Question: Does the Book of Mormon refute Joseph Smith on the nature of God?

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Question: Does the Book of Mormon refute Joseph Smith on the nature of God?

The term "unchangeable God" mentioned in the Book of Mormon is not referencing a physical state

The Book of Mormon never says God was once a mortal, and, in fact, it teaches that God was always God. Take for instance Moroni 8:18. It says God is "unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity." Joseph Smith, however, taught, "We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and take away the veil so that you may see."[1]

The term "unchangeable God" is not referencing a physical state. This can be shown from similar terms from the Bible about Jesus. Jesus is referred to as "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Yet we learn from the scriptures that Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”(Luke 2:52) here is certainly a change in condition; here is succession of time with God, a before and after; here is being and becoming; for whereas, He was a spirit, He became man; and in becoming man, He passed through all the phases in life from infancy to manhood. It is significant also that it was not until Jesus had arisen from the tomb and stood in the presence of His disciples, glorified personage, body and spirit united, that He exclaimed, “all power is given unto Me in heaven and earth.” (Matthew 28:18) If “given”, there must have been a time when He did not possess all power in heaven and in earth; and hence, a change from possessing some power to the condition of possessing “all power”. So this term is not meant to mean His physical condition.

In context, no scripture tells us of God's physical change, but actually tells us that one can be eternal, unchanging, the same yesterday, today and forever, and still go through physical changes. Joseph however was contending against this false interpretation of scripture and was teaching the saints appropriately. In his lecture, he was talking about God passing through physical changes, even as Christ did, and as we must.

Here is a brief synopsis of scriptures that speak about this term, and possible meanings:

Scriptural Review

Hebrews 13:8-9

8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.
9 Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.

Comment: The term here seems to say that God/Christ will not tell you one thing, and another, something different, when it comes to doctrine.

Moroni 8:12,18

12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!...
18 For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity.

Comment: This also seems to say the same thing. God will not tell someone that one doctrine is correct, in this case, infant baptism, and another it is ok.

Mormon 9:7-9

7 And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
8 Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.
9 For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?

Comment: Again, this agrees with the other scriptures. God, will not give tell/give the Gifts of the Spirit to one group, and tell another it is wrong.

2 Nephi 27:23

23 For behold, I am God; and I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith.

Comment: Virtual agreement with our other scriptural references.

Psalms 102:24-27

24 I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days: thy years are throughout all generations.
25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.
26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:
27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end"

Comment: The Psalmist here, in context, is referring to the eternal nature of God. All things will pass away, but God will remain.

Malachi 3:4-6

4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years.
5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."

Comment: This is a reference to the promises God makes to His children, and his remembrance of those covenants.

Notes

  1. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 345. off-site