LDS vs Creation Ex Nihilo
The teaching that God created everything ex nihilo "out of nothing" is rejected by Mormons. In their article, 'Becoming Like God', The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) states....
"In order to emphasize God’s power, many theologians reasoned that nothing could have existed for as long as He had. It became important in Christian circles to assert that God had originally been completely alone."
Does the doctrine of creation ex nihilo equate to the view that God must have been completely alone? Either everything existed eternally (God reorganized eternal matter), or everything sprang into existence (God created ex nihilo). There is a vast difference between these two positions. This does not just have to do with a person's view of the origins of our own natures and of the rest of creation, but also how one views the nature of God. If you believe in the wrong God, you are still lost in your sins.
Is 'creation ex nihilo' a man-made doctrine in order to perpetuate reasons for the belief that nothing existed as long as God? In the above Mormon quote, the dilemma introduced by the LDS church is the so-called assertion that the teaching of creation ex nihilo equates to God, prior to the creation of any cognizant being, was absolutely and completely alone. This thought can rightfully cause negative emotional responses from many; for being completely alone brings the awful thought that God was a lonesome Being prior to creation if nothing but God existed. This type of presentation Mormonism introduces here, is a straw man argument.
A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while actually refuting an argument which was not advanced by that opponent.
At this juncture, I will briefly point out that Trinitarians dogmatically deny the notion God was completely alone. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit eternally enjoyed a joyous relationship that transcends anything we could ever imagine. Unlike Mormonism, Trinitarians do not believe either Persons of the Godhead progressed to become separate Gods, but that the three Persons are in essence the one eternal God. Thus the position that Christians assert of God having originally been completely alone, is false.
In a typical straw man argumentation, the opposing position is presented as being flawed, then afterward a superior position is usually offered in its place. So that I cannot be accused of using this same type of straw man argumentation for Mormonism's position, I will allow their own 3 minute 46 second video titled 'Our Eternal Life' to speak for itself. After watching their presentation, read the Mormon quotes below that the video doesn't mention.
Video: Our Eternal Life (2012)
Their 2012 'Plan of Salvation' presentation states....
"We are eternal beings, spirit children of an eternal God."
Mormonism's concept of the relationship between God and the rest of humanity brings a sigh of relief to the hearts of many. Why? Because loneliness is a cruel existence. How could anyone be okay with believing our heavenly Father was completely alone in eternity past? The Mormon teaching that we eternally existed gives us their answers to God's relationship with us, as well as dealing with some issues of where we came from and where we are going. Whereas the position the theologians are said by the LDS church to assert, is that God was completely alone, demonstrating He lacked something in the minds of theologians that is extremely important to us; and that is relationship. In replacement, the video presentation seems on the surface to be a superior position.
Mormonism teaches at least some part of every person that exists now must have been just as eternal as God is. When Mormon missionaries talk to prospective converts about pre-existence, they don't bring up the teaching of us eternally existing. They will tell you we were all born as spirit children before we were born with physical bodies on earth; but most people don't know that Mormonism also teaches that prior to us being spirit children we also existed in a different state as well. Whether this pre-spirit state of existence had individual identity and consciousness remains a mystery in Mormonism, but it is clear that it was as eternal as God, as will be demonstrated with the Mormon quotes below.
(If you wish to skip reading the Mormon quotes for now, scroll down past the solid line)
In 'The Guide to the Scriptures', the LDS Church says this about Intelligences....
"The word intelligences... refer to spirit children of God. The scriptures also may speak of intelligence as referring to the spirit element that existed before we were begotten as spirit children."
Doctrine and Covenants 93:28 (considered LDS scripture), states....
"Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be."
In a 1991 LDS First Presidency Message, Mormon President Ezra Taft Benson wrote....
"Life is eternal. We are eternal beings. We lived as intelligent spirits before this mortal life. We are now living part of eternity. Our mortal birth was not the beginning. Death, which faces all of us, is not the end.
As eternal beings, we each have in us a spark of divinity."
Second Counselor in the First Presidency, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, wrote....
In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.
Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity."
"Matter always did and, therefore, always will exist, and the spirits of men as well as their bodies were created out of matter. We discover in this revelation that the intelligent part of man was not created, but always existed."
In the 'Pearl of Great Price' (considered Mormon scripture), it reads....
"Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; …for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them" (Abr. 3:22-23).
In 'Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith', Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith spoke of intelligences as follows....
"God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them" (See TPJS, p. 354).
As you can see from these quotes, it is clear that the LDS church teaches everyone not only existed as spirit children prior to our physical births, but that there was an existence we had that was prior to our spirit births. That existence, which is called Intelligences, was never made. Thus our existence was as eternal as God's, and that there is a progress from one state to another, even the "privilege to advance like (God) himself".
When we read how we have opportunities to progress, this brings us to thoughts about the future. But if we are told we can advance like God did, then we must consider the possible notion that God was not eternally God. Mormon President Lorenzo Snow's couplet, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be” is considered accept Mormon doctrine.
If we rely on our Father for our advancement, and God was once a man, does this mean God relied on another Father for His advancement? Orson Pratt wrote in 'The Seer'....
"We were begotten by our Father in Heaven; the person of our Father was begotten on a previously heavenly world by His Father; and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father; and so on, from generation to generation, from one heavenly world to another still more ancient, until our minds are wearied and lost in the multiplicity of generations and successive worlds.... Do you still seek for a first link where the chain is endless?" (The Seer, p. 132. See photo at bottom of page)
So God the Father was not alone in regard to our eternal presence, but He was also not alone because of His ancestry. This brings us to the teaching of an endless succession of gods and worlds.
When the heavens and the earth were formed, the LDS church also states God did not reorganize eternal matter by Himself. We however, were not involved in the process. Other gods helped. The Pearl of Great Price proclaims....
"And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth." (Abraham 4:1)
This means Mormons not only view God the Father as not being alone because of having spiritual children (as well as our heavenly Mother. Read the lyrics to 'O My Father'), and His having a father, grandfather, great grandfather, and so on, He also co-organized the heavens and earth with other gods. The picture painted from all this, is that God has always enjoyed a humongous eternal family.
Eternal matter and eternal cognizant beings are not the only reasons Mormons reject the teaching of creation ex nihilo. Eternal principles and regulations whereby all of us are to live by are also considered solid reasons. How so?
Since in Mormonism we are told we have enjoyed the Father's presence, why are we not with Him now? They teach the purpose of forming the heavens and the earth was for us to gain physical bodies so we can gain knowledge and experience and have opportunity to return to the Father and enjoy the rest of eternity with Him (Refer again to Mormon video titled, 'Our Eternal Life'). This is what Mormonism calls Eternal Law of Progression. This law was also eternal as Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explains.
In 'Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., page 238', he writes:
"ETERNAL PROGRESSION. Endowed with agency and subject to eternal laws, man began his progression and advancement in pre-existence, his ultimate goal being to attain a state of glory, honor, and exaltation like the Father of spirits. During his earth life he gains a mortal body, receives experience in earthly things, and prepares for a future eternity after the resurrection when he will continue to gain knowledge and intelligence. (D&C 130:18–19.) This gradually unfolding course of advancement and experience — a course that began in a past eternity and will continue in ages future — is frequently referred to as a course of eternal progression." (See photo at bottom)
So not only had everything and everyone always existed in certain ways, but laws by which we are to follow were just as eternal. As McConkie explained, these are eternal laws whereby the attainment of glory, honor, and exaltation can be achieved, "like the Father of spirits." This is in direct contrast to creation ex nihilo since in Mormonism, God relied on these eternal laws for his own exaltation. This means this Law of Progression existed before God became God.
Where does Jesus fit in all of this?
In Mormonism, Jesus was literally a spirit-child like the rest of us; born to heavenly parents. Below is a breakdown of some of his involvements in the past according to the LDS church. Click the links and check out other Mormon sources for verification of these teachings.
- The Jesus of Mormonism is the first spirit-child born to God in the Preexistence (LDS 'Bible Dictionary - Firstborn'; D&C 93:21)
- The gods formed the earth, which was part of the plan of salvation. Joseph Smith said, "In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted [prepared] a plan to create the world and people it, because in order to progress the spirit children needed to gain physical bodies" (See 'The King Follett Sermon'. See also, Abraham 3:24-28; 'The Guide to the Scriptures - Council in Heaven').
- A redeemer needed to be sent to the earth. Lucifer offered, but on the condition that his brothers and sisters do not receive the freedom to choose; plus he wanted the glory for himself (D&C 29:36-37; 2 Nephi 2:27).
- Jesus also offered to be the Redeemer, with the children to have the freedom to choose and he wanted the Father to receive the glory. Jesus was chosen to be sent (Moses 4:1-2).
- Coming to earth as our Redeemer meant that Jesus was the only one who could make atonement for all of humanity. Because of this act of atonement, everyone will be resurrected. This is known in Mormonism as 'Salvation by grace alone'. The 'Eternal Law of Progression' then becomes possible whereby the redeemed are able to achieve exaltation through obedience. (See 'Atonement of Jesus Christ'; 'Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., page 671' See photo at bottom; Alma 11:37-45).
If these teachings from the LDS church are correct, Mormons have good reasons to reject the teaching that God created everything ex nihilo. Let's examine these Mormon teachings and see if they are in line with what God's Holy word, the Bible teaches.
- 1. Mormonism teaches.... The doctrine of creation ex nihilo means God was completely alone. Does the Bible agree?
As I had mentioned earlier, Trinitarians dogmatically deny God was completely alone since we believe the Father, Son and Holy Spirit enjoyed an eternal relationship we do not have the capacity to imagine. For example, Jesus enjoyed sharing glory in the Father's presence in eternity:
In John 17:5, Jesus prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
If it can be demonstrated the three Persons are eternal, and that there is only one God in essence, then the three Persons are the one God. This would demonstrate the Trinity.
The Father is eternal:
Psalms 90:2, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God."
The Son is eternal:
Micah 5:1-2, "Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek. But thou, Beth–lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
The Holy Spirit is eternal:
Hebrews 9:14, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
There is only one God:
Isaiah 43:10, "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me."
The Bible is clear. There is only one God in essence, who being the originator of eternity, has always existed and is revealed in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (See also Isaiah 44:6, 8; 45:5; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Acts 5:3-4).
- 2. Mormonism teaches.... God enjoyed the presence of other gods, who helped him form the heavens and earth. Does the Bible agree?
Isaiah 44:6,8, "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Fear ye not, neither be afraid; have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any."
Deuteronomy 4:35, "Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him."
Isaiah 45:5, "I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me:"
If Mormonism's teaching that other gods exists is true, why would God deny knowing them? The Father doesn't know His own father? What about the other gods who helped him form the heavens and earth? The first and the last means God was always God.
In fact, no other god helped create the heavens and earth.
Isaiah 44:24, "I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;"
- 3. Mormonism teaches.... We eternally existed. We were sent to earth to gain physical bodies, separated from God's presence temporarily until we can prove to be worthy to dwell with Him again. Does the Bible agree?
1 Corinthians 15:46, "But that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual."
Isaiah 45:12, "I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded."
Psalm 139:13-14, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
We were not born first as spirit children and then sent to earth with physical bodies. We (our whole selves) were made in our mothers' wombs.
- 4. Mormonism teaches.... God's firstborn spirit-child, Jesus Christ, was sent to earth instead of His second born spirit-child Lucifer, so we can have opportunity to continue to enjoy God's presence in eternity future after we die. Does the Bible agree?
Colossians 1:16-17, "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist."
Nehemiah 9:6, "Thou art Jehovah, even thou alone; thou hast made...the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are thereon, the seas and all that is in them, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee."
All the angels, including Lucifer, were created by Jesus Christ. Therefore Jesus and Lucifer are not our literal spirit brothers. Jesus is the Creator of all things. He is our Creator. We are brothers and sister of Christ through adoption when we receive Jesus.
Ephesians 1:5, "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,"
John 1:12, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:"
- 5. Mormonism teaches.... As eternal beings, we will have physical bodies after the resurrection forever because of Jesus' death and resurrection, regardless of if we accept Mormonism's 'Plan of Salvation' or not.
- 6. Mormonism teaches.... The 'Law of Progression' has always existed. If we follow these laws, we can continue to progress to exaltation and glory, like God the Father and dwell with Him. This Eternal Progression was a course that began in a past eternity and will continue in ages future. Does the Bible agree?
Reason 5 is known in Mormonism as 'Salvation by grace alone', which guarantees resurrection for everyone, but does not guarantee enjoying the presence of God. Reason 6 is known as 'Salvation by grace coupled with works', of which stipulated laws are to be followed if one wishes to become worthy to dwell with the Father.
The following verses will demonstrate that salvation by grace alone is indeed the only way by which those who believe in the Jesus of the Bible will inherit eternal life in God's Kingdom. Working to become worthy is not possible.
Isaiah 64:6, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
Titus 3:5-7, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Galatians 2:16, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."
Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
The Law of Eternal Progression could not have began in a past eternity and continue in ages future, because it is in direct contradiction to God's grace. It also does not make sense because of the eternal nature of God.
James 4:12, "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy:"
If God was a man who became God, then there would have to have been an infinite number of lawgivers. Since in Mormonism the Father had a father, who had a father, and so on to eternity past, then every father would have been lawgivers as well. But James 4:12 says there is only one lawgiver. Also, God is never said in Scripture to be subject to laws given to Him. But that all laws came from Him.
Psalm 19:8, "The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."
Mark 2:27-28, "And he (Jesus) said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath."
Laws were made by the One lawgiver. Jesus, being eternal God in the flesh, was proclaiming to the world that He was greater than the Law and above the laws of the Mosaic Covenant, because He is the Author of all the laws of God.
In John 6:28, Jesus was asked, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?"
His answer? Verse 29, "Jesus answered and said unto them, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.""
John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Trying to become worthy to dwell in the presence of God by obeying laws laid down by any church or organization is a work of futility. We can never become worthy by our works. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us life.
In John 6:63, Jesus said, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
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