Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What is God like?

This is part two of a ten-part post. Elder Cuthbert of the First Quorum of the Seventy suggested ten questions which members of any church might ask our missionaries or any other member of the Church.

Question number two: What is God Like?

Elder Cuthbert’s answer:

How wonderful that the Almighty God has identified himself to us through his beloved son, Jesus Christ. He has revealed himself as our Father in Heaven, who wants us, his children, to keep in touch with him while we are away from our heavenly home. Ask a little child to close his eyes and think of God and then describe him. Will he describe a spirit? No! He will tell of a loving, kindly faced, white-robed personal being. In his epistle to the Hebrews, Paul describes Jesus, in relation to God the Father, as “being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3).

My testimony:

This picture of the First Vision hangs on my wall. I think this is my most favorite Church picture; I have other favorites but this one is perhaps my most favorite. The first vision Joseph Smith experienced is so incredibly important to everyone on the earth for many reasons. We gained so many significant and fundamental truths from that first vision and from all the subsequent revelations; however, the very most fundamental truths we gained from his First Vision involve the nature God and His Son Jesus Christ.

When our Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ appeared, the world learned that God is like us, or rather, we are like Him, in that He has a body of flesh and bone and we are created in His express image. He is not a formless spirit or a floating idea. He is a glorified and perfected version of you and me. He is the Father of our spirits (see Hebrews 12:9) and our physical bodies are in His likeness. Our bodies are mortal and He is immortal, but through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all are promised that, “this mortal shall put on immortality,” (Mosiah 16:10; see also 1 Corinthians 15:54). We can all become like Him.

The world learned that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two separate and distinct beings, one in purpose and in goal but separate beings, Jesus Christ being the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world. What is God like? Look at Jesus Christ and God possesses all of the attributes Christ does—where do you think Jesus Christ learned how to act and how to live? God is loving, caring, and merciful to send His Only Begotten to the earth to live, suffer, and die and then live again so that each of His children may have the opportunity to repent and return to live with Him in exaltation forever (see John 3:16).

The world also learned, as Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated, “that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake” (“An Address,” The Complete Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1929), 45). God and His son spoke to each of the ancient prophets as recorded in Holy Scripture, they spoke to Joseph Smith in that most sacred grove, and they continue to speak to each of his successors and apostles who lead Their Church.

I asked a few of my close friends and associates what they thought God was like. Below are a few things they said:

“God is perfectly loving, just, and merciful in a way that we cannot understand with our earthly minds.”

“God is love. I know it is cliché, but it is the first thing that came to my mind. Why else would He give us a sacrifice of His Son? Why else would He entrust us with His church, His power, His Holy Ghost, families, prophets, the gospel, everything? He loves us. More than anything, and He is working as hard as He can to get us back to Him. That is the bottom line. That thought is often what brings me comfort when I need it. Knowing that God is doing everything that He can to ensure my Salvation. Short and sweet. That sums it up for me.”

“God is a perfected human who experiences constant and perfect joy. Though the Old Testament describes God as ‘jealous’ and ‘angry’, He does not experience jealousy and anger as we define them. Although Jesus wept as a mortal on earth, His sorrow as a god is not sorrow as we define it or understand it. Combined in God are the seemingly opposite characteristics of perfect love and perfect joy. These are seemingly opposite to us because, in our experience, a loved one usually has great power to maliciously damage what joy we experience. Not so with God; no anger or sorrow or exasperation of any kind as we experience them frustrate His perfect joy. This even when His perfectly beloved children use their free will to defy Him with deliberate impunity or maim, cheat, enslave, and kill one another. He is beyond their power to affect His joy, and so will be all who desire to live forever as He does.”

“God is just like the friend you've always wanted, and is the friend you've always had.”

“God is like us. Or better said, we are like Him, except that He is perfect, and we are not. I believe God is a happy person. In fact, I believe He is the most joyful being that ever existed, and I believe that He wants each of us to be just as happy as He is. That is why He has done so much for us.

“I also believe that He is the most loving person that ever existed. He is our Father, and He loves us perfectly.

“God is also honest. That might sound obvious, but it seems that in our world, there are so many opinions on what God wants, and what He says, and even who He is. I know that God cannot lie, and if we ask to know the truth, eventually, He will show it to us, in His own way and His own time. He wants us to know Him. I know that we can know Him. Just like a best friend, the more time that we spend with Him, the better we will come to know Him.”

“To me God is every attribute that inspires happiness. He is the perfect father and a best friend who I'd always willing to give advice and love if we ask Him.”

As for me, I know that God is loving and caring because:

·         He gave me my family and has both shown me the way and provided me with the means to live with them forever
·         He gives me prophets and apostles
·         He gives me the Holy Ghost
·         He comforts me in times of need
·         He allows me to repent and try again—as many times as I need
·         He teaches me patience in His own divine way
·         He has placed so many good people in my path
·         He is patient when I fail to acknowledge my gratitude toward Him
·         He gives me the means that I may make my own educated decisions
·         He trusts me enough to allow me to make wrong decisions
·         He forgives me and teaches me how to do better next time
·         He trusts me to make the right decisions

I know that God is omniscient because:

·         He knows what is best for me and is patient as I learn to acknowledge it and trust Him
·         He created the perfect plan for each of us that we may become like Him, share in His happiness, and live with Him for eternity as perfected beings
·         He gives me tests and trials that, if dealt with properly, prepare me for greater things that I don’t see both in this life and in the life to come
·         He answers my prayers in His own way and in His own timing so that I learn and grow the most from the experience

In addition, I believe God has a sense of humor. I believe that He laughs and cries when we do something that merits either or both of those emotions. I believe that His one desire is that each of us returns to Him to share His eternal happiness and everything He does can help us toward that one goal (see Moses 1:39).

What is God like? He is like the best father who loves us perfectly, who always has the right thing to say in every situation, and who always acts in our best interests.


See also:

Topic: God the Father on LDS.org
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Grandeur of God,” Ensign, Nov 2003