Question: What are some ways that other religious traditions may not be as loving as that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

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Question: What are some ways that the theology of love in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints compares with other religious traditions?

Introduction to Question

In another article, we’ve talked about how one of the main goals of a Latter-day Saint apologist would be to confirm the Plan of Salvation and Restoration as a plan of love.

Here, we address ways in which other religious traditions approach love.

Resposne to Question

Judaism, Islam, and mainstream Christianity

Mainstream Jews, Muslims, and Christians believe in a doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. That is, God stands outside of the universe and caused everything in the material universe to come into being at a finite moment in time. It would look something like this with our known, material universe represented as the diamond and God’s presence being everything outside and through the diamond.

God's presence in classical theism.png

The biggest problem with this doctrine, and one that theologians have had to wrestle with for the longest time, is how free will looks like under this scenario. Consider what can be called the Problem from Past Knowledge. If God knew that in 1902, Brian David Mitchell would sneak into the home of Elizabeth Smart in 2002, kidnap her, take her to the mountains, and rape her daily, then it seems that Brian David Mitchell could not have acted outside of God’s foreknowledge of that event. If Brian David Mitchell could not have acted outside of God’s foreknowledge, it seems that he didn’t really have free will in the moment of his decisions. If he did not have free will in the moment of his decisions, it seems that he cannot be held morally accountable for what he did.

Latter-day Saint theologian Blake Ostler lays out the argument in the following logical proof (modified by the author of this article for analogical consistency):

Premise 1) It has always been true that Brian David Mitchell would sin in 2002 and it is possible to know this truth now (assumption omnitemporality of truth)
Premise 2) It is impossible that God should at any time believe what is false or fail to believe any truth (assumption infallible omniscience)
Premise 3) God has always believed that Brian David Mitchell would sin in 2002 (from premise 1 and 2)
Premise 4) If God has always believed a certain thing, then it is not in anyone’s power to do anything which entails that God has not always believed that thing (assumption past necessity);
Premise 5) It was not in Brian David Mitchell’s power to act in a way that entailed that God has not always believed that (from premises 3 and 4)
Premise 6) If Brian David Mitchell refrained from sinning in 2002, that entails that God has not always believed that Brian David Mitchell would sin in 2002 (from premise 2––semantically necessary truth);
Premise 7) Therefore, it was not in Brian David Mitchell’s to refrain from sinning in 2002 (from premises 5 and 6)
Premise 8) If Brian David Mitchell acted freely when he sinned in 2002, then he also had it within his power to refrain from sinning in 2002 (assumption libertarian free will);
Conclusion) Therefore, Brian David Mithcell did not act freely when he sinned in 2002 (from 7 and 8)[1]

This argument presents problems for every model of foreknowledge and its relationship to choice under the assumption that the God of classical theism––the one worshipped by Jews, Muslims, and mainstream Christians––exists. There is no escaping the logical problems classical theism. Ostler has argued this extensively in all of his volumes (and especially his first volume) of his Exploring Mormon Thought series and on his podcast. If one is curious to hear him expound on this argument and respond to criticisms of it, one can see the 9 podcast episodes he did on the subject contained in the footnote below.[2]

Another argument that we can employ that is not made explicit in the argument is that Brian David Mitchell cannot be morally responsible for his action and, transitively, it must be that God is responsible for his action since God foresaw Brian David Mitchell’s action and decided anyway to create a world in which Brian David Mitchell existed and did what he did to Elizabeth Smart.

You might be asking what connection this all holds to love. We’ve written more about love elsewhere on the wiki. One of the important things we talked about in that article was how love needs to be freely chosen and not determined. Nor can someone coerce you into loving them or someone else. With God’s infallible foreknoweldge, God becomes transtively morally responsible for someone;s actions since those people cannot act outside of God’s foreknowledge of the event. Love is never truly chosen freely under models of simple foreknoweldge, middle knowledge, and others. The God of Classical Theism cannot be the God of love recorded in scripture (1 John 4:8).

Vedic Traditions

One of the major tenets of religions like Hinduism and the religious movements that have grown out of it is our being part of Brahman. Brahman is considered to be basically all space. We are extensions of Brahman like waves in an ocean. One of the goals of Hinduism is to become one with Brahman. It’s interesting that our goal is to become one with Brahman yet we still tend towards non-violence as human beings. If we tend towards non-violence, it seems that we are trying to help people in a progression of becoming the fullest version of their human selves rather than trying to aid them in becoming one with something uniquely different than what they are right now.

Also, it seems that if God is everything, then he’s nothing at all. How can we worship a God that doesn’t have a tangible existence? That leads us into our final point.

Religions with a Non-embodied God

Most religions in the world today do not worship embodied deities. Like Islam, Judaism, and mainstream Christianity, they worship a God that is divinely simple, immaterial, and exists outside of space and time. Just think about God’s immateriality. How can something that is cosubstantial with the non-existent exist?

In the Vedic traditions, God is practically all spacetime. If he exists everywhere, then does he exist nowhere?

One fo the advantages of the Restored Gospel is that it brings us into relationship with a tangible being. The Doctrine & Covenants declares that “[t]he Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.” Even the Holy Ghost is material since the Doctrine & Covenants also tells us that “[t]here is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes. We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.” Now, the operations of spirit matter are indeed a mystery, but we are still being brought into relationship with a being that has a real existence and not the one imagined by other mainstream religions. In order for any loving relationship to exist, there must be a lover and a beloved. If there is no subject to become our beloved in the religious relationship, then is there a relationship at all?


These rough thoughts may stimulate further reflection and insight into how the God of the Restoration is the God that we can count on as the God of love.


  1. Blake T. Ostler, Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2001), 192–93.