Second Letter to the Editor

A response to the first Letter to the Editor concerning

What is Moral Obligation within Mormon Theology



Worship Ethic or Work Ethic


McCall is correct, and Lindgren is not.  In Mormon theology “right and wrong are essentially independent of the divine will or decree.”  Lindgren loathes the logical implications: (1) “If we are ontologically independent of God, then God did not create us”; (2) “In making it possible for us to be like God and co-equal with God, Mormon thought has deprived God of that which makes him worthy of our worship. . . . In essence, he has become nothing more than Superman” (my emphasis); (3) “More conventional theists, such as myself, cannot worship a God who is simply a reflection of the limitations found in human experience.”


Items (1) and (2) above were expressly resolved by Joseph Smith’s “King Follett Discourse” (April 1844).  In making Man essentially “co-equal” with God, King Follett revealed (in Joseph’s words) the “grand secret” of the correct relationship between man and God (the Father).  “Co-equal” is the very word (correctly) used by Lindgren in his letter.  Lindgren, therefore, and read (and correctly understands) King Follett.  (The word “co-equal” was unofficially deleted by B. H. Roberts, or altered to read “co-eternal,” a word of lesser hubris than th unabashed “co-equal,” in later publications of the discourse.)  I personally prefer the original “co-equal” not only because it is historically more accurate but because it correctly emphasizes the proper locus of salvation, i.e. man’s eternal free will


The concept of hubris and its opposite, “humility” (an Orthodox, not a Mormon concept) is a religious idol if it is allowed to distort reality, i.e. the co-equality of man’s free will with all the powers of God (the Father).


Lindgren’s fears are well-founded.  (1) We are ontologically independent of God, and – at least in terms of our individual free will – God did not create us.  This alone is the single most powerful doctrine in Mormon theology, absolving God from moral complicity in cosmic evil and producing a first-rate Mormon theodicy.  Real individual freedom cannot be squared with absolute Divine sovereignty, which characterizes every “other gospel” of Orthodox and/or apostate extraction.  By choosing individual free will above divine grace, the process above the person, King Follett correctly depicts the proper relationship between god and man – that of parent and child.  As with mortal infants, “there is no creation about it.”  They come from pre-existing cells.  Nibley has devoted a lifetime to demonstrating (from religious literatures) that “creation” is but a metaphor; mortal birth is a transposition in an on-going process, a “rite of passage.”


(2) If find nothing whatever offensive in the concept of “God as Superman,” another way of saying that man can progress to his individual Godhood.  Cosmic polytheism is not unchristian.  The cosmos is large enough to handle a multitude of gods without their rubbing or chafing on each other.


Monotheism exists, of course, as a “local” perhaps galactic) even.  Spatialization and temporalization of God may reduce him to a “mere” Superman.  But who says that the present, Orthodox, overly exalted, absolute god of unlimited, all-powerful, timeless, bodiless, expanse and power is the “correct” concept of god?  The latter is essentially Platonist; the former anthropomorphic.  “Spiritualizing” away god’s body does not make that concept any less an idol.


(3) Worship can be a waste of time, a perversion of the gospel, if carried to excess.  How much worship is proper?  It is a matter of personal preference.  If ye love me, Keep my commandments,” not “if you love me, worship me.”  I fear that the worship ethic has erroneously supplanted the work ethic.  The true gospel is and always was a gospel of works.  Worship the absolute God, if you must, but better to appreciate the Father for his past efforts (his past morality) at achieving godhood and recognize that we, too, are now part of the very same process – for good or ill, depending upon our free will choices – as he underwent (to his inestimable gain) and his (and her) achievement of godhood.


How “worshipful” is it to admire ecstatically from the sidelines when you are supposed to be out on the playing field?


G. C. Ensley

Los Hamitos,