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Chapter 1 - God the Father

    By Ben Rast

    Contender Ministries

    August 7, 2004

The first two chapters of Mormonism 201 were written by a man named Steven Danderson.  The subjects of these chapters correspond with the subjects of chapters one and two of Mormonism 101.  It is clear that Mr. Danderson excels in taking things out of context, and his best hope for retaining credibility is that his readers possess neither a Bible nor a copy of Mormonism 101.  In order to provide the best rebuttal of his writing, I will break it down with a quote from chapter one of Mormonism 201, and follow it with my response. 


"Their [McKeever and Johnson] first fallacy is the use of ambiguous terminology. They wish to confuse a differing understanding of who God is with worshipping another god altogether. To understand the tactic used by the authors, consider the city of Cleveland, Ohio. One of the historical black marks against the city was the pollution quite evident in Lake Erie. Cleveland certainly became a different city once the lake was cleaned up. By the reasoning of McKeever and Johnson, one would conclude that Cleveland, Ohio became Cleveland, Tennessee once Lake Erie was cleaned up."


Cleveland did NOT become a different city by being cleaned up.  An aspect of Cleveland objectively changed.  This is a faulty analogy.  I have a better analogy.  Let's say that Danderson and I were talking about Washington.  Danderson stated that Washington is on the East Coast near Maryland.  It holds the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the White House, the Supreme Court of the United States, and the United States Capitol.  But I disagree.  I claim that Washington is on the West Coast, north of Oregon.  It's a vast area made of farmland, mountains, volcanoes, coastline, and an interesting city with the Space Needle in it.  Obviously, we're talking about two different Washingtons.  I'm talking about the state, and hes talking about the city.  Even though we both call it Washington, we're referring to two different places.  That they're both named after George Washington does not make them the same.  By Mr. Danderson's logic, the Muslims worship the same God, even though they reject the deity of Jesus Christ and believe the Holy Spirit is actually the angel Gabriel. 


"Secondly, the authors beg the question by assuming that doctrines first canonized in the Nicene and related creeds (with which President Kimball profoundly disagreed) were entirely biblical. Leaving aside the truth or falsehood of those creeds, this reviewer has yet to read any biblical text that equates nonbelievers in the creeds with nonbelievers in Christ." 


First of all, the doctrines in the Nicene Creed, etc. were not "canonized."  This would mean they were made Scripture, which they were not.  They were simply a summary of key Biblical doctrines.  Second, Danderson is very misleading here.  What he doesn't tell the reader is that McKeever and Johnson simply listed five quotes by LDS leaders who acknowledge that Mormons do not worship the same God worshipped in Christianity and mentioned in early Christian creeds.  They were included in a section that started with "Despite Kimball's claim, many laypeople in the Mormon Church insist that the God they worship is the same God worshiped by millions of Christians throughout the world. The problem with this assumption is that it does not concur with many statements made by the LDS leadership." Danderson includes this quote, but does not go on to list the quotes from LDS leaders that follow.  If he had, he would have been putting it in context and this is not what he wanted to do.  If you have a copy of Mormonism 101, I encourage you to start at the bottom of page 23, and read through to page 25.  This will put it in context, and you'll see Danderson is misleading the readers by his selective quotation and erroneous summary.


"McKeever and Johnson falsely assert, 'To be sure, historical Christianity has never advocated the belief in a tangible deity.' Is Jesus not God? Did the Apostles and others not touch Him, after His resurrection?"


Here he's taking things out of context again, and creating a false meaning.  Let's look at this quote IN context: "To be sure, historical Christianity has never advocated the belief in a tangible deity.  Like many other LDS leaders, Oaks mistakenly assumes that a nonhuman God cannot be a personal God.  Numerous biblical passages definitively prove how God desires to have an intimate relationship with humankind.  In fact, He gave His only Son to make it possible!"  Now it is plain to see that McKeever and Johnson were referring to God the Father, whom Mormonism teaches has a body of flesh and bones (a doctrine refuted in both the Bible AND the Book of Mormon)1.  Perhaps McKeever and Johnson could have been more explicit in referring to God the Father as the intangible deity.  However, when read in context, their meaning is clear. 


"McKeever and Johnson quote from Joseph Smith's eulogy of Elder King Follett, yet they fail to mention Smith's quote of John 5:19, 26 where the Savior states that He can do nothing but what He saw His Father do." 

Danderson didn't list the quote from the King Follett Discourse, "We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity.  I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see."  Nor did Danderson quote the four Bible verses or four verses from the Book of Mormon that all state that God is eternal (without beginning or end) and unchanging.  And rather than encourage the reader to pick and choose two separated verses from John 5, I would encourage the reader to start at verse 16 and read through verse 30.  That's putting the Bible verses in context, and you can see that this passage teaches that God the Son and God the father are equal.  Jesus is simply stating that as God the Son, He is no greater than God the Father.  Once again, putting McKeever in context and the Bible verses in context is not something Danderson wants to do.


" 'God is distinct from His creation and the universe. When discussing the transcendence of God, we need to consider a number of aspects. Not only is the 'person' of God unlike human beings, but His moral character is also unique. He is infinitely exalted above that He has ever created.' [Preceding from Mormonism 101]

Leaving aside their straw man implying that Latter-day Saints gainsay that God is infinitely exalted above any and all mortal humans, they ignore the Book of Genesis, which states that man is created in God's image. Is it logical to think that man has zero in common with the Creator who chose to make mankind in His image?"


Nowhere in McKeever's statement does he say that man has "zero in common" with God.  That's falsely ascribing a statement to McKeever and Johnson that they didn't make.  Is it wrong to say God is "unlike human beings" or than He's "unique"?!  I hope not!  The God I worship, the God of the Bible, is very much unlike me.  He is eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient -- three qualities I don't possess.  Also, we must remember that being created in the image of God does not mean in physical resemblance.  First, John 4:24 tells us that God is spirit (does not have a body).  Numerous verses from the Book of Mormon state that too.  If we are to conclude that God created us in His physical image, then is God both man and woman, because He created both?  This is, of course, ridiculous.  Mr. Danderson falsely ascribed a statement to McKeever, and then seems to display a misunderstanding of the "image" to which Genesis refers.


"The authors implicitly criticize President Gordon Hinckley's quote of Lorenzo Snow's couplet.  By this, they ignore I John 3:1-3. Do the authors disbelieve that Christians will be like Jesus?"


Danderson doesn't explain how McKeever and Johnson implicitly criticize President Hinckley's quote of Snow's couplet.  How did they do so?  By quoting him.  Let me quote them:

"In 1997 Don Lattin, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle, had the following conversation with Hinckley:

Lattin: There are some significant differences in your beliefs.  For instance, don't Mormons believe that God was once a man?

Hinckley: I wouldn't say that.  There was a little couplet coined, 'As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.'  Now that's more of a couplet than anything else.  That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don't know very much about...." 

McKeever quotes more of this interview, as well as a few others.  He illustrates that Hinckley is either ignorant of Mormon doctrine on this point, or he was being deliberately evasive with the secular media.  This in no way ignores 1 John 3:1-3.  Once again, I encourage you to read 1 John 3 in context.  Keep in mind that becoming like Christ does not mean becoming the same as Christ.  By Danderson's logic, "behaving in a godly manner" must mean we'd have to create a universe and worlds, because that's what God did.  We are God's children, but not in the same way that God the Son is so referred.  God the Son is fully God.  We never will be. 


"McKeever and Johnson disdain alleged LDS disbelief in God's omnipotence. Can God lie? If not, then He is not omnipotent. If He can, why are there scriptures that state that He cannot? It is only in this sense that members of the Church disbelieve God's absolute omnipotence. Members of the LDS Church do not question whether God is mighty enough to create the universe, or to effect the Atonement."


First, God cannot lie because it is not in His nature to lie.  That does not mean He lacks any ability to do so.  It simply means it goes against His nature.  Second, if one reads the section called "Not Omnipotent" on pages 35 through 37 of Mormonism 101, you'll find that Danderson oversimplifies McKeever and Johnson's point.  There's a reason he didn't quote from this section.  McKeever and Johnson quote Mormon leaders who limit God.  For instance, the God of the Bible created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing).  But LDS Apostle John Widtsoe said, "God, the supreme Power, cannot conceivably originate matter; he can only organize matter.  Neither can he destroy matter; he can only disorganize it.... The doctrine that God made the earth or man from nothing becomes, therefore, an absurdity."  This is not the God of the Bible, who can and did create the universe out of nothing.  Danderson's argument is inaccurate. 


"The authors ask if it is the Church's position that God did not know whether Adam and Eve would transgress His commandment. This reviewer finds such a question rather ridiculous, since the Evangelical interpretation of the biblical text implies that the Atonement of Jesus Christ was an afterthought to undo the ill effects of Adam's sin. The LDS position, most succinctly stated in the Pearl of Great Price, is that God counseled with His spirit children concerning the plan and that Jesus Christ's Atonement is not 'Plan B.' "

His first sentence is completely false!  McKeever and Johnson simply ask a rhetorical question, "Was God really unaware that Adam and Even would sin and produce some of the most evil offspring imaginable?  Was God surprised when the wicked citizens of Nineveh repented in the Old Testament Book of Jonah, thus 'sidetracking' God's impending judgment?  Not at all." (pp 28-29).  When this section is read in context, McKeever and Johnson are explaining why the Bible speaks of God as "repenting."  It's an excellent explanation if read in context.  Danderson doesn't want you to read that though.  They do not ask if it is the Church's position, as he claims.  Furthermore, the Evangelical interpretation he provides that implies that Christ's atonement was an "afterthought to undo the ill effects of Adam's sin" is an ignorant misrepresentation of Evangelical Christian doctrine.  God had foreknowledge of all events, including the fall in the Garden of Eden.  However, that does not mean that sin is part of His plan.  Having foreknowledge of sin and rebellion is not the same as condoning it.  We all have free will. 


In his conclusion, Danderson compares Mormonism 101 with a failing college paper, with the failing paper coming out the victor.  However, Danderson's worst fear must be that his readers actually have a copy of Mormonism 101 to read in context what he has mutilated out of context.  Rather than call Danderson deliberately deceitful, a motivation I'm not going to read into his rebuttal, I will instead simply say that Danderson's scholarship and research are poor, and a thoughtful reader would do well to read Mormonism 101 in context rather than rely on Danderson's fallacious account. 




1.  The Bible tells us that God the Father is spirit in John 4:24.  While the Book of Mormon is not considered to be Scripture by Christians, it too teaches that God the Father is spirit (Alma 18:28; 22:9-11). 



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