

I’m not trying to mock my former Bishop here; he has related similar stories in the past.  The interesting point to me, is that Mormons have a very ill-defined definition of God and his role in the universe.  I personally have a rough time relating to a micromanaging, “omni-” God, yet this is the God of President Joseph Field Smith and Mormon Doctrine.  The other vision would be that of a progressing, largely hands-off God of some liberal Mormons.  The conservative view seems to be the more accepted view at the moment.

William Blake's Version of God

It would seem on the surface, that these two images of God are not very compatible.  And further, that the idea of a hands-on God is becoming increasing incompatible with the progress of science.  This might explain some of the current dissatisfaction among young Mormons with their church.

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2 Responses to Mormons and the Nature of God

  1. Vblogger says:

    “Faith-promoting” stories like this don’t do much for me, but I’m okay with them inspiring others.

    I’m not sure the two concepts of God are completely incompatible. I also don’t feel you can determine based on these faith-promoting anecdotes which of the two views are the most “conservative” among church members. I suspect among the general authorities there is a wide range of beliefs on this.

    This idea of a “hands-on” God, at least in Mormonism, comes from the Bible, and many Christians, and others from other religions probably believe similarly:

    Matthew 10:29
    29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
    30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
    31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

    At the same time, God does seem to give us LOTS of latitude for agency and determining our own destiny. I don’t think that precludes Him from also knowing and prompting us individually.

    By the way, I would have had no problem refilling gas on Sunday for this purpose–and I suspect, neither would Jesus or President Monson. However, we can avoid this possibility, regardless of which day of the week, by keeping at least 1/4 tank of gas.

  2. roger hansen says:

    According to comment by Peter Marlow posted on one of my IEET.org blog pieces:

    “When our family lived in Brazil (and we had several young children then), the economy was in turmoil unlike anything modern Americans have ever seen. Inflation had been running above 10% a month for several years. One day when we ran out of food and money (something that perhaps out of prideful shame we kept to ourselves), our church bishop showed up with a bag full of groceries. He said the Spirit clearly told him to bring it to us right away. It is impossible to describe the happiness I saw in his eyes as he helped us fill our cupboards. What a beautiful experience! It brought us all closer to God.”

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