Theology

God’s Holiness and Latter-day Saints

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One of the most difficult truths for an LDS person to grasp is that the god that Latter-day Saints worship is not the same in nature and character as the God revealed in the Bible.

However, when they do begin to see the vast differences between the nature and character of the God of the Bible and what they had been taught their whole lives, their responses can be dramatic. Many former LDS people plunge into the despair of agnosticism or atheism, while others are drawn toward unbiblical theologies and heresies.

Sadly, many Christians are unable to help their former LDS friends and family being themselves uninformed in proper, Biblical theology. Christians must be gentle and patient with our former LDS friends, but most of all we must be theologically accurate and clear in our understanding and explanation of the true nature of the glorious God revealed in the Bible.

The Holiness of God in the Bible

Very little is written or talked about in LDS theology concerning the holiness of God, but the Bible describes the holiness of God as the fundamental aspect of his divine substance. If God is not holy as the Bible defines it, then our God is not truly the God of divine revelation and our faith is in vain.

There is a fantastic and well-known text in the Old Testament book of Isaiah setting up God’s holiness as the fundamental description of his divine substance.

In chapter 6, we find that Isaiah, the prophet, encounters the true God in a vision, apparently being brought into heaven itself. While Isaiah describes his vision with intriguing six-winged “Seraphim” (fiery angels), great shaking and thick smoke it is clear that the focus of the vision is a great throne with the glory of God sitting upon it.

Isaiah describes these strange, fiery creatures as crying to one another day and night (presumably since their creation) proclaiming the complete holiness of God. Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.

Implications of God’s Holiness

Two implications from their proclamation are significant:

First, in the Bible, the holiness of God is the only attribute expressed this way. The three-fold, emphatic “holy, holy, holy” has been described as an eternal crescendo of praise reserved for God alone. The one ministry of these Seraphim is essentially to fundamentally define God as “holy.”

Second, the implication for Isaiah (who was about to embark on a lifetime of preaching and subsequent rejection for that preaching) is that the whole earth is permeated with God’s glory by the recognition and proclamation of God as “holy, holy, holy.” This strongly suggests that both an understanding and dedication to the concept of God’s innate holiness is essential to living out our created purpose to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

What is Biblical Holiness?

So what then does it mean that God is holy? The Hebrew word for holy is kadosh, and it simply means that God is wholly other, one-of-a-kind. In other words, God is of a completely other substance than us.

When the Hebrews wrote of holiness, they meant more than sinless or righteous (though not less); they meant distinct and unique. The word “holy” is attached adjectivally before many things and people in the Old Testament. Priests were called holy, their clothes were called holy, the temple was holy, even God’s nation was called a holy nation.

This word was clearly not describing primarily their purity or their impeccability, rather that when someone or something was holy, it is set apart as unique, distinct, separated from everything else.

God’s holiness is his essential “set-apart-ness” his uniqueness, his “wholly other-ness.” This explains why LDS teaching and theology says little about God’s holiness — the God of Latter Day Saints simply is not holy in the truest sense of the word. Though perhaps further progressed and advanced, he is virtually the same substance as every other human being.

He is like us thus he is not (biblically speaking) holy. And making this theological mistake concerning the most basic of God’s nature devastates a correct understanding of the true God. Many LDS people who have left their religion feel a sense of profound betrayal when they begin to see that the god they had prayed to, served, and loved is not really the holy God of the Bible.

God’s Holiness and LDS Evangelism

Christians who love those coming out of Mormonism must recognize the fact that this foundation of God as the Holy One needs to be laid again gently, patiently and Biblically. We can remind them of Bible texts like:

  • “I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9–10).
  • Psalm 50:21 where God says that the fatal flaw of the religious people was that you thought I was altogether like you.

We must also remind and encourage them that the holiness (wholly otherness) of God is this beautiful display of God’s mercy to abundantly pardon sinners. Because he is not like us, his ways and his thoughts are not like ours, even when we cannot fathom how he would love us in our worst of days, his holiness compels him to always act according to his distinct and holy nature, to abundantly pardon even when we would/could not (Isaiah 55:7-9).

Indeed it is because God is holy that he is able and willing to remember our sins and iniquities no more, to never leave us or forsake us, to remove our transgressions from us. It is God’s holiness that makes his redeeming love so remarkable.

The holiness of God, as the Bible describes it, is fundamental to the true nature of God but foreign to the god of Latter-day Saints, helping introduce a clear and biblical understanding that God is wholly other, distinct, unique and unlike us — that God is holy, holy, holy is essential to a strong theological foundation and faith.