The Weeping God of Mormonism

July 22, 2010

by Eugene England
Originally published in Spring 2002

Editor’s Note: July 22, 2010 would have been Eugene England’s 77th birthday. The Eugene England Foundation has launched a website, eugeneengland.org to make his work accessible to the many who have appreciated his work over the decades, and to those lucky folks who will discover it for the first time. This article contains some of England’s important theological insights, articulated towards the end of his life. We encourage you also to explore eugeneengland.org to discover more about the remarkable life and thought that led to this understanding.

IN THE BOOK OF MOSES, revealed to Joseph Smith in 1830 as part of his revision of the Bible, we learn of a prophet named Enoch, who is called to preach repentance to his people. He succeeds so well they are called “Zion” and are translated into heaven. Then, despite his obviously great knowledge of the Gospel, Enoch has an experience that shocks and amazes him and completely changes his concept of God: He is “lifted up, even in the bosom of the Father” and given a vision of those he had taught who resisted evil and “were caught up by the power of heaven into Zion.” Then, “It came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?” (Moses 7:24, 28; my emphasis).
Enoch is able to focus his surprise at God’s unexpected emotion into questions which disclose, even after his previous visions and his achievements as a prophet, what is for him an entirely new understanding of the nature of God. The answers to Enoch’s questions reveal a concept of God which, I believe, is the essential foundation of all Mormon theology, one that makes our theology radically different from most others. However, it is also a concept which many Mormons, like the younger Enoch, still have not understood or quite accepted. Enoch asks God in amazement, “How it is thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?” (Moses 7:29). In other words, Enoch wonders, how can an absolute and, thus, all-powerful being do such a human thing as weep? Humans weep in response to tragic events they cannot change; God can change or prevent them, so why should he weep?
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