Posted 09 August 2012 - 10:44 AM
Ok so the issue of God in the Book of Mormon.
I think we have several issues there. What might be helpful (at least as a starting point) is to look at a bit in the Old Testament - which is at least as confusing to Christianity in general (including LDS) in terms of trying to understand how it relates to our own theological models. Psalm 82 is one of those classic texts. Here are two translations of the first verse:
NIV: God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”:
KJV: God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.
What is interesting for us is that a word that can be translated "god" occurs three times in this verse. So here is the KJV with the Hebrew put back in (and with that Hebrew there, you can start to see how and why the translations do what they do with the text):
Elohim standeth in the congregation of the El; he judgeth among the Elohim.
The same word is first translated as "God" and then as "gods". The Second title is reduced to referring to something else. What it really refers to shows up in verse 6 (again in the two versions):
NIV: “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’
KJV: I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
And here again is the modified KJV:
I have said, Ye are Elohim; and all of you are children of Elyon.
Within a cultural context, we have Elyon, the Most High (God), who presides over his divine assembly (the assembly of El). The members of that assembly are collectively called his sons - they are the Elohim. And the speaker for most of this Psalm is one of their number - one of the Elohim. In an Israelite context, this would presumably be YHWH - although in some ways, this Psalm is almost generic in its text. A Canaanite might be just fine singing this Psalm with the understanding that the singular Elohim who stands to judge his companions in the divine assembly was Ba'al.
For part of the history of Israelite religion, YHWH was seen as one of the Elohim - one of the sons of El Elyon. As a stricter an stricter monotheism develops, the notion of a divine assembly fades.
Nephi comes out of an Israel/Judah that is just undergoing a reform. And at least from my reading, Lehi and Nephi are not very happy with the reform Judaism that they are leaving in Jerusalem. At least from that perspective, seeing a God (Elohim) the son of God (El) wouldn't be entirely out of place in their writings - even while it could be a potential source of confusion among modern LDS trying to read the text. And the emphasis occurs in different places in different ways in the Book of Mormon.
You note that Joseph changed the text to insert the "Son of" in the Book of Mormon, which he did in four different places: 1 Nephi 11:18, 11:21, 11:32 and 13:40. But, there are other places where that phrase existed already in the original text and did not need to be modified: 1 Nephi 10:17, 11:7. And there are places where he could have changed it, but didn't - like 2 Nephi 25:12 or Mosiah 3:8, and so on.
It's been speculated that the actual reasons for the changes in 1 Nephi 11 are not really to clarify the text, but rather as a way of deflecting the criticism of Alexander Campbell, who noted in an early critical piece (reproduced by the way in the Messenger and Advocate in 1835 - five years before Joseph published the second edition with the changes) that the phrase as it stood in the first edition in 1 Nephi 11:18 was very Catholic - "The Mother of God". The references to the Eternal Father are more interesting. I can understand the use much better in the rest of the Book of Mormon than in Nephi's works, since the Book of Mormon shows clear indications of a liturgical title being used in the parts redacted by Mormon and Moroni (in a very long form, a couple of long forms, and a couple of short forms). To suggest that Nephi only took the part "eternal father" from Isaiah's compound name in Isaiah 9:6, is certainly possible, but the way that everything else in 9:6 is virtually ignored makes it a less useful argument perhaps. But, there may have been a corresponding usage elsewhere on the Brass Plates that we aren't aware of that would have made such a usage much more likely (had another prophet used just that phrase for example - but that's pretty speculative for my tastes).
In any case, a notion like God, the son of God, is much more representative of a pre-exilic Old Testament theology moved into our language without the words to create as nuanced a picture as the Hebrew does (the same sort of problems we find in translations of Psalm 82 - with a similar additional problem of differences in the underlying theological model of divinity that we find in Mormonism and in other modern Christianities).
As far as the related issue of the worship of Jesus, I think that we have a couple of components there. The first is that there is clearly a pushback in the remarks made by McConkie (on which a great deal of this discussion rests) towards specific ideas and beliefs (some of them not LDS). Later leaders, in particular Hinckley, have made some movement away from that sort of interpretation of McConkie's remarks. Perhaps a more nuanced statement would be that LDS rather emphatically suggest that the worship of Jesus in a way excusively of the other members of the Godhead is inappropriate. That if we single out any member for worship we should single out God the Father.
Often the example of the Lord's prayer is presented as an example of why we should pray to the Father (only), but, that does seem a bit problematic in light of the Book of Mormon accounts in which (the resurrected) Jesus is prayed to. We wouldn't expect the mortal Jesus to hold himself up as an object to be worshiped, or even as one to be prayed to. But, the resurrected Jesus might be seen in a different light. LDS leaders (at least in the past) have suggested they are aware of the incongruity, and attempted to explain that praying to a resurrected Jesus who is present is perhaps acceptable - while falling back on the more traditional position that when we pray we should follow the example that Jesus set (both in the New Testament and in the Book of Mormon) of praying to the Father. I think this fits into the idea that if we are going to pick a member of the Godhead to deliver our devotion to, it should be to the Father and not to the Son, although we can certainly worship the Son as part of that Godhead in a more general sense. (And of course its more difficult to speak of these kinds of issues without wading into the sometimes murky waters of debates over the nature of the trinity).
If I had to make a personal statement on the issue, it would be this. Worship occurs in a lot of different ways. Jesus is our revelation of God. We come to know God through Jesus - and I think that part of what this means is that we strive to live increasingly Christ-like lives. True worship isn't just prayer, or singing hymns, or attending church or the temple - it is emulating Christ. And we worship both God the Father and God the Son when we emulate the actions and attitudes of Jesus Christ. We too become a revelation of God.
... suppose, contrary to legend, that Oedipus, for some dark oedipal reason, was hurrying along the road intent on killing his father, and, finding a surly old man blocking his way, killed him so he could (as he thought) get on with the main job. Then not only did Oedipus want to kill his father, and actually kill him, but his desire caused him to kill his father. Yet we could not say that in killing the old man he intentionally killed his father, nor that his reason in killing the old man was to kill his father. (Davidson)