An interesting conversation is going on at the Mormon blog By Common Consent. On Monday poster John C. asked readers to cast their votes in a poll asking, “What is more powerful? Eternal Law [or] God?” As I write this, with 282 votes logged, 60% of the respondents believe Eternal Law is more powerful than God.
I suppose all of terms used in this poll really need to be unpacked in order to understand what Mormons mean when they say Eternal Law is more powerful than God. Does “God” mean Heavenly Father? Jesus Christ? The Holy Spirit? What, exactly, is “Eternal Law”? And what is meant by the word “powerful”?
While I admit that I don’t really know the specifics of what the poll is asking, I still see this as another area in which the Mormon faith differs widely from the Christian faith.
God’s omnipotence is one of His basic and uncompromising attributes. To a Christian, this means God holds all power; He is sovereign over all. Mormons are also taught that God is omnipotent (see Mosiah 3:5), but if Eternal Law (or anything else) is more powerful than He is, a different definition of “omnipotent” would need to be employed. What might that definition be according to LDS thought?
In Christianity, God is recognized as the ultimate lawgiver. His laws are expressions of His holiness and sovereign will. God is not accountable to anyone or anything outside of Himself, and there are no external “Eternal Laws” that God is required to obey. Furthermore, there cannot be law without a lawgiver. If God is subordinate to an external Eternal Law, as some Mormons believe, where did Eternal Law originate? Where is the First Cause? If there is none, then the Eternal Law to which the Mormon God is subordinate is ultimately abstract and impersonal, stripping away all meaning, value and purpose of life that has a personal being as its true origin.
Here’s some more food for thought. By Common Consent commenter Mark D. wrote,
“So what does it take to make God the author of all laws, including natural (timelessly inviolable) ones? Nothing short of ex nihilo creation. So either matter and intelligence are eternally self existent independent of God (as Joseph Smith taught and D&C 93 implies) or God created time, space, matter, and intelligence out of nothing as a strict reading of D&C 88 implies.
“If God did no such thing, than he can hardly be considered to be the author of natural law. As Joseph Smith said in the King Follett Discourse, God himself could not create himself. That is a classic assertion of a natural law.”