What is God?
As a philosopher, of course I am inclined to ask this question! The concept of ‘God’ is different for every single religious tradition; in fact, it is different for every single person. What is this thing called God? To Mormons, the religious tradition with which I am the most familiar, God is our spirit Father, the man that had us to begin with, though we all came from thousands of different women. He was once a man but was exalted after following all of the laws of heaven to the best of his ability. He was also the one that taught and directed a few of his children to create a universe (or a galaxy). This is not the traditional view of God. Most views of God say that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He has never changed and will never change; he just knows all things, including how the universe works and all events that happened in the past and in the future. He is the creator of the universe.
Although Mormons typically believe in the traditional kind of God, that Heavenly Father is the kind of God that is the creator of the universe, that is the same forever, and that knows all things, their God is none of those things. First, he is not the creator of the universe. He probably did have a hand in it, but he was not the only one. Michael the Archangel, also known as Adam in the Mormon tradition, was also one of them. There was probably a host of people that had a hand in the creation of the universe (though probably none of them were women, which sucks for me, because women are just too delicate and need to be protected by things…). So why is Heavenly Father always credited with having created all things? He wasn’t…according to Mormon doctrine. Second, Heavenly Father was never the same yesterday, he isn’t the same today, and he is not going to be the same forever. Again, according to Mormon doctrine, he used to be a meager man, much like the men today on this Earth. He used to be a mere mortal, one who was also just trying to survive while living on his own planet. It does not seem like he was the same then as he is today. Today, he is the guy you pray to and he would hear you…or send the Holy Ghost to hear you…or something. Third, he does not know all things. Once more, according to Mormon doctrine, when we are exalted, we will not already be perfect. We become more and more perfected as an exalted being. In other words, Heavenly Father is probably the same thing: he does not know everything yet…if ever. He is still learning and still progressing. If he already knew all things, then he would be in hell (because hell, in Mormon terms, is the lack of progression). So Heavenly Father must be progressing all the time, perhaps even in his knowledge of all things. Because he gave us free will (agency), he probably does not know everything that we’re all gonna do in the future. Perhaps he can just predict our behavior because he knows us well.
One last point I want to make: if the traditional God is the Creator of all things, then maybe he created morality. He created things to be good or bad. Socrates puts it more beautifully (or maybe not as beautifully) when he asks Euthyphro what piety is: “Is the pious loved by the gods, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” In other words, does God just know what a moral action is, or did he create the action to be moral? Was morality created by God? It seems so in traditional views of God. After all, God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac (Abraham would have been off the hook if he had done it), and God commanded Nephi to kill Laban. These acts, that are traditionally immoral, would have been okay if God told someone to do it. So in theory if God decided to tell everyone to start killing all of their firstborns tomorrow, then everyone would have had to obey if they did not want to be punished by God. The people who want to follow his prophets would do it without much question because of their faith that God has some kind of plan for this commandment. But it also seems as if those people do not believe that God would ever change morality so drastically. Even if he does, it seems that most believers would question that commandment. As I speak to believers, it also seems like they do not believe that God created morality; morality is something outside of God.
If it is the case that morality is outside of God, then it must also be the case that God is not all-powerful; there is something out there that can, in a sense control him. In other words, Heavenly Father might not truly be God in the traditional sense. If God broke one of the moral laws, he would cease to be God. There is something outside of him that is more powerful than him in this way. So where did this moral law come from? Might the moral law itself be the real God? This faceless, indifferent being that might not really even be a being… So might it be the case that God is something altogether different, that it is moral law?