03
Jun
09

Whom do Mormons worship?

   

    I pose this, not as a trick question, but sincerely.  To me, a non-Mormon, there are a couple of things that just don’t add up.  The one is that Mormonism teaches that the Father and Son are separate Beings.  It interprets their oneness that the Bible talks about as a unity of purpose or something similar, but never as a unity of being.  But what trips me up is a LDS Scripture like D&C 20:19.  “And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being that they should worship.” 

     The things that strikes me are the singulars (only God. . .only being).  Who is the only being that this verse refers to?  Who is the only being that should be worshipped?  Does this refer to Heavenly Father or Jesus?  It seems pretty clear to me that this scripture states that only one God is to be worshipped and, according to Mormonism, “one God” and “one being” can’t refer both to Heavenly Father and Jesus.   Therefore my question:  whom do Mormons worship? 

     Or more pointedly, would it be accurate to say that Mormonism does not teach worship of Jesus?  The brief article on worship in the manual, True to the Faith, at the very least, causes one to ask that question.  It quotes Moses 1:15:  “Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.”  In the next paragraph it specifically mentions that prayer is one way to worship the Father.  A little bit later it says:  “As you reverently partake of the sacrament and attend the temple, you remember and worship your Heavenly Father and express your gratitude for His Son, Jesus Christ.”  Again, as a non-Mormon, I find that distinction between Heavenly Father and Jesus quite striking.

       The bottom line is that D&C 20:19 states that only one being is to be worshipped.  In light of that, I think it is only fair to ask, whom do Mormons worship?

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47 Responses to “Whom do Mormons worship?”


  1. June 4, 2009 at 4:53 am

    Insofar as Jesus participates in unity with God the Father, we worship him.

    Jesus’ worshipfulness is, in this sense, derivative. Just as the Holy Ghost’s is.

    Either way, it does not seem to make much practical difference to me. As I’ve said before, it all goes to the same place anyway, in the end.

  2. 2 jm
    June 4, 2009 at 6:47 am

    Ha Mark,

    How about a a demigod. He’s definitly not the God of the Bible.

    god
    Pronunciation: \ˈgäd also ˈgȯd\
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German got god
    Date: before 12th century
    1capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: as a: the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe bChristian Science : the incorporeal divine Principle ruling over all as eternal Spirit : infinite Mind

  3. June 4, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    When interpreting scripture, like D&C 20:19, you can’t look at the verse in a vacuum. It must be taken in context.

    This verse is drawing a contrast between a religion where there is one God who rules supreme and a religion that believes in many gods (Greek mythology being an archaic example) who must be prayed to separately. Really, it’s reiterating the first few commandments: Love the Lord they God, worship only Him, and do not worship false idols (idols including things like money or possessions that we love more than God).

    You can also think of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost (the Godhead) as the Presidency of a divine organization. We are to understand that there is only one true divine organization and not multiple ones that we can pick and choose from.

  4. 4 markcares
    June 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Robert:
    According to the introduction of Section 20, Joseph Smith received this revelation in April of 1830. At that time he was in upper New York State. That’s the context we need to put this in. There was not a whole lot of religions in Upper New York State in the 1830’s that were promting worship of many gods. In fact, I know of none. The prevailing religious context was churches who taught and worshipped the Trinity. It was those churches that Joseph was supposedly warned by Heavenly Father from joining. That is what he is making a contrast with here. Your explanation completely violates the historic context of this revelation.
    That context also lends great weight to the word “being” here. Again it does not work to cavalierly substitue “organization” or “presidency” for “being”. Please practice what you preach: don’t look at this verse in a vacuum.

  5. June 4, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    A lot of tri-theistic-sounding rhetoric in the LDS tradition has to be understood as a reaction to perceived modalism in the rest of the Christian world.

    As I’ve said before, it may simply be that we are overcompensating for each other.

  6. 6 GB
    June 4, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Mark,

    The following few (among many) verses clearly separate Jesus from God, the Father.

    John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    1 Cor. 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

    Do you think Jesus would be jealous (or upset) if we worship God, the Father?

    Do you think God, the Father, would be jealous (or upset) if we worship His Son, Jesus Christ?

  7. 7 markcares
    June 4, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Gb:
    It’s not what I think. It is what Mormonism teaches. You haven’t addressed my question. In light of D&C 20, who is the ONLY being Mormons are to worship?

  8. June 4, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I might throw the question back at you Mark.

    Who do you worship?

    God the Father? Or Jesus Christ?

    And yes, it is a loaded and leading question. I imagine it would be obvious to you that I’m setting you up for a big counterattack from myself after your answer (whatever it is), exposing the utter incoherence of the traditional Evangelical notion of the Trinity.

    I would keep picking away at you until you finally slipped-up, and couched your conception in either modalist or tri-theistic terms.

    Or we could just skip all that, and state that Mormon scripture is compatible with Social Trinitarian explanations of God and leave it at that.

  9. 9 GB
    June 4, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Added context:

    D&C 20:17 By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them;
    18 And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them;
    19 And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.
    20 But by the transgression of these holy laws man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man.
    21 Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him.

    The context makes it clear.

    2 Ne. 25:16 And after they have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind—and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things.

    Jacob 4:5 Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name. . . .

    Do you think Jesus is jealous (or upset) when we worship God, the Father in Jesus name?

  10. 10 Echo
    June 4, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    D&C 20:19 “…the only living and true God”

    Is Jesus not God?
    Is the Holy Spirit not God?
    If so, are they not living?

  11. 11 markcares
    June 4, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Gb:
    So it would be accurate to answer the question of whom Mormons wrship by saying that Mormons worship the Father, but not Jesus. Rather they worship the Father in Jesus’ name.

  12. 12 GB
    June 4, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Echo,

    John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

    Is Jesus not God?
    Is the Holy Spirit not God?

  13. 13 markcares
    June 4, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Seth:
    I worship the one God: Father, Son and Holy Sprit. And no, I don’t believe in modalism. I believe that they are three distinct persons.
    Further I have no trouble saying that this is illogical to my puny mind. But that doesn’t mean that the one God im three disctine persons isn’t the true God. He’s just way beyond me. And for the record, I don’t think it’s very useful when Christians try to give logical explanations for this. Why try to explain the unexplainable? I just accept it because the Bible says there is one God and identifies that one God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I humble my reason under God’s revelation.
    In fact, I go out of my way to highlight how unexplainable God is. To me, it is such a source of comfort to have such a great God. The more I see his greatness, the easier it is for me to believe that he can do great things -such as giving me eternal life as a free gift through Jesus. That’s a God that deserves worship. That’s the God I worship.

  14. 14 GB
    June 4, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Unexplainable?

    John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that THEY MIGHT KNOW THEE the only true God, AND Jesus Christ, . . .

    Sounds like you have a huge problem. I hope you get it figured out.

  15. 15 markcares
    June 4, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Come on GB. It would be nice if you put a little more thought into your comments. Knowing something and being able to explain it are two entirely different things. Think of all the things small children know but they can’t explain. There are a whole lot of things I know that I can’t explain.

  16. 16 GB
    June 4, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    The Apostle Paul didn’t have any problems explaining it.

    Acts 17:23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, HIM DECLARE I UNTO YOU.

    This clearly suggests that IF you can’t explain it, THEN you have it wrong.

    Sounds like you have a huge problem. I hope you get it figured out.

  17. June 4, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    God can be “beyond all understanding.” In fact, I definitely believe he is.

    That doesn’t mean he gets to be utterly incoherent.

  18. 18 Echo
    June 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    GB

    I am uncertain what your answer is to my question:

    D&C 20:19 “…the only living and true God”

    Is Jesus a God?
    Is the Holy Spirit a God?
    If so, are Jesus and the Holy Spirit living?

  19. 19 geoff456
    June 5, 2009 at 2:06 am

    My Savior teaches me to pray to my Father in Heaven. He teaches me to worship my Father in Heaven. He asks that WE follow Him (Jesus). So the answer for me: I worship God the Father. I love and adore and ALSO worship Jesus Christ AS my Savior.

    ~Geoff

  20. June 5, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Like I said, it all goes to the same place anyway.

  21. 21 markcares
    June 5, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Geoff:
    Thank you for your answer. But, for a non-Mormon, it doesn’t clear up the confusion I mentioned in the original post. How does your answer reconcile with D&C 20:19 that God is the only being to be worshipped? According to Mormonism, God can’t refer to both the Father and the Son since, in Mormonism, they are sepearate beings.

  22. June 5, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    “According to Mormonism, God can’t refer to both the Father and the Son since, in Mormonism, they are sepearate beings.”

    Says who?

  23. 23 markcares
    June 5, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    Let me clarify. I was thinking specifically of D&C 20:19. Who is the only true and living God . .who is the only being to be worshipped? “Only” doesn’t leave much room for a pluraity of Gods and beings being worshipped.

  24. June 5, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    It looks to be God the Father Mark.

    Verses 28 and 29 in that same chapter offer further clarification.

  25. 25 geoff456
    June 5, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Mark,

    In my mind (and I am a convert) Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father have always been separate. I worship God the Father, as I previously stated, because He is God. I follow the Savior, and pray to Heavenly Father in the Savior’s name.
    I look at Heavenly Father or “God” as a flame.(not literally, of course) When He gives His light to Jesus Christ it doesn’t diminish His light, but He is still and always will be the only God because He is the source of that light and power. Jesus is a God because He has that same flame. This is also how WE can be gods because Jesus can pass the “light” on to us, as “heirs” to all He has.

    We (even Jesus Christ) worship God the Father. We also worship Jesus Christ as our Savior. Jesus Himself teaches us that. Jesus is a God, separate and distinct in person and body from God the Father, or for that matter God the Holy Ghost.

    I think you are trying to make it complicated or “strange”. It isn’t. It is very straight forward and simple.

    I personally think that the denominational Christian concept of the Trinity is MUCH more complicated! It requires someone to simply throw up their hands and say, “I don’t get it…but I believe it”. Funny thing: When i was a denominational Christian, Jesus Christ was ALWAYS a person to me. And because I called God “Father”, He was indeed a father to me. One I longed to put my arms around. I NEVER believed the concept that they are intangible….what would be the point?

    anyways, hope this helps. I am by no means the best one to answer this, but this is how I see it personally.

    thanks,
    Geoff

  26. 26 geoff456
    June 5, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    P.S.

    Jesus Christ is the one doing the talking in Doctrine and Covenants. This is His Church and Kingdom. He is the one in charge.

    Hence, the “only” comes from Him. He teaches us to worship God the Father.

    ~Geoff

  27. 27 Echo
    June 6, 2009 at 12:20 am

    But D & C says “only living” God. ?

  28. 29 Echo
    June 6, 2009 at 12:51 am

    I am trying to understand what you believe, I just wondered that if the Father was the “only living” God, but Jesus is God and he is living and the Holy Spirit is God and he is living how can the Father be the only living God?

  29. June 6, 2009 at 1:46 am

    My own personal view is that “God” is both a person (God the Father) and something that you participate in.

    Christ and the Holy Spirit participate in God perfectly. Therefore, they act as a conduit for worship of the Father.

  30. June 6, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Seth,

    Can you flesh this out a little. How do you participate in God?

  31. 32 GB
    June 6, 2009 at 4:11 am

    Echo,

    Jesus said, speaking to the Father, (John 17:3) “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee THE ONLY TRUE GOD, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

    Is Jesus not God?
    Is the Holy Spirit not God?

  32. June 6, 2009 at 4:56 am

    Of course they are God. They perfectly participate in God the Father. Therefore…

    But they are not the ultimate one being spoken of elsewhere in scripture.

    Gundeck.

    “God is love.”

    Those who are perfectly united in love participate in God and are given his power. The power derives from that unity with him. It is by love that Jesus and the Holy Spirit participate in God and share his power and praiseworthiness, not by inherent nature.

    Which makes their unity with him, frankly, much much more admirable. Either could choose not to love him. But they do not. They love him perfectly, and this unity of love, will and purpose makes them a part of the package deal.

  33. 34 Echo
    June 6, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Isaiah 45:22 “I am God, and there is no other”

  34. 35 ADB
    June 6, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Seth,

    “It is by love that Jesus and the Holy Spirit participate in God and share his power and praiseworthiness, not by inherent nature.”

    In light of your explanation above, I would be interested in your take on two passages in particular:

    Ephesians 2:5,6 – “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God …”

    and

    Colossians 2:9 – “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

    Thanks for explaining your point of view. It seems to me to be a little different than what I’m used to hearing from the LDS.

  35. 36 geoff456
    June 6, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Echo,

    God the Father IS God. There is no other like Him. There is no other source for all goodness and light. That does not mean HE, and infinite, all-knowing, all powerful, exalted being can’t pass Godhood onto His Son…or anyone else for that matter. HE IS THE ONE GOD.
    Perhaps we don’t all understand what the word GOD can and does mean. IMO, it is a person, a condition and a title. I think it refers to those who are like Him as well as those who are (Jesus Christ) completely like Him. We can ALL be gods.

    Jesus Christ is God the Son and speaks for His Father. They are so unified that we don’t know WHO is speaking sometimes, but it doesn’t matter. THEY are one in every sense EXCEPT body.(which we KNOW because of the ALL the New Testament examples of their separateness…is that a word?)
    GOD the Father is the source. That makes Him the ONE TRUE GOD.

    ~Geoff

  36. June 6, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I don’t know ADB.

    I’m not sure you, nor I, nor Mark for that matter, really understand what “nature” means, or how we are supposed to be using it here.

  37. June 6, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    There are countless examples in the Bible( NT) of believers worshipping Jesus. In fact, that is precisely what His followers did when He after His resurrection came to visit them. They fell down and worshipped Him.

    It is appropriate to worship Jesus.

    He is God and deserves all the glory and honor and praise we can heap upon Him!!!

    I recall reading McConkie’s talk he gave at BYU about this whole concept of worshipping Jesus. ( a good LDS friend of mine heard in person and said it created a stir on campus) For some reason he believed it was inapprorpriate to worship Jesus and establish a relationship with Him. I read that talk as an LDS and was deepely shocked and upset. I knew something was wrong when LDS leaders were telling their members that worship should only be reserved for God the Father and not the Son.

    Praise God I know differently now.
    ,
    gloria

  38. June 6, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Like I said gloria, it all goes to the same place anyway. So I don’t really care.

  39. 40 faithoffathers
    June 6, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Seems a silly conversation in a way.

    Not that difficult to understand. Three separate individuals- one organization. All are considered God. One organization which can be referred to as God. Outside of this God, we worship no other.

    We worship all three beings, but direct our prayers to God the Father in the Name of His Son, Jesus Christ. We enter covenants with God the Father in the Name of His son, Jesus Christ.

    I think McConkie felt it important to teach to whom we pray and with whom we covenant (The Father), and who is the Mediator and Savior(Christ). This is the simple pattern Christ outlined in the Lord’s prayer. It is important to understand these things, as Christ said in John 17:3. I have heard many non-LDS Christians pray to Jesus, contrary to what He taught (I don’t fault them, I believe they are sincere). This was a major point McConkie sought to clarify.

    I find it interesting that critics seem to be so confused over such simple doctrine-truths my 5-year old can comprehend.

    fof

  40. June 7, 2009 at 3:34 am

    Hi, seth.

    Does that mean then it’s ok for you or other LDS to worship Jesus or the Holy Spirit? Or to pray to Jesus directly or speak to him as you would your friend?

    I ask because I was always told/taught that one should only pray to God the Father as a Mormon and not to Jesus directly.

    As a Christian, we are encouraged to praise and honor all 3 members of the God head. I also talk a lot to Jesus thru the day – just as I would a friend. I pray to Father God, but I also offer up prayers to Jesus and yes, I even ask the Holy Spirit for spiritual gifts and help. I would have never done that as an LDS .

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  41. June 7, 2009 at 3:39 am

    Fof,

    I was not confused by what McConkie shared in his BYU address, I just strongly disagreed then and I most definately do now. He taught that it is not appropriate to seek a personal relationship with Jesus. Yet, the Bible does not teach that. In fact, we read of so many beautiful experiences of people getting very close to Jesus, being healed by Him, eating with Him and just hanging out with Him and yes, having a personal relationship. His followers worshipped him and fell at His feet. McConkie was not advocating this kind of relationship and was critical of those who did desire that/seek that. Like I said, I hav a good LDS friend who was there when this talk was given and she said it created a stir on campus and rightfully so.

    I count myself fortunate and blessed to be able to fall down and worship Jesus. He is so worthy of it.

    Come let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our God our maker, for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 95:6

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  42. 43 geoff456
    June 7, 2009 at 3:59 am

    Gloria,

    I remember that talk. I do NOT remember that he said “no personal relationship” with Jesus. That is a HUGE reach. i belong to HIS church, of course i have a personal relationship with Jesus. But, Jesus himself tells us to pray to the Father….I think FOF summed it up perfectly. You would not or could not find a mormon who did not seek after a personal relationship with Christ. It is taught from every pulpit and is included in EVERY conference, Sacrament meeting (as we partake of the Sacrament) and in every prayer.

    You are mistaken. Period. Bruce R. McConkie was a deep thinker. perhaps he was a little over your head. it happens.

    ~Geoff

  43. June 7, 2009 at 5:59 am

    Yup gloria.

    You can worship Jesus in the LDS Church and, while I certainly can’t speak for everyone, it doesn’t bother me.

  44. June 7, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Hi, geoff. I appreciate the chance to share and exchange thoughts.

    I kind disagree with your statement above.

    I went back and re-read the talk by McConkie titled: Our Relationship with the Lord, BYU 1982 –it’s online for your reading.

    Various times in the talk McConkie openly stated it is “improper & perilous” to have a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus. He even went as far as to state that Lucifer ( satan) would have us feel we are special friends of Jesus. He wasn’t over my head, McConkie was a plain speaker. He spoke plain enough for me and anyone to understand what He was saying.

    I would like to point you to what the Bible says — Jesus said He calls us no longer servants but Friends. John 15:15

    He also said that greater love has no man than to lay down His life for His friends.

    Jesus laid down His life for His friends. I am His friend. He calls me “friend”.

    It is not only appropriate , but it blesses God’s heart to have a close and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  45. 46 faithoffathers
    June 7, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Gloria,

    Thanks for the response.

    As I understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, our primary relationship to diety is with God, our Eternal Father. It is His plan that resulted in this earth being formed, His plan that resulted in us coming to earth. It was His plan that sent His Only Begotten Son to earth to atone for the sins of the world and overcome death. He is the father of our spirits. Our primary relationship is with Him.

    But it is through Christ that we are reconciled with God, now and after this life. We worship Christ because of His atonement and the fact that He is literally God’s Son. If He were here, we most certainly would bow down before Him and give Him the honor, worship, and obeisance He so fully deserves. Every prayer, talk, lesson, covenant, and ordinance we participate in is done in the name of Jesus Christ.

    While what Christ did for each of us was a very personal and eternal sacrifice, a person can develop in their minds a type of friendship or kinship with Him that in a weird way reduces who He is. I think some LDS do this with the doctrine that we are spirit siblings with Christ. While this is technically true, this role of “spirit brother” is trivial compared to His role as Savior, Messiah, Redeemer and the Lamb of God.

    I believe Elder McConkie was clarifying for students and members the relationships between us and the Father and Son, so that neither of Them is diminished or confused in our minds and hearts.

    I have read those BYU talks by McConkie. What I came away with is that he was making it clear that our primary relationship is with God. This is actually exactly what Christ taught if you look at His actual words. He made it very clear that He did not want to usurp the Father’s honor and glory.

  46. June 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    Hi, Fof.

    I so appreciate the courteous exchange. I appreciate your remarks and can see what your saying. Hopefully none of us ever lose that special awe and wonder and fear that we should have towards any member of the Godhead.

    Kind regards,
    gloria


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