One-Minute Answers by Stephen R. Gibson

Contents of One-Minute Answers

Does the "Mormon" God Change?

Question: The God of the Bible doesn't change. How can Latter-day Saints claim to believe in the same God when their God seems to change his mind all the time?
Those asking this question are probably referencing changes such as the abolishment of the practice of plural marriage and the change regarding Negro members holding the priesthood.

It would help if we knew the motivations of those asking the questions. Some who ask questions are like the Pharisees who were more interested in "trapping" Jesus with their questions than they were with finding answers. Others are sincerely interested in the answers.

One first needs to understand that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). The problem is that people of various faiths attempt to misuse this principle as "proof" for their beliefs, without properly defining what it is about God that remains the same forever, and what, in his eternal nature, continually changes. His love for his children is an example of his unchanging nature. However, his directives to his people vary as their needs change and as they learn "precept upon precept, line upon line;" (Isaiah 28:10). In his Church, both anciently as well as currently, there is a combination of policies, practices, regulations, traditions and revealed doctrines. Some of these, those which are today usually printed in handbooks and bulletins, can and do change--but eternal truths do not. Likewise, understanding among Laner-day Saints has changed, as have requirements and some elements of Church administration. However, no eternal principle has ever changed.

Critics don't seem to understand that an unchanging God is unchangeable in such eternal attributes as love, mercy, truth and justice. Also unchangeable is God's commitment to hear the needs and petitions of his children, though these needs change from one dispensation to another. He will alter his directions, commandments and methods of Church administration to best meet the needs of his people, and is unchangeable in his commitment to continually "fine tune" his work on earth. Clearly, he can and does change the administration of church affairs and requirements without altering his stance on eternal principles.

Here are three Biblical parallels to issues such as plural marriage and who holds the priesthood. Each is an example of this type of change:

  1. During Old Testament times, God allowed only members of the tribe of Levi to perform priesthood ordinances. Also, in New Testament times, this was changed and those not of the tribe of Levi were allowed to officiate in priesthood ordinances. For example, the Apostles even though, most whom were not of the tribe of Levi, were able to baptize and confer the Holy Ghost. Now, most churches of today who believe in a priesthood believe it is available to all believers. According to these churches, anyone can perform priesthood ordinances-including women in some churches ordinances that once generally were reserved by God for only men of the tribe of Levi.
  2. In early New Testament times when the Lord personally ministered on the earth, his message was only for the House of Israel. He said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24). He forbade his apostles from going to the Gentiles (Matt. 10:5-6): "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not."

  3. But just prior to the Savior's ascension this directive was changed (Matt 28: 19). However, the actual implementation of the new directive did not occur until there was a marvelous endowment of power poured out upon the twelve and the Saints on the day of Pentecost, and Peter was commanded by an angel in a vision to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). Of this event Peter said, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34).
  4. During Old Testament times God had, as a token of His everlasting covenant, a requirement that every male under the covenant be circumcised (Gen. 17:7-10, Acts 15:1). In New Testament times that was changed. Gentiles were allowed to join the Church without being put under the yoke of circumcision (Acts 15, Gal. 6:15).
Some of the above practices were requirements under the Mosaic Law, which itself was given to the Israelites as a schoolmaster (Gal. 3:24). Christ's abolishment of the law of Moses makes it even more clear that God requires different things of his children in different dispensations and from different peoples. The above examples also illustrate that at times God forbids certain actions that he later requires of his people.

If the anti-Mormon questioner still insists that "his" God doesn't change and "ours" does, here are some further thoughts:

The list of "changes" found in the doctrines and practices of "orthodox" churches from the practices of the New Testament Church can be extensive. Students of theology should understand that God never changes in attributes or perfection, nor in His work to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). But while He and His eternal truths remain the same, His earthly kingdom has been in a state of constant change since the days of Adam. Critics would be wise to not criticize God for revealing "precept upon precept, line upon line" as the righteousness and preparation of his flock change.