Traditional Christian ideas, based on Greek philosophical understanding, require God to be absolutely independent of all other beings and substance (I touched on this in my last post). This has led some to postulate that God must be “without passions” or that he must possess impassibility. Basically stated, the idea of impassibility is that if God is affected by our behavior in some way, he isn’t absolutely independent of all creatures. It is impossible, then, for God to be truly sad as a consequences of our actions or circumstances. Further, another traditional Christian concept of God is that he is completely “simple” or indivisible, and therefore cannot feel or express conflicting emotions like you or I can. He is, as stated in a familiar creed, “without body, parts, or passions.”
As stated in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, “Th[is] doctrine…was a regular tenet of philosophical theology among the Greeks, and its foundation in Christian sources is probably due to direct Greek influences” (3rd. ed., p. 823). In other words, this isn’t particularly a Biblical concept–at best it is man’s philosophy mingled with scripture.
It has always fascinated me that in answer to Joseph Smith’s question asking what church he should join, in his First Vision, Jesus directly criticized the then existing Christian “creeds” as an “abomination in [his] sight” (See Joseph Smith History). Of all the things Jesus could have told Joseph Smith, this was among the very first and prominent.
I believe that a major part of Joseph Smith’s calling was to restore the ancient Biblical understanding of God–one who is not “impassible” nor “simple” but who is very much involved in our struggles, saddened by our sins and struggles, and who very much is further glorified and exalted by our progress. In short, God needs us and we need Him. In that sense, God is vulnerable as a Parent is made vulnerable by his love for his children.
In the Book of Moses, a volume of scripture revealed to Joseph Smith as part of his inspired translation of the Bible, we gain a window into God’s emotion and concern. In the seventh chapter, we are given insight into the prophet Enoch who was translated into Heaven with his people in the city of Zion.
We sense that Enoch is somewhat proud of his accomplishment–“Enoch talked with the Lord; and he said unto the Lord: Surely Zion shall dwell in safety forever!” God’s response to Enoch’s statement is somewhat startling–“Zion have I blessed, but the residue of the people have I cursed…And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept”(!) (Moses 7:20, 28). This statement about God weeping over the wicked is so profound that the author of the book adds “and Enoch bore record of [God weeping]” (Moses 7:28).
A weeping God!
A God who weeps at the loss over the wicked as much as he rejoices over the unequaled righteousness of Enoch’s Zion!
Enoch is surprised by God’s weeping–
“How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?…How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of they creations….How is it thou canst weep?” (Moses 7:28-30)
God responds in a moving way–“Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; and unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood…” (Moses 7:32-33)
God reminds Enoch time and again that the wicked are his brethren, his own flesh and blood, and that God created them with his own hands in the beginning. He gave unto man understanding and agency. He gave unto them the two great commandments–love and serve God and love and serve each other. Yet, “they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.”
God patiently taught Enoch how it is that he can be God (and all that entails) and yet experience real ‘human’ emotion. It is because he truly loves us.
Here, then, is the true and living God. He weeps when we do not love and serve each other. He weeps when we choose Satan instead of Him (our own Father!). He is a God with body, parts, and passions. He is not the god of the philosophers. Their creeds are, in fact, an abomination because they actually rob God of his very nature which is love.
Likewise, God weeps for joy. In Moses 7:63, God speaks of a future day when the righteous will join Enoch’s city and what that day will be like. “And the Lord said unto Enoch: Then shalt thou and all thy city meet them there, and we will receive them into our bosom, and they shall see us; and we will fall upon their necks, and they shall fall upon our necks, and we will kiss each other” (Moses 7:63).
What a wonderful day that will be!
Praise God for restoring an understanding of his true nature again through the prophet Joseph Smith! How grateful we should be to have a God who is affected by us, who longs for us to repent, who suffers with us and who has the power to lift us to the higher plane where He is.