I'm new on these forums, and have recently taken an interest in LDS beliefs. I was approached by a missionary while staying in Vancouver (there is a church - or temple? - in my town, but I have never seen a missionary around these parts) some time ago, but they never got back to me. Oh well.
I've read around a bit, and I find one thing I find quite confusing - namely the Mormon stance (whether at the doctrinal level or that of individual Mormons) on classical arguments in favour of theism. Of particular interest would be cosmological arguments from traditional authors such as St. Thomas Aquinas. I must admit a bias here in favour of St. Thomas, since he was my first real encounter with religion. I've always appreciated the technical clarity of his thought.
The most famous cosmological argument - and perhaps theistic argument in general - would be Aquinas' "Unmoved Mover," ("motion" being the eduction of Potency to Act) which proceeds like so, adapted from Contra Gentiles 1.13.3:
1. Some things are in Motion;
2. Everything that is Moved is Moved by a Mover;
3. The preceding Mover is either itself Moved by another Mover or is Unmoved;
4. A regression of Motion (i.e. of Moved Movers) exists;
5. The regression of Moved Movers must either proceed to infinity or terminate in an Unmoved Mover;
6. The regression of Moved Movers cannot proceed to infinity;
Therefore, we must posit the existence of an Unmoved Mover to account for Motion.
Motion, in Aquinas' day and philosophy, did not simply mean moving from one locale to the other (locomotion) - rather, it was a much wider concept that referred to an elevation of something that existed in a potential state to existence in an actual state. A statue, for instance, exists "potentially" in a block of marble. "Motion" would be the statue becoming an actual statue, which is accomplished by a Mover (i.e. a sculptor).
Aquinas identifies this Unmoved Mover as a being that is devoid of any Potency, restating the argument in a more succinct manner when dealing with the question of whether or not there is any passive potential in God:
"We see something in the world that emerges from potency to act. Now, it does not educe itself from potency to act, since that which is in potency, being still in potency, can therefore not act. Some prior being is therefore needed by which it may be brought forth from potency to act. This cannot go on to infinity. We must, therefore, arrive at some being that is only in act and in no wise in potency. This being we call God." (SGC 1.16.7)
So, according to this philosophy, if God is void of any potential, then whatever He is, He is essentially and necessarily; there is no "could be" with God, there's only "is" - purely Actual being. "I AM THAT I AM," in my own mind, makes a great deal of sense when approached from this standpoint.
However, the missionaries I was speaking to told me that God's "plan" for us was to become like Him. That sounded rather strange (I don't think I'll ever be all-powerful or all-knowing), but the missionary also said that God Himself had undergone a similar process. In essence, God had not always remained constant, but underwent some sort of ascension or process of exaltation by which he became God.
I found this very confusing, but later on (quite recently, actually) I was directed towards Joseph Smith's King Follett sermon, as well as sections from an LDS manual on Brigham Young. Joseph Smith, according to the Church's website, said:
I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of a being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning?... God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret... I am going to tell you how God came to be God. 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. (J. Smith, King Follett Sermon)
I cut some bits out for the sake of brevity, but I think the message is still intact. I think it's quite clear that Joseph is describing a being that becomes God, rather than purely actual being that exists all at once. Needless to say, the process of "becoming" necessitates the possession of potential - but, as Aquinas demonstrated, this may very well be impossible.
I think the LDS manual I found on Brigham Young correctly identifies God as the First Cause of all things; for it is through God that all things Move, and through which we ourselves have our being. But this manual also states that the Church's doctrinal position is that a being "progressed to become a God" (it's the Teachings of Brigham Young, "Chapter 4: Knowing and Honouring the Godhead").
Edited by Ipip12, 24 August 2013 - 06:00 PM.