I feel that my response to a recent question on my blog deserves it's own post, since it deals with a very important topic to me--my view of God. The question was: "Do Mormon's worship Jesus the same as God? Or do they merely just thank him for his sacrifice?"
I worship Jesus as God AND I thank Him for His sacrifice. I’m unfamiliar with any educated Latter-day Saint who would ever minimize or diminish Jesus in anyway. On the contrary, we worship Him. We love Him. He is our Lord and Master. He has a whole ton of other applicable names, which I could rightfully list and appropriately believe in/on. He is the Shepherd of our Souls. Since He really means everything to us, it should come as no surprise that “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ…that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:20). The Book of Mormon really has an unparalleled focus on the messianic message of the Savior of the world.
I personally feel that what I do know about the Father, I know because I've come to know the Son. After all, he said "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father." I tend to think that means that they are so alike, so one, that I can know the Father better by knowing Christ. I don't think that scripture means that by seeing Jesus, you're also looking physically at our Father in Heaven, as Trinitarians would tend to believe. I just think it means that you can know a lot about a persons dad by looking at their children. Many people could say the same thing about me and my dad. But I'll comment about how I can also believe in Christ as Father in just a minute.
I readily admit that I feel like I know more about Jesus than I do of the Father. We have several paintings hanging up in our house of Jesus, and the scriptures too are a constant reminder of the preeminence that Christ has in my life. There are less physical reminders of my Heavenly Father. But remembering the forgoing statement, that to see Him is to see the Father brings peace to my soul, for to worship one is to worship the other. To glorify Christ brings glory to the Father.
I pray to the Father (my Father in Heaven) in the name of Christ, since Christ taught that we should do so. But I depend on Christ to be reconciled to the Father. So it should also come as no surprise if I tell you that it is Jesus who occupies the majority of my thoughts, as well as my adoration.
The second question was: "How does Mormonism view the Atonement in light of belief that Jesus is not eternal but created? "
That's kind of a leading question. I'll start with the beginning, and most important part of it--how we Mormons view the Atonement.
Latter-day Saints view the Atonement as the central act of all history—“the central fact, the crucial foundation, and the chief doctrine of the great and eternal plan of salvation”, as one apostle has put it. This is the source of our doctrine and everything else is secondary. There may be many important things, but none is more important than the infinite and eternal Atonement of Jesus Christ. Everything else pails in comparison. If you don't believe me, just read the The Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants.
As for the comment about “eternal” and “created”—I really don’t think many Latter-day Saints are going to say they know much about that. Time is measured only by men. For God, eternity is one eternal “now”. So Latter-day Saints really don’t think of Christ in terms like “created” versus “eternal”. Who is to say when “eternity begins” or who can comprehend how far back it stretches? Kind of mind boggling. Like my wedding ring, I can’t perceive a beginning or an end.
We have no narrative about Jesus being "created". This word only comes up when I'm in conversation with critics of the Church. "Created" is a word that never seems to come up with Latter-day Saints themselves. We have a narrative that states that He was with the Father from the beginning—and that’s about the extent of our thoughts. Our focus is more on making and keeping covenants than on theology.
Whether I’m thinking of God as an “office” of some sort, like the Godhead, or whether I’m thinking of each member of the Godhead individually yet fully God, it really matters not, as I believe that they are infinitely more one than they are separate. I believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one in almost every conceivable way—except physically. Whether I can explain it or not--they are “one eternal God”. So when I read “God” in the scriptures, or think of making covenants “with God”—I tend to explore all aspects of what that means; I think of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and how interrelated they are. And I reverence and respect and deeply appreciate all three of them in their unified purpose and eternal plan of salvation, as well as their unique roles.
Some confusion might understandably come from not understanding how The Book of Mormon properly teaches of Christ as "the Father", and that “God himself” condescended to come into the world to bring salvation to the world. Trinitarians might be surprised to know that Latter-day Saints also consider Christ as “the Father” in certain regards, just as I can be both a father to my daughters and a son to my dad—but it’s still just me.
Jesus is the Father of our spiritual rebirth, as we are born again and take His name upon us. He is also the Father of this earth, since He created this earth under the direction of His Father. A case could appropriately be made that I have three dads! My earthly father, my Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ as Father. Likewise a case can be made about Christ being “eternal”, as part of the eternal Godhead, as well as “created” because he was a Son, and the Firstborn. Most Latter-day Saints don’t tend to get caught up in the semantics, which is probably a cause of frustration to many critics of the Church.
I believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are distinct beings, and yes, they have their distinct roles. But as I said earlier, they are infinitely more one than they are separate. They are so one in almost every way, that I tend to focus more on their oneness and togetherness than I do on their distinctness and physical separateness.
Hebrews chapter 1, verses 1-10, seem to appropriately explain what I feel in my heart.
"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it."