That's 'gods' with a little 'g', mind.
While pondering my own relationship with God (mind the capital 'G') of late, I've been pondering the question of how the LDS church views others' gods. I recall taking a comparative religions class at Institute once and being somewhat put off by the dismissive way in which the instructor treated the beliefs of said other religions (and I blogged about it here
). As part of that particular class, the instructor was rather dismissive of the beliefs of other religions. Perhaps that is only natural and inherent in one who believes so strongly that his is the only true church.
This brings up the sidetracking question of what a "true church" is and what defines "true" in the sense of "church" rather than "religion," but I won't touch that one right now.
We know that God of the Old Testament is referred to as the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (1 Chronicles 29:18
). He is the Israelite god, and it is His Son who suffered in Gesthemane and died on Calvary.
This is the god of my own fathers, and with whom I, personally, have made covenants, and I'm not in the market for a new one. Generally, I'm of the opinion that if one has promised something to a god, one should really follow up on that, lest one suddenly become crispy. Also, and more seriously, having witnessed the blessings and all the help and comfort that He has given me, it wouldn't be right.
Okay, so we Mormon and Christian and Jewish types believe in this god. But there's plenty of religions out there who don't. Muslims worship and pray to Allah; Hindus have a wide variety of gods; Buddhism teaches that one can be reincarnated as a god if one is particularly good and develops lots of good karma over the course of many lives.
What does LDS doctrine have to say about these? How about my fellow bloggers? I haven't done any research on this topic, but I can think of a few possible scenarios:
1. We deny their existence and send young men out into these cultures to explain that their gods (or their conception of gods) don't exist, and that they need to worship the one who died for their sins if they want to be saved.
2. We deny that they really
exist, explaining their existence away in one of a number of ways, including:
a) That these 'gods' are merely cultural constructions based on human need and desire to worship something
in a vacuum where truth has not existed or been restored -- ie, we dismiss the God of Thunder because people were just picking something to believe in because they needed it.
b) That these 'gods' are somehow a transmogrification of God, but that the truth was distorted in some way to make these gods unrecognizable as such -- ie, Odin was crucified on an ash tree (the tree of life) = Christ was crucified on the cross that we might live.
c) That these 'gods' are merely representative of a single aspect of God, and that if you put them all together, you'd have, well, God.
3. We admit that at least some of them are beings that actually exist, but ignore them in favor of worshiping our own God.
I think all three options have their persuasive elements. For example, if the Gospel of Christ is the only way to achieve salvation, then we must assume that no other god can offer the same result. Also, it's possible that the truth, as it has been revealed in every dispensation, has spread and become corrupted through the passing of time.
At the same time, Mormon doctrine seems to support the third option. One of the attacks brought against Mormons in the "Are Mormons Christian?" conflict is the idea that Mormons can't be Christians because they are, themselves (we are, ourselves), polytheistic. We have a God; we have his Son; and there's another Spirit, too. Furthermore, we believe (not unlike the Buddhists) that if we do well in this life, we can become gods ourselves in the next.
So, what's the word? And what's the impact of of this doctrine as we increasingly spread our missionary efforts into non-Christian countries? Above all, is it possible to believe what we believe -- that there is one living God, and salvation is only possible through his Son -- without alienating those who believe differently, or are we destined to be in constant conflict?