Mormons teach that God is literally our loving Father in Heaven. Thomas S. Monson often reminds Mormons and others to trust God, because He is the
only source of truth and safety.
“May we remember that the wisdom of God ofttimes appears as foolishness to men; but the greatest lesson we can learn in mortality is that when God speaks and we obey, we will always be right.” (See Thomas S. Monson, “They Marked the Path to Follow,” Ensign, Oct 2007, 4–9.)
The Mormon willingness to trust and obey God stems from their beliefs about our eternal relationship with Him. Mormon beliefs teach that God created our spirits. After the creation of our spirits, we lived with Him as spirits. We were ourselves, and that time was spent learning the gospel, developing our personalities, and deciding if we were obedient or rebellious. After a time, we’d grown and progressed all we could in the sheltered environment of our Father’s home and were offered the opportunity to come to earth to live and to progress in new ways. Satan attempted to overthrow the Plan of Salvation, wanting to replace it with one in which we would come to earth as mere puppets, doing his will and never having the opportunity to make our own choices. He argued this would keep us safe, because we wouldn’t sin, and therefore would be able to return to Heaven. He demanded all glory and worship be directed to him as a result, essentially allowing him to replace God.
Because agency is a critical aspect of the Plan of Salvation, his plan was not God’s plan. Jesus Christ stepped in and offered to carry out the plan correctly. He would be our Savior, being born on earth, taking our sins upon him through the atonement, and then dying for us. We would be able to choose for ourselves whether or not to accept the Gospel. This was a risk, but the only way we could return to God properly and give meaning to our time on earth. One-third of those in Heaven rejected the Savior’s plan, and were cast out of heaven, unable to come to earth and partake of the atonement. They became Satan’s followers. The remainder of us began taking our turns on earth.
Although we no longer live in God’s presence, he has given us many ways to relearn who He is and to stay close. The Bible is one way Mormons learn about God. It contains a record of God’s dealings with the Israelites and also records the Savior’s life and ministry. The Savior taught us much about God. Of course, God was not only the God of the Israelites. Many people around the world knew of Him and interacted with Him. The Book of Mormon contains a record of God’s dealings with a group of Israelites who immigrated to what is now the Americas. There they lived among the native population, but in their own cities. They left behind a record of their experiences with God and the writings of their prophets.
Prayer is another way we can learn about God. Mormon beliefs teach that as we pray and wait patiently for answers, we can learn to recognize how God communicates with us and understand the answers given to our questions. In James 1:5-6, in the Bible, we learn that God has promised to answer our questions:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. (James 1:5-6, King James Version of the Bible.)
Most prayers Mormons give are in their own words, rather than being recited prayers. This allows them to communicate openly with God and build a comfortable, loving personal relationship with Him. Mormons believe God need not be distant. We can know Him as well as we know our earthly family and friends. He stands ready to have that relationship with us; it is up to us to demonstrate our willingness to do so.
Mormons believe in a God who is fairly easy to understand. He has a body of flesh and bones, although it is perfected and glorified. The Bible teaches that we were created in His image, and Mormons consider it an honor to be created to look much like Him. (Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 5:1) To understand His nature, we can think about the characteristics of a perfect father—loving, wise, and involved. God has rules and expectations, because a good father does this for his children, and he enacts rewards and punishments to help us grow to become perfected. While we can’t become perfect in this life, we can become as close as possible to it and then complete our progression after our deaths.
Mormons believe that through grace and the atonement of Jesus Christ, everyone has the ability to repent and to be risen from the dead. Everyone is saved from eternal death, regardless of their actions on earth. Not even belief in God is required, because Mormons do not believe in grace by works and taking Christ as our Savior would be a work.
However, most of us want to do more than to live forever. Most who love God wish to spend their eternities with Him and with the families they love. God has promised us that if we keep the commandments to the best of our ability, and repent when we fall, if we have sufficient faith and if we obey out of faith and love, not hope of reward, we can return to live with God after our deaths. No unclean thing can dwell in God’s presence, and since we take our character and personalities with us when we die, only those who love God and live accordingly can dwell with Him. Mormons believe that achieving exaltation, which some call being saved, is not a one-time action, but a life time mission of learning to sacrifice and to align our will with God’s out of love.
These understandings of the nature of God allow Mormons to believe the words of Thomas S. Monson quoted at the start of the article. They trust God to never lead them astray because they know He knows them personally, loves them, and has the power to know what is best.