Reconstructing Mormonism’s “God the Father”

8 thoughts on “Reconstructing Mormonism’s “God the Father””

  1. These ideas for me compound the problem of evil. Not only does God allow evil and suffering, but in a non-dualism he IS those things. Difficult for a non-eastern religious believer to wrap my arms around.

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    1. The problem of evil is definitely troubling for many people, and is not easy to understand. Here is how I have come to think about it at present. Nondualism says that at the ultimate level of reality there are not two things, but only One, which is God, but it does not deny that at our typical egoic level of perception and experience in the world that there appears to be dualities, multiplicities, and many opposites. There is light and dark, hot and cold, good and bad, sweet and bitter, joy and sorrow, etc. It appears that at this level of experience that all things have their opposite, or as the Book of Mormon states, “there is an opposition in all things,” otherwise there is no existence, no experience. When the nondualistic Self of God becomes expressed in the dualistic egoic separate self of human life, all manner of opposites become possible. The ego is free to pursue light and goodness and life, or darkness and evil and death. They are both facets of the finite experience of mortal life. When the ego surrenders itself, empties itself of “self” in love of others, we experience the Light of God, bliss, joy, peace, happiness, pure Love, our true divine Self. When the ego aggrandizes itself, and seeks to protect itself, then it further separates itself from our true nature in God and experiences darkness, pain, sorrow, suffering, isolation, brokenness, fragility, loneliness. In this way, it is not God who is responsible for evil and suffering, but our own ego, the “separate self,” the “natural man,” this enemy and adversary of God, which stands in dualistic opposition to God.

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  2. Wow, so much to think about! Thank you for your unique perspective related to LDS theology. I am LDS and struggle to make sense of it all, especially now, after being awakening to the messiness of it all. Looking forward to more of your posts.

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    1. Thank you, Maureen. Yes, there is much to think about, or not think about, depending on if you are taking a cataphatic or apophatic approach. Both are useful. What seems clear to me is that our thinking will always be messy. There will never be a perfect intellectual solution to our problems, an absolute Truth that can be known in our mind in the traditional sense of knowing. In many ways our intellect or thought-filled mind *is* the problem. This is why I think contemplative practices such as meditation are so valuable. They help us go beyond the intellect to experience the world as it is, not as we *think* it is. It is in that direct experience that we may find the Truth, in my view.

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  3. Thank you so much, Bryce, for articulating so well a subject that cannot be fully understood by word alone. It resonates deeply with and makes sense to my heart. Very liberating!

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  4. So, what you’re saying is that we shouldn’t be putting God in a box. Well, duh! Yet we certainly do insist on doing so. Still, any effort to “know Him”, until that effort is complete, will necessarily result in limited, “boxed” understanding as we explore the infinite. So, we have no choice but to put Him in a box, but we just need to make sure that the walls of that box are very, very flexible to make room for MORE knowledge.

    I don’t agree that we KNOW about how man evolved or came to be on this planet – but that is a minor issue in the scope of this piece.

    One thing that’s bothering me is that this perception of God – the father and the son – seems to dismiss any active, overt influencing in our lives – like “Crying out for help” in the myriad ways we do that. Is that a fruitless cry, and when the help does come, are we fooling ourselves into thinking that HE heard and answered our prayer? I’m not asking you to answer this. it’s just something I’m struggling with right now, and I figure if I’m struggling with it, someone else probably is too, or the will be at some point.

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    1. Yes, we shouldn’t put God in a box. God is so much bigger than we can possibly imagine with our finite minds. Anything that we say about God must be realized as necessarily incomplete, insufficient, and greatly so (the cataphatic way). Many mystics of the past realized this, and so they sometimes took the approach of trying to say not what God is, but what God is not (the apophatic way). And yet even these negations are incomplete, and insufficient. Eventually such affirmations and negations lead to a surrender of mind in transcendence and awe, in which God is known directly in a way that goes beyond mind. It seems to me that it is this going “beyond mind” that is the meaning behind the Greek word metanoia, which is typically translated as “repentance” in the New Testament. The meta-noia can also be translated as beyond-mind.

      Yes, we don’t know all the particulars about how humans evolved, or how life came to be on Earth. But we do know much, typically much more than many seem to want to admit.

      In my view, the ego often cries out for help from a “Father.” The ego thinks of itself as separate from the Father, and so that is why it cries out for help, extends itself outwardly, seeks elsewhere, looks externally. It thinks that the Father is something “other” than itself. And in a way, I think it is right. The ego is by definition “separate.” It thinks of itself as separate, and so in that very thought it *is* separate. And so all its praying, petitions, yearning, are directed outside of itself. These are not fruitless cries, in my view, and at times the “Father,” as manifested through others, may come to our aid. We may even come to know something of the “Father” through others who are particularly in tune with their fundamental essence, their true Self within, such as Jesus. But if we are to know the “Father” in the most pure of ways, in the direct way, not through any “other” medium, then we must find it within ourself, beyond our ego. We must find the “Father” as the deepest essence of what we ourselves are, that from which we have emerged, that which sustains our very own nature, is the ground of our being, is our source.

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