Sunday, September 19, 2021

God’s Character and Attributes (Lectures on Faith 3-4)

A Correct Idea of God’s Character

 

READ LoF 3:2-5

What is necessary for any rational and intelligent being to exercise faith in God unto salvation?

The idea that He actually exists; which you get from someone else – either another mortal, an angel or God Himself.

A correct idea of His character, perfections and attributes.

An actual knowledge that the course of life which one is pursuing is according to His will – this can only come from God, otherwise it’s not an “actual” knowledge.

Why is it important to have a correct idea of God’s character, perfections and attributes?

You can’t believe in a being that doesn’t exist.

If you don’t know God’s true character, you’re making things up; you’re worshipping a god of your own creation or imagination, or of someone else’s; you are engaging in idol worship.

His actual character traits are such that we can have faith in Him, when we understand what they are – they generate faith in us.

But if you don’t understand the correct idea of God, you are missing something and this prevents you from being able to exercise true faith unto salvation, regardless of your good intentions or positive self-talk.

How does one gain an actual knowledge regarding one’s life course and standing before the Lord?

Directly from the Lord, as a result of having sacrificed all that He required of you (see LoF 6).

Actual knowledge implies that your understanding does not come from conjecture (I.e. the promises made to others in scripture based on criteria that you think you have met but it has not been actually confirmed to you by God), or from the pronouncement of a man (again, as men make mistakes, who is to say whether he is giving you an accurate assessment), or even from inspiration via the Holy Spirit (as again, while God might be trying to communicate with you in clarity, the possibility of your own human error – either from sin or blinding emotional desires – means that doubt has been introduced into the situation and your faith will suffer as a result).

What is the difference between “perfect and fruitful” faith and “imperfect and non-productive” faith – isn’t it better to have faith of any kind than no faith at all?

Perfect and fruitful faith achieves the desired result of the individual acting in faith in God, while anything less (imperfect faith) yields non-productive results.

Fruitful faith means to experience the glorious discovery and receive the eternal certainty discussed in the last section – it means to know God with a surety (see 3 Nephi 11:14-15) and to receive a promise or hope of eternal life (see D&C 88:75) – which is the fullness of the Gospel and the desire of God for each of us (see Moses 1:39).

Anything less than this outcome is the definition of “non-productive” faith.

So, if one desires to be redeemed (see Ether 3:13) and receive an actual knowledge of their salvation, anything less than that is non-productive or a failure; that being said, for every eternal law that is lived, one receives a portion of glory or light which is to their advantage in the world to come (see D&C 130:18-21).

 

READ LoF 3:6-7

Why can no one find out God by searching for Him; why must He reveal Himself?

God reveals Himself or He is forever unknown by mankind; our imagination cannot conceive of the true reality of God – what He is really like; we are limited to our experience and if that never included Him, our conception of what He might be like would be absolutely off the mark as our frame of reference is mankind and this world; we will be off fundamentally, not just by orders of magnitude (see Job 11:7-9; 1 Corinthians 2:9-11).

This is why the “eye of faith” (our imagination) must be informed by God Himself and His revelations to be effective (otherwise it will only make God over in mankind’s image – thus destroying faith because we will have invented a god of our own making, one that is not living and so, it will fail us in the end because it has no power to save us), and why it is a tool to build requisite faith to experience the true and living God (in the same way an ordinance points to a real event but is only a rite) but is ONLY a tool, and we must be careful that it does not constrain the reality of who and what God is, when He finally reveals Himself to us; we must have a “soft” or open heart to the truth, as foreign to our experience on earth it may be; and we must continually and patiently watch for God to appear in reality and not settle for the “manufactured” experiences available through our imagination (as in a visualization or guided meditation) or an ordinance.

 

READ LoF 3:8-11

What are God’s primary character traits and why do they enable our faith?

That He was God before the world was created, and is the same God that He was after it was created (there is no “bigger” god that can come in and supplant Him and His plan, see v 13).

That He is merciful, and gracious, slow to anger, abundant in goodness, and that He was so from everlasting, and will be to everlasting. (we all sin, see v 14).

That He changes not, neither is there variableness with Him; but that He is the same from everlasting to everlasting, being the same yesterday to-day and forever; and that His course is one eternal round, without variation. (the plan is the plan, see v 15).

That He is a God of truth and cannot lie (and we can have confidence in His word, see v 16).

That He is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that fears God and works righteousness is accepted of Him. (He is fair - whoever may come, may come - ALL may come, from the least to the greatest if they will abide by the requirements, see v 17).

That He is love (which is why He sacrifices for us, see v 18).

 

READ LoF 3:19

Why is the fact that there is no God greater than the Father essential to faith unto salvation?

If another God existed who was wiser than the Father, then the possibility that there could be a better way or that the way might change, could be introduced into our thinking, causing doubt.

If another God existed that was more powerful than the Father, the possibility that the Father could be defeated by that God, who if They sought to defeat the Father would show themselves to not have our best interest in mind; this would introduce doubt into God’s ability to fulfill the promises He has made to us.

How can God be over all, from everlasting to everlasting and that there is none greater than He who could disrupt His plans, if Jesus saw the Father perform an atonement on another world where He was acting the role of Savior – implying that He had a Father who is greater?

By implication, God the Father is not the only supreme being but none is greater; however, that does not mean that none are equal to Him.

To become a God is to become one with all other Gods – to share the same mind and will or Holy Spirit, as we will discuss in Lectures on Faith 5; so to disrupt the plans of another God that you are one with is to disrupt your own plans – it is especially unlikely since becoming a God requires you to become precisely as Christ is, with all of the attributes and characteristics we are discussing in the LoF – it requires you to love and sacrifice all things for those who will reject you – it is to abide precisely by the eternal law of light.

So, for a God to separate Him or Herself from the other Gods (violating these attributes and characteristics) to disrupt the plans of another God means that individual would cease to be God and would lose the light, glory and power they had gained; and in losing that power, would not be able to disrupt the plans of the Gods who retain that power and glory.

 

READ LoF 3:20

Whose goodness or righteousness is our salvation dependent upon and what is implied?

It is dependent upon God’s righteousness, and God’s alone; our salvation depends completely on His merits and mercy.

Our job is to exercise sufficient faith in His ability and in His desire to save us - that we come unto Him and offer our whole souls, which is not the same as offering Him a perfect life (i.e. being 100% compliant with the fullness of eternal law…at least not at this stage of our development).

When we come unto Him with a repentant or broken heart and contrite spirit, He is quick to forgive – He is a “first watch God” in this area (see Matthew 14:24-25).

The paradox about this argument for God’s mercy is that those who are more spiritually attuned to Him are the ones most in danger of losing their faith, if God was not merciful and salvation not based on His merits – because they are the ones who see more fully the chasm between their current state and the requirements of salvation.

 

READ LoF 3:21

If God is absolutely unchangeable, why has the gospel changed over time?

It hasn’t! 

The gospel revealed to Adam and Eve (the “Ancient Order of Things” to quote Joseph Smith) is the Fullness of the Gospel and the only one which can save us in Celestial glory.

Changes to what has been revealed to mankind as “the gospel” have either come as a result of mankind’s rejection of the fullness of the gospel and God’s mercy in giving them a lesser law (see D&C 84:19-27) or the changes are the result of evil and conspiring men who, in the name of God, have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, and broken the covenant (see Isaiah 24:5).

 

READ LoF 3:22

Although God cannot lie, He seems to have a history of withholding truth from mankind in a way that could be construed as deceptive; is this the case and does it undermine faith?

The fact that God cannot lie or He would cease to be god is a trait that we can rely on 100%; if He tells you your standing before Him, you can believe it.

Man’s thoughts and ability to comprehend the fullness of the reality that God deals with is so low that God is constrained by our cognitive ability with regards to some information – we wouldn’t understand it even if He revealed it; also, some things can only be understood if they are experienced and we lack the ability to experience many of the requisite challenges required to understand the full truth, at this level of our development (i.e. we would not survive an atonement, for instance).

In addition, the true magnitude of what is required to become like God is so daunting that understanding it now might cause many of us to forgo it and choose either a path that will not maximize our happiness in the long term (remaining how we are with the level of light we have already accumulated but not venturing beyond – I.e. damnation) or cause us to embrace an easier path (as Lucifer and his followers have done) – which in reality is a path to a different destination all together.

God does not lie but He cannot tell us all the truth and have us remain in the flesh, nor would it be merciful to do so (see Moses 1:5); so knowing that, we must trust Him to reveal to us what is needful at any given time.

Having said all of this, God does not lie or ask us to lie (as the liar is trust down to hell), He is just merciful regarding how and when He reveals the truth to us. 

 

READ LoF 3:23

If God is no respecter of persons, why does He have “chosen people”?

God honors the actions of His children in whatever sphere they are living in; to the degree we align our behavior with eternal law, we will receive more light (see D&C 130:18-21).

If we received enough light and covenanted to be God’s seed in the “first place”, we may be rewarded in this life by being “chosen” and given easier access to the true gospel (see D&C 50:42; Matthew 17:6-16) – as the knowledge gained in a first place or a place one resided before this world, should give us an “advantage” in this world or life; however, this assumes that chosen status is always a sign of former righteousness, but this may not be the case – there are so many things we do not understand about why certain people are born into the circumstances they are born into here.

However, just because someone has been born into a “chosen” status in this life, based on the actions of a former life (see Alma 13:3-9), doesn’t mean that they will live up to the added responsibilities placed on them (see D&C 82:3).

Regardless, everyone who is born into this world is given the light of Christ (to be able to choose between good and evil, see John 1:9; D&C 93:2; D&C 88:7-12), all have full access to agency (see 2 Nephi 2:16), all are being enticed by both evil and good (see Moroni 7:12-13), and God wants all of His children to gain light from their experiences here and come unto Him to be saved (see D&C 130:18-21; 2 Nephi 26:33).

So, there is no real advantage of being a “chosen one”, hence the truth that God is no respecter of persons; if you love Him and come unto Him, He will make you His – and He is bound by His word to do that.

This same logic also applies to callings in the Church, although it is further muddied by the fact that those who call people to leadership callings may not be inspired (and they may make their decisions based on worldly criteria, like leadership ability), so they may not even discern light within a person; in addition, unlike many of us, the Lord doesn’t value Church leadership or callings as important for salvation.

Chosen people are “chosen” to share the light they have been given with others – to minister to them and bless them.  They are called and chosen to be servants.  But as Christ was the servant of all, being chosen to serve is actually an important rung on the ladder to salvation – if we must become precisely like Christ, we must be chosen to serve.

 

READ LoF 3:24

Why is understanding God’s love for us absolutely essential for our faith?

In this life and at our current stage of development, we will never understand enough about what we are getting ourselves into here to make an educated decision regarding whether to proceed or not.

So, we must trust that God loves us above anything else – even His own love for Himself, because if He does not, we might be pawns in a much bigger game and we will never figure out that we’ve been played until the end; if we didn’t trust His love enough, we would not have chosen to come to this earth – the risk would have been too great.

The proof of God’s love is that He loves us enough to let us go – He is saying “I love you so much that I am willing to let you choose whether to have this relationship with me”; He allows us to be alienated from Him and to risk the heartbreak that might happen (to Him) if we choose not to reciprocate His love; He made us this offer to see if we would choose to come back to Him, when we don’t think we need to (and we don’t realize how bad things will be if we don’t – so we’re not compelled at all); we chose to leave God’s presence precisely so that we could grow in our relationship with Him; the only way for us to become as the gods is to freely choose to return God’s love with our own, to give ourselves freely to Him in the same way He freely gives Himself to us; He loves us enough to lose us, so that we might make that choice and become gods like He is.  And He then loves us enough to sacrifice Himself (or His Son) to save us from our own poor decisions and behavior – from rejecting Him and His way. 

 

READ LoF 3:25-26

How do we best learn about God’s characteristics?

Primarily, or most importantly and effectively, through our own first-hand experiences with Him over time – we must walk the path that He walked, and pray that He walks it with us.  We must learn to be like Him by trying to be like Him, failing, repenting, and trying again and again.  It is in this cycle that He truly reveals Himself (and His character) to us.

And secondarily, through the experiences that others have had with Him and in the revelations He gives to mortals that we can learn about from them. 

 

 

A Correct Idea of God’s Attributes

 

READ LoF 4:2-10, 17

What are God’s faith promoting attributes?

Knowledge (all things are before His face); He can reveal the path to salvation.

Faith or power (He has power over all things); He can deliver mankind from their enemies, including death and hell.

Justice (He doesn’t play favorites but plays by the rules); His rewards and punishments are fair.

Judgement (He intervenes in the lives of mankind); He will keep His promises and deliver His people.

Mercy (He may not give us what we’ve got coming to us, the just that we deserve); He will comfort His people in their extremities and has provided a way to pay what we owe so that justice is still served.

Truth (Is spirit, is intelligence, is light - D&C 93:36 and D&C 84:45); the truth He possess is to be given as an inheritance to all those who come unto Him.

 

READ LoF 4:11

What aspect of knowledge enables us to have faith in God?

It is not His foreknowledge; that would be great for those that He knows will be saved but bad for the rest of us; the future which He sees “is what it is” – it is not “future” to Him as all things are before His face in the “present”.

The knowledge that is valuable to us is His (Christ’s) knowledge of how to overcome the sins and pain that afflict us in this world that we might be able to stand reconciled with God again.

 

READ LoF 4:12

Why is the attribute of power even important to discuss, as this is God we are talking about?

He is not the only God.

Satan and others like him also have power.

If there was a doubt about God's fail safe ability to perform any work He chose to, it would destroy our faith - we could follow His instructions but He might not be able to fulfill His obligations to us if His power wasn’t absolute.   

 

READ LoF 4:13

Why do we need a just God to have faith in, while hoping that we do not receive justice from His hand for our sins?

We need Him to be a just God so that we have an absolute guarantee that He honors His promises and that His promises are supremely just or “right”; for the same reason, all the elements and energy in the cosmos also require this of Him.

Ironically, all who have come unto Christ (or are seeking so to do) are depending upon God’s just nature – that He will honor the promise of mercy, which by definition is not only undeserved but unjust, which He has offered those who are willing to covenant with Him.

 

READ LoF 4:14

How is the attribute of “judgement” different from “justice”?

Judgement is God’s requirement to hold all things accountable for the actions, thoughts and feelings they use their agency to produce.  Judgement is ensuring consequences exist and are carried out, for actions taken.

Justice is ensuring that the judgement is precisely aligned with the expectations set up front – which are dictated by eternal law, and reiterated by God in the form of commandments; for example, an unjust judge can pronounce an unfair judgement but if he has authority, his judgement will be executed.

 

READ LoF 4:15

What two aspects of the mercy of God is Joseph Smith highlighting here?

Mercy that we will be spared afflictions; that we won’t suffer above that which we can bear and eternally profit from.

Mercy that we will be spared the consequences of our actions; that we won’t get what’s coming to us – what we deserve (i.e. justice).

 

READ LoF 4:16

How is God a god of truth?

All things are before His face – as the definition of truth is things as they really were, are and will be; He knows the truth of all things and stands as God to ensure that they are upheld. 

In addition, God’s glory is light or truth or intelligence or consciousness; the light or truth which proceeds from God and fills the immensity of space IS God; so it is correct to say that God IS truth.

 

READ LoF 4:18-19

What gives the Latter-day Saints the same power and authority to exercise faith in God that any of the former-day saints had?

The revelations of God given through Joseph Smith, who knew Him.

A sure witness of the existence of God (via Joseph Smith) and a correct idea of His character, perfections and attributes (via the Lectures on Faith and scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, the D&C, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible), which should enable each person with this knowledge to do what Joseph Smith did and know God for themselves – and then receive the power and authority from God to do His work and glory, which is their salvation and eternal life.

What would cause the Latter-day Saints to lose the power and authority to exercise faith in God unto salvation?

Changing or ignoring the doctrine and ordinances restored by the God through Joseph Smith – which was the fullness of the gospel (see 3 Nephi 16:10); this generation, or the generation to whom the Book of Mormon was given (until a time that more is given – see D&C 5:9 and 2 Nephi 32:6-7), is to receive the word of God through Joseph Smith (see D&C 5:10); as no more has been given (sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, etc.), we are still living in the “generation” of Joseph Smith.

 

 

 

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