Posted By Bill Pratt on September 15, 2014
Post Author: Bill Pratt
Mormon scholars and apologists argue that there is significant ambiguity in the biblical texts when it comes to the nature of God. Because of this ambiguity, Mormon views on the nature of God are at least as likely to be true as non-Mormon views. After all, the Bible, according to Mormon scholars, leaves room for many interpretations of God’s nature.
Is this true? Is there a lot of confusion among biblical scholars about what the Bible says about God? After a detailed analysis of the Mormon interpretation of numerous biblical texts that touch on the nature of God, Jim W. Adams, in the New Mormon Challenge, draws some interesting conclusions:
At the beginning of this chapter it was observed that Jews, Christians, and Latter-day Saints claim that their most basic understandings of God, creation, and humanity are rooted in the texts of the Old Testament. Yet curiously, the traditional LDS view is radically different than the view held in common by Jews and Christians. What is to explain this discrepancy?
Jews and Christians debate among themselves and with each other about many doctrines and over the proper interpretation of many biblical passages, yet there is little dissent when it comes to most of the fundamental issues about the nature of God and the created status of the cosmos and humanity. The great majority of Jews and Christians find themselves in basic agreement about what the Hebrew Bible says on these issues. It would be absurd, then, to attribute the discrepancy to ambiguity in the biblical texts.
Adams makes an important point. For thousand of years, there was great unanimity on the doctrine of God among Jews and Christians. Then, in the early 1800’s, Mormons turned much of this biblical interpretation upside-down. What happened?
Stephen E. Robinson states, on behalf of the Latter-day Saints: “We accept the Bible (the LDS use the King James Version) as the inspired word of God—every book, every chapter, every verse of it—as revealed to the apostles and prophets who wrote it.” So far so good.
But then Robinson adds: “We also hold the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price to be the word of God.” Therein, I believe, lies the source of the discrepancy.
These other books that the LDS consider as the word of God, along with their interpretations and midrashic expansions of the biblical texts, at many points contradict the view of God, creation, and humanity found in the Old Testament. Even more contradictory are the later teachings of Mormonism’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith.
In some significant ways the traditional LDS positions hark back to the pagan views of ancient Israel’s Near Eastern neighbors—views that the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, and psalmists intentionally rejected in light of the revelation they received from the one true and living God. This is an unfortunate conclusion to reach, and one that Latter-day Saints will surely be uncomfortable with. However, it seems unavoidable in light of the evidence. It is hoped that LDS theology will develop further in the direction of the biblical revelation and that one day such a conclusion will not have to be drawn.