Monday, July 24, 2006

must read mormon essays #2 - the weeping god of mormonism

this week's essay is one of my all-time favorite mormon essays ever. eugene england's "the weeping god of mormonism" highlights some of the greatest and largely ignored aspects of mormon theology.

england begins with a discussion raised by enoch's witness of a weeping god:

The answers to Enoch's questions reveal a concept of God which, I believe, is the essential foundation of all Mormon theology, one that makes our theology radically different from most others. However, it is also a concept which many Mormons, like the younger Enoch, still have not understood or quite accepted. Enoch asks God in amazement, "How it is thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?" (Moses 7:29). In other words, Enoch wonders, how can an absolute and, thus, all-powerful being do such a human thing as weep? Humans weep in response to tragic events they cannot change; God can change or prevent them, so why should he weep?
after finishing his discussion of the problems and failings of the traditonal view of an 'all-powerful' and other 'omni's god, he closes with:
Much of both my private reading of the scriptures and my public religious life is filled with stories and testimonies about how God has intervened in people's lives, destroying their enemies, helping them find a coin, protecting them from accidental injury or death, putting a book or person or divine voice in their way that led to their conversion. But while I tend to believe such witnesses because I too have experienced what I believe is such intervention from God in my life, I increasingly experience those stories as tragic. Each one reminds me of the innumerable occasions when my weeping God does not intervene, when a Hitler is not destroyed, a crucial passport is not found, a faithful missionary is killed, a young man pleads with God for a witness of the Book of Mormon and hears silence. At such times God seems too limited, too finite, too powerless in his weeping. It is a tragedy to believe in such a God; it would be a tragedy to lose such an understanding of him. At the very end of the Bible, John the Revelator is given a vision much like Enoch's; in fact, he sees Enoch's holy city, the New Jerusalem in the latter days "coming down from God out of heaven. . .And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people. . . .And God shall wipe away all tears from their eye" (Rev. 21:3-4). This is the great hope and consolation for all believers. For Mormons, it has the added poignance that as he wipes away those tears, God himself will be weeping for the residue of his children who are not there.


i have only posted a brief and short opening and conclusion of a beautiful and powerful essay that i really believe all mormons should read. the only version i could find online is a bit difficult to reach, but easy to read once you do. you need to first go to the archives of dialogue here. once there, click the link on the left in the table of contents for "the weeping god of mormonism". it begins on page 63.

12 comments:

  1. mormon assassin7/24/2006 9:16 PM

    this essay sounds like it could have been written by a very faithful pharisee in christs day

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  2. This post is timely given the First Pres. message in this months Ensign, which promotes God in absolute terms. I think it is interesting that neo-orthodoxy and conservative politics arose at the same time, although I am not sure there is a causal connection like England suggests.

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  3. mormon asassin, what do you mean?

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  4. mormon assassin:

    i'm also interested in what you mean, especially considering the pharisees of christ's day had a notion of god influenced by hellenistic thought and conceived of in quite absolutist terms, as opposed to the anthropological notion of god depicted in christ's teachings and incarnation.

    i'm also interested if mormons is the subject or object of your name 'mormon assassin'.

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  5. What do you guys think of the relatively recent proposition that even God's love is not so absolute?

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  6. s.o., i think that absolute love in a necessary prescriptive sense is meaningless. i also disagree with nelson's notion that god's love is contingent or unconditional is a mockery of god. nelson makes the mistake of confusing love with expressions of love (which is further problematized by applying certain scriptural language of love to our language of love).

    furthermore, nelson's appeal to the absense of the phrase 'unconditional love' is problematic because the concept was very well taught by jesus in the sermon on the mount, his teachings of love, and his parables. a prime example is the parable of the prodigal son. never did the father's love for his lost son become contingent upon his son's choices. jesus' instructions to love your enemies strikes in the face of nelson's idea of god's supposed conditional love.

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  7. S.O, in relation to Eugene England's talk, why would God weep for the disobedient if they fall outside the conditions for God's love? If God's love is conditional, then why doesn't he just stop caring about those who disobey him?

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  8. Well, to me it seems to me that Elder Nelson's article is all about semantics, and you know how I feel about that. I think most people realize that "unconditional love" does not mean, 100% absolute, he-loves-Lucifer-too, kind of love that he seems to be taking issue with.

    If he doesn't like the phrase "unconditional love," that's fine with me. If I am ever having a chat with him about divine love I will just describe it in terms of the worth of souls being great in the sight of God, or the penitant prodigal, as you mentioned, etc. etc.

    I just threw that out there because it came to mind, and because sometimes I find Elder Nelson to be wildly confusing. Here, he seems to be saying that God's love is conditional upon one's righteousness, and then at the end of the article says "Does this mean the Lord does not love the sinner? Of course not." Ohhhh kayyyy...

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  9. s.o., do you know if there was something in particular that nelson was responding to?

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  10. God can change or prevent them, so why should he weep

    Is wrong - there are some things God can not do. Please don't argue this to a point, it's a fundamental beliefe of mormonism.

    God does not intervene, when a Hitler is not destroyed, a crucial passport is not found, a faithful missionary is killed, a young man pleads with God for a witness of the Book of Mormon and hears silence. At such times God seems too limited, too finite, too powerless in his weeping

    Why, because he didn't respond the way you wanted him to??? So now God needs to handle the situations placed before him the way a limited mortal thinks is best??? What arogance! If you truely believe in the God taught by canonical scripture, then one of the first things you have to admit is that he knows what he's doing! Just because we don't understand his choice doesn't make it wrong, simply means we don't know other factors in play - what's going to happen down the road, who still needs to meet who, etc. etc. etc. - Is it possible that by answering "Joe's" prayer would cause God to infringe on someone else's ETERNAL right of agency???

    r.o.

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  11. ryan,

    >>God can change or prevent them, so why should he weep

    Is wrong - there are some things God can not do. Please don't argue this to a point, it's a fundamental beliefe of mormonism.


    you've completely missed the point. england is paraphrasing enoch's difficulty in understanding how god could weep. this is a really good essay. you should read the whole thing before you start attempting to attack it.

    the rest of your (angered?) attack goes along the same lines. you should really read the article before you start accusing england of arrogance and ignorance.

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  12. Wow - I completly screwed this one up, my apologies

    r.o.

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