Who is Your God?
I’m a big fan of M. Night Shyamalan—well except for “The Last Airbender” and “Lady in the Water”. Well okay… I just liked “Signs”, “The Village”, and of course “The Sixth Sense”. I love the little twist and the stories inside the stories. One of the conversations in “Signs” stands out in my mind as I pondered the different stories told during this last conference. Graham Hess played by Mel Gibson is on the couch talking to Merrill played by Joaquin Phoenix. This conversation happens after the alien invasion and they are sitting waiting to see what happens next.
Merrill: Some people are probably thinking this is the end of the world.
Graham: It’s true.
Merrill: Do you think it could be?
Merrill: How can you say that?
Graham: That wasn’t the answer you wanted?
Merrill: Couldn’t you pretend to be like you used to be? Gimme some comfort.
Graham: People break down into two groups. Then when they experience something lucky, group number one sees it as more than luck, more than a coincidence; they see it as a sign. Evidence that there is someone up there watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. A happy turn of chance. I’m sure that people in group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, this situation is a 50-50. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they’re on their own. And that, fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there’s a whole lot of people in the group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they’re looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever’s going to happen, there’ll be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. So what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you. Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky. Or, look at the question this way. Is it possible, that there are no coincidences?
Merrill: I was at this party once, and I’m on the couch with Amanda McKinney. She was just sitting there, looking beautiful, staring at me. I go to lean in an’ kiss her, and I realize I have gum in my mouth. So I turn, take out the gum, stuff it in the paper cup next to the sofa, and turn around. Amanda McKinney throws up all over herself. I knew the second it happened, it was a miracle. I could have been kissing her when she threw up. It would have scarred me for life. I may never have recovered. I’m a miracle man. Those lights are a miracle.
Graham: There you go.
Merrill: So which type are you?
Graham: Do you feel comforted?
Merrill: Yeah I do.
Graham: Then what does it matter?
Did God really remind Merril of his gum in his mouth? Was that a miracle? Are you a believer in miracles? Was this a miracle to you? How much is God “in the details” of your life? Do you believe He micro-manages everything? How much of a hand does He have in our lives? Obviously, theologians have pondered these questions for years and have written extensively over the subject. For me personally, this has weighed on my mind; then during this past conference even more so when I heard two incidents where God stepped in to create a little miracle.
In light of pondering over this, I went through the scriptures, news, and conference talks to pull out different examples when God steps in. Let’s go over some of these examples, and while you read—keep track of the ones you would check off a “yes”. They are in no particular order. Maybe ask yourself how much God has to do with these happenings and more importantly, who is the God with whom you identify?
Side note this won’t be a post to debate the existence of God. For that you can head over to my brother’s post on Natural Theology and debate your guts out.
1. God the lover of sports teams
BYU vs UofU Austin Collie post game interview after his amazing catch to get the 1st down at 4th and 18.
“When you do things right on and off the field, I think the Lord steps in and magic happens” – Austin Collie
Lebron James after losing in the finals: ““The Greater Man upstairs know when it’s my time,” he Tweeted. “Right now isn’t the time.”
Jason Terry after winning the NBA championships thanked God for giving him the strength to win the championship game.
The Tim Tebow phenomenon.
Pretty sure if God had a team, it would be the San Francisco Giants. Go Giants!
2. God the tech repair man
Jumbotron – Pres. Monson and 3,000 others pray to have the jumbotron repaired, jumbotron fixed. (October General Conference 2012, Pres Monson)
3. God the inventor
I have always heard in church the reason why we have certain technologies from computers to the internet to cars and satellites were to further His work. The TV was invented by Philo Farnsworth, a Mormon after all. Is Al Gore a Mormon?
4. God the explorer
Christopher Columbus- “And I looked and beheld a man among the Gentiles, who was separated from the seed of my brethren by the many waters; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.” (1 Nephi 13:12)
5. God the protector
A Lamanite was struck dead that was going to harm God’s missionary Ammon. (Alma 19:22) God promised earlier to King Mosiah that he would protect his sons.
How many countless prayers are given for protection and safety on the way back from a church meeting?
6. God the delegator
Delegates His work to his imperfect children. I’m sure you have heard the term we are His hands on earth, or we are the answers to others’ prayers.
7. God the comforter
Elder David A. Bednar—Gives God credit for the song choice during conference before his first talk as an apostle to give him comfort and coins the popular phrase “Tender Mercy” (Conference April 2005 “Tender Mercies”)
8. God the finder of lost items—keys, dogs, children, wedding rings
I don’t know how many times this has been mentioned in testimony meetings from adults to children. A prayer is said to find some sort of valued missing object. This example could be tied to tender mercies.
9. God the reminder
This kind of goes with the losing of the keys or a prompting to check on the kids in the pool; they could be in danger. I have heard the term “quickens” the mind to remember things. Unfortunately this never worked for me in the testing center at BYU.
10. God the destroyer/punisher
Noah’s great flood—Men, women, innocent children, and apparently a ton of animals, possibly some unicorns are killed. Unicorns people, freakn’ unicorns!
Destruction in the Americas—3 Nephi 9. Here Jesus takes direct credit for: sinking of multiple cities drowning thousands, slaying the “fair sons and daughters”, covering cities with earth to “hide their iniquities”, waters rising over the cities: Onihah, Mocum, and Jerusalem killing all the inhabitants (men, women and children), earthquakes to bury other “bad” cities, fire burning multiple cities, and killing thousands (maybe millions?) because of their wickedness. (Demons are laughing in the background 3 Nephi 9:2, Damn you DEMONS!)
Sodom and Gomorrah—No mention of homosexuality here, but we do have being evil, prideful, overfed, unconcerned, lots of idleness and committing adominations.(Genesis 19:4-5)
Lot’s wife—Don’t look back! (Genesis 19:26)
Nadab, Abihu, sons of Aaron—Offering strange fire before the Lord? Then you will be burned to death. (Leviticus 10:1-3)
There are more Bible examples, but you get the point…
Huricanne Katrina—according to Pat Robertson this was God punishing the people for America’s abortion policy.
9/11—according to Pat Robertson this again was God punishing the people for America’s abortion policy.
11. God the gambler
God lays out a bet with the devil to see if the devil can break good ‘ol faithful Job.
12. God the orderer of genocide
“And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them”.
16. But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
17 But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.
13. God the orderer of killing
Nephi is told to slay Laban; to disconnect Laban’s head from his body. He must have taken his clothes off first in order not to bloody them up, since he would need them to impersonate Laban later. Could you imagine what was going through Nephi’s head? – ok God wants me to chop of his head… but I’ll need his clothes as a disguise and I’ll need a saw (ask any orthopedic surgeon what is used to cut through bone). Crap I gotta disrobe this smelly drunk dude before I cut his head off so I don’t get blood on his clothes… and where is my saw? Pretty sure he said dude too.
14. God the controller of animals
Jonah gets swallowed by a large fish and also spit out by a large fish!
Noah somehow gets a ton of animals on his boat. He gets them on the boat and some how manages to keep everyone fed.
Daniel thrown into the lion’s den and doesn’t get eaten by lions.
Trains a donkey to talk. “And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” (Numbers 22:28) – And feminist say there isn’t enough females in the Bible!
15. God the matchmaker
Let’s hook em up! Countless marriages are credited to God.
16. God the career and or major chooser
God told me to be a lawyer, doctor, blog writer… probably not the blog writer, hey wait—probably not the lawyer either! I love my lawyer friends, especially when I need them ;).
17. God the life planner
From baby blessings to patriarchal blessings to “Jesus take the wheel”, I often hear God being responsible for a life plan for that person.
18. God the chooser of elite nations
Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, and keep taxes low…God bless America!
19. God the music composer
I don’t think he wants credit for anything on the pop charts people, so stop giving Him credit for that terrible music. Yeah I’m talking to you Justin Beiber.
20. God the creator of persons
God creates black, white, brown, freckled, pale, big, small, really small, really really small, really really big, identical twins, fraternal twins, conjoined twins, gay, slightly gay, country music lovers, non country music lovers, down syndrome, mentally challenged, babies born with two sets of sexual organs, babies born without limbs and other handicaps, and of course the “natural man”.
21. God the merciful
Sent his only begotten son to be sacrificed and killed for the good of the human race. “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” (John 3:16)
Jesus heals the blind
Jesus heals the lepers
Jesus blesses the children
Jesus heals the sick
Jesus heals the lame
Jesus raises the dead
and many other miracles
22. God the forgiver
Jesus forgives the adulterer. “Go and sin no more.”
Baptism and partaking of the sacrament are offered as a way to wash away one’s sins.
23. The Vengeful God
Alma is constrained to save the women and children from being burned so that the victims will stand against the murderers on judgement day. (Alma 14) How many innocent children does he need to convict the murderers? 1? or 30?
Kills off innocent 1st born children to send a message to Pharaoh to let his people go! This is otherwise known as passover. (Exodus 12:3-7)
Oath and Prayer of vengeance - in which temple participants vowed to pray that God would avenge the blood of the prophets Joseph Smith, Jr. and Hyrum Smith, who were assassinated in 1844 by a mob. “You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray to Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.” Also referred to Blood Atonement, the idea that spilled blood “cries out” for retribution.
24. A limited God
For I the Lord am bound when you do what I say… (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3). This God is tied to the laws of the land or universe, or even tied to bless you with certain things when you obey certain commandments. “prove me now herewith” (Malachi 3:10)
25. God the maker of laws
10 commandments to laws of science and everything in between.
26. God the giver of disease
God gave Job a mess of health issues.
27. God the chef
I found the biscuits and put them in a dutch oven and covered them with water and asked for God’s blessing. Then I put the lid on the pan and set it on the coals. When I took off the lid a little later, I found the pan filled with food. I kneeled with my family and thanked God for his goodness. That night my family had sufficient food. (Ann Rowley, in Andrew D. Olsen, The Price We Paid: The Extraordinary Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Pioneers (2006), 113.)(Story referenced in General Conference, “By Faith All Things Are Fulfilled”, Elder Marcus B. Nash)
Old poor lady was told by Elijah to make him a cake. She only has a handful of meal and some oil. “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days.” (Kings 17:15)
Elijah is fed by ravens. “And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.” (Kings 17:6)
28. God the respecter of free agency
We are free to choose whatever we want to even if this entails inflicting pain on others. God will not force us to choose one choice over another.
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi 2:27)
29. God the not so respecter of free agency/enforcer
Hey Jonah… don’t you dare disobey me or else you get swallowed by a whale! Jonah doesn’t have much of a choice here. Whale or preach brother, whale or preach! (Jonah 1:17)
Mary —”And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS… Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:31) Phrases like: shalt conceive, bring forth, shalt call, shall come upon, shall overshadow thee, shall be born, doesn’t leave a lot of room for choice for Mary.
Revelation received by Joseph Smith in part directed to Emma Smith on polygamy (Doctrine & Covenants 132)
52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.
53 For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.
54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.
30. God the Mormon
God has one true church and only one prophet that He inspires to bring His word and gospel to the billions of people on the earth.
31. The geographically challenging God
Releases his word only to a small group of Israelites. Only a small handful of the world’s population even know about Jesus, let alone Mormonism.
31. God the sexist
Throughout the scriptures, God seems to work exclusively with males, with some small exceptions.
32. God the racist
Throughout the scriptures and in today’s LDS church it seems God has chosen mostly white people to preach his word.
33. God the universalist
Works through all men and women to inspire goodness and goodwill no matter what race, sex, religion or nationality
35. The sympathetic vulnerable God
A God that submits himself to feel our pains and sorrows. Enoch sees a God that cries over the human race.
36. God the stylist/fashionista
Women don’t wear tight, sheer or revealing clothing—except when swimming, dancing, or cheerleading in front of millions of people. Wear only one set of earrings and most importantly cover those shoulders!!!! The LDS Garment would fall under this too.
37. God the deliverer
According to Mormon folklore, precious materials arrived just in time to complete the building of the Hawaiian temple: Temple builders ran out of wood (a scarce commodity on the islands) during initial construction, but local members received lumber when a ship ran aground and needed to unload some of its cargo of wood. The temple builders volunteered to help the ship and were given the lumber out of gratitude. The lumber taken from the ship proved to be just enough to finish the temple.
38. The Passive God
These numbers are civilians, not soldiers, unless otherwise noted. As far as abortion being included in this list, I took the liberty in assuming that most people that believe in God also believe that abortion should only be used only in certain instances. Wherever you stand on this issue, the numbers are disturbingly too high.
Worldwide (1973 – Present) 1,260,000,000 abortions performed -that’s trillion with a T. (Centers for Disease Control)
Mao Ze-Dong (China, 1958-61, 1966-69, Tibet 1949-50) 49-78,000,000 killed
USA (1973-Present) 50,000,000 abortions performed (Centers for Disease Control)
China Population Control Policy (China Present) 13,000,000 abortions performed a year
Adolf Hitler (Germany, 1939-1945) 12,000,000 plus 3,000,000 Russian POWs left to die
Leopold II of Belgium (Congo, 1886-1908) 8,000,000 killed
Jozef Stalin (USSR, 1932-39) 6,000,000 killed included is the Ukraine’s famine
Starvation – 5,840,000 children die from hunger -related causes a year. That is 16,000 a day or one child every 5 seconds.
Hideki Tojo (Japan, 1941-44) 5,000,000 killed (civilians in WWII)
Ismail Enver (Turkey, 1915-20) 1,200,000 Armenians, 350,000 Greek Pontians, 480,000 Anatolian Greeks, 500,00 Assyrians
Pol Pot (Cambodia 1975-79) 1,700,000
Kim Il Sung (North Korea, 1948-94) 1,600,000 killed (purges and concentration camps)
Menghistu (Ethiopia, 1975-78) 1,500,000 killed
Yakubu Gowon (Biafra, 1967-1970) 1,000,000 killed
Leonid Brezhnev (Afghanistan, 1979 – 1982) 900,000 killed
Jean Kambanda (Rwanda, 1994) 800,000 killed
Saddam Hussein (Iran 1980-1990 and Kurdistan 1987-88) 600,000 killed
Tito (Yugoslavia, 1945-1987) 570,000 killed
Sukarno (Communists 1965-66) 500,000 killed
Fumimaro Konoe (Japan, 1937-39) 500,000, estimated killed (Chinese victims)
Jonas Savimbi (Angola, 1975-2002) 400,000 killed
Mullah Omar – Taliban (Afghanistan, 1986-2001) 400,000 killed
Idi Amin (Uganda, 1969-1979) 300,000 killed
Yahya Khan (Pakistan, 1970-71) 300,000 Bangladesh killed
Benito Mussolini (Ethiopia, 1936; Libya, 1934-45; Yugoslavia, WWII) 300,000 killed
Charles Taylor (Liberia, 1989-1996) 220,000 killed
Foday Sankoh (Sierra Leone, 1991-2000) 200,000 killed
Suharto (Aceh, East Timor, New Guinea 1975-98) 200,000 killed
Ho Chi Min (Vietnam, 1953-56) 200,000 killed
Michel Micombero (Burundi, 1972) 150,000 killed
Slobodan Milossevic (Yugoslavia, 1992-99) 100,000 killed
Hassan Turabi (Sudan, 1989-1999) 100,000 killed
Richard Nixon (Vietnam, 1969-1974) 70,000 killed (Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians)
Efrain Rios Montt (Guatemala, 1982-83) 70,000 killed
I could go on… but I’m seriously going to break down and cry.
So who is your God? How did your God score? Did he score 37/37 or was it more like a 10/37?
If your God scored a 37/37 then there is some explaining to do. Mass killings like the examples above makes me wonder how bad those Nephites or Noah’s peeps really were that God had to wipe them off the face of the earth. They must have been eating babies by the millions to keep up with the evil that these leaders of our time have produced. How does a God fix a jumbo tron, but turns a blind eye to the thousands of children starving each day? How does God wipe out cities using fire, floods, and quakes but at the same time allowed the Nazis to be the Nazis?
For me this is a struggle and for now this is how I deal with it:
God’s relationship to each individual is personal and I think men’s interpretation of God’s work is also personal and debatable. Some people see God in everything, some people just see natural consequences of science. When I read the fantastic stories in the scriptures of God’s miraculous hand saving the day, I see these examples of the narrator’s human interpretation of “God acts”. Was it God’s hand punishing these people, or the person writing the scripture interpreted God’s hand in that way? In order for God to work for me, I have to throw some parts of the scriptures under the bus. Does anyone have issues with throwing “The Songs of Solomon” out from the Bible? Ok then don’t freak out if I throw out a little more. It is hard for me to see God’s hand save the day in one instance and fall short in many many other circumstances. For example, I cannot explain why God would do this: when one person tried to kill God’s prophet, Ammon, God killed him. He saved one person by killing another. Well God, how about knocking off that crazy mustached man named Hitler or that buttoned up mass murderer Mao Zedong? It doesn’t work for me, sorry. I’m perfectly ok with recognizing the human element that goes into the creation of scripture.
The respecter of free agency
I believe God is a respecter of free agency. In my belief, God gives everyone free agency, even when it harms others. Could you see a third of the host of heaven seeing all the destruction and evil that would most likely happen if they chose this plan? Could you see them saying no to child rape, abuse, murders, or genocide? Maybe they said no because they didn’t want to participate in this plan. Maybe they weren’t tricked as sometimes we are led to believe. Agency is the core belief of Mormonism and it is a part of mine.
I think we put a lot of responsibility and blame on God for many things. When something goes wrong many say where was God? To that I would say, what about our responsibility? What is our role when we see suffering? This interpretation would make God somewhat of a delegator and we as the human race, in my opinion are doing a terrible job.
I believe God can inspire. I believe He can inspire us to do more and to be better. I believe He can inspire to look deeper within us to find the power to lift one another. I believe He can inspire music, art, and written word. I believe He can inspire reason. I believe He can inspire people like Jackie Robinson to be courageous to stand up for what is right. I believe He can inspire imperfect, deeply flawed men to be the architects and leaders of governments. I believe He can inspire the human spirit to keep fighting when we are in the clutches of defeat.
My prayers are filled with gratitude, because I personally feel thankful for what I have been given. For now I don’t ask for anything. Why not? Well I feel like my God has a lot on his plate. Who am I to ask for anything when I know 16,000 children are dying everyday from starvation. Don’t I have a God-given brain? A brain that can read, analyze, and reason? I can find my own car keys, I got this.
The vulnerable God
Above all my God is vulnerable. To love is to make yourself vulnerable. To become God-like is to mourn with those that mourn. From my favorite book in the world To Kill a Mockingbird: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” A god that feels your pain and is vulnerable is a god worthy of worship in my mind. We see that by opening up to one another we are subject to pain and joy. Terryl and Fiona Givens wrote: “Ruth, David, Mary—all esteemed progenitors of the Christ—are also types and symbols of His own offering. Only by opening themselves to the possibility of paramount harm to themselves, do they serve as vehicles of His grace”. (The God Who Weeps pg 31)
My God is not the triumphant, all powerful God we read about so frequently. I believe my God is there to feel our pain and be joyous in our successes. “If vulnerability and pain are the price of love, then joy is its reward” (The God Who Weeps pg 33). My God is a compassionate God. Compassion, meaning to suffer together with. For now this is the God that makes sense to me. For you, your god might be very different and that is ok. In fact it is how it should be. C. S. Lewis wrote:
“Surely, that each of the redeemed shall forever know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created, but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently? And this difference, so far from impairing, floods with meaning the love of all blessed creatures for one another, the communion of saints. If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note. Aristotle has told us that a city is a unity of unlikes, and St. Paul that a body is a unity of different members. Heaven is a city, and a body, because the blessed remain eternally different: a society, because each has something to tell all others– fresh and ever fresh news of the ‘My God’ whom each finds in Him whom all praise as ‘Our God.’” (Problem of Pain special thanks to Jared Anderson for finding this gem quote for me)
I’ll end with this quote from the Givens’: “There could be nothing in this universe, or in any possible universe, more perfectly good, absolutely beautiful, worthy of adoration, and deserving of emulation, than this God of love and kindness and vulnerability.” (The God Who Weeps pg 25)
So who is your god?