Photo by Emre Can Acer on [fn2]

In my post from last week, The Real Reason Mormons Aren’t in the Christian Club, I talked about theology, which is the “study of the nature of God and religious truth.” Several commenters mentioned that discussions about the nature of God are irrelevant. Perhaps it is as useless as arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but the discussion sparked a thought for me that I dropped into a comment on that thread and want to expand on.

Back in 300-400 A.D., people were so agitated by theological questions that it caused massive civil unrest, more than a few deaths and riots, banishment, and some drastic changes in the government as differing factions passed power and influence back and forth. Some 1700 years later, we can shake our heads and cluck our tongues about how they made a mountain out of a molehill. Surely theology didn’t matter enough to fight about it like that!


Welcome to 2022, in which the culture wars that are fracturing the USA are rooted in theology. Do we have autonomy over our own bodies? Or do Christian notions about sex and reproduction get to control questions like abortion, gay sex, transitioning genders and even whether men can dress up like women? When does God send a spirit to a fetus? Will it corrupt children to know that some people don’t enjoy the only kind of sex God sanctions, i.e., procreative sex? Will it harm us all if there are a few people who want to live as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth? Will God destroy the USA for its moral wickedness? Who will save us??? [fn1]

The discussion about the nature of God (theology) is very much alive and well today. According to conservative Christians, today’s God is pretty obsessed with sex and gender presentation. According to liberal apostates, God ought to be more obsessed with economic equality and ending racism, and he certainly emphasizes unconditional love over conformity to manmade rules.

Which brings me to the mirror on the Church wall. Who is the God you worship? And just how much is that God a reflection of you?

I posit that theology is a mirror. Your opinion about what you think is most important to God says more about you than it says about God. How similar are you and your priorities to the God you believe in? I’d bet good money that your opinions on those topics line right up with the opinions you believe that God holds on those topics. 

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every manwalketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol. D&C 1:16. 

The warning in this verse is that people are not really seeking the Lord; instead, we each create God in our own image. Not infrequently, a W&T commenter will say something like, “I couldn’t worship a God who [fill in the blank.]” We want God to be worthy of our worship, and so we make a God worthy of our worship, a God who reflects our own priorities and what we think deity should be.

Here are a few statements of theology:

  • Person A: God gives commandments and it’s our job to obey them. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Pretty simple. President Nelson is a prophet and what he says is the word of the Lord. Sure, you can repent, but you’re better off to keep the commandments in the first place. It’s like he told Nephi, “I will give you no commandment save I prepare a way for you to keep it.”
  • Person B: God is love, not the issuer of a bunch of nitpicky rules that don’t have much to do with how we treat people. The two great commandments are to love God and love our neighbor, and we love God BY loving our neighbor. Obedience to a checklist of rules doesn’t matter when compared to how we treat people. “Wo unto you who pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin and neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith!” 
  • Person C: I know God’s will for humanity! God has called me to save this sin-filled and Godless world. I’m right and I’m going to pass laws forcing everyone to live by my religious beliefs. You’ll thank me on Judgment Day!
  • Person D: Maybe there’s a God. I don’t really know. Sure, he probably loves us, but he’s not really that involved. Can we all just talk about something else?

Of the composite persons I listed, which person best describes you? Which type of person would you rather be friends with? Which person describes your parents? Which person are you more likely to ask for help?

I’d say that Elder Oaks is most like Person A, while Elder Uchtdorf is more of a Person B. Most of the Utah state legislature sounds like Person C. Meanwhile, Person D just wants everyone to chill out and talk about something real.

I read somewhere that lots of people unconsciously base their ideas about God on their father. This was certainly true for me. My father is a “Person A” sort of person and I was raised to believe that God was like that too. My relationship with my father was full of pressure and emotional pain. I spent a few years getting over the problems caused by my relationship with my father, and during that same time period, my concept of God underwent a seismic shift as well. I came out of that experience with a “Person B” idea about God. (Along the way, I lost a lot of respect for my father. He’s not super impressed with me anymore either.)

Your theology likely comes through in how you treat your children. Theology is a very practical question; it’s not a matter of dry discussion with no bearing on our actual lives. What you think about God affects how you treat other people, how you relate to authority, how you exercise authority, and what you think are the most pressing problems facing the world today.


  • How has your theology changed over your lifetime?
  • Do you notice this match between theology and priorities in yourself? In others?
  • Do you think it’s possible to have an understanding of God that’s entirely separate from our own priorities and self-image? Meaning – can anyone really know God without putting him through the filter of ourselves?

[fn1] Human nature being what it is, there are large swathes of the population who just want everyone to calm down. That’s as true today as it likely was in 350 A.D. Their silence is lost to history.

[fn2] Free photos about mirrors on church walls are pretty scarce, and the one I photo-shopped looked even freakier than this one I actually used. If someone has a picture of a mirror on a prickly, carpeted wall, let me know and I’ll swap it out.