Does God Need Us?

In some circles, just asking this question requires some serious chutzpah. The “man is nothing” crowd would find the mere suggestion that God needs us offensive. Nevertheless, we have several indications in Mormon doctrine that God needs His children. Perhaps most important is Moses 1:39: “this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The notion of mutual interdependence is pervasive in the Gospel. For example, we believe that individuals (families) are bound together in the eternities, and that “[t]he dead are not perfect without us, neither are we without them.” (Joseph F. Smith) All of this suggests to me that God is not a solitary being. To press the point even further, He cannot be a solitary being; that is, the very definition of God implies community. I am not sure that all of this matters very much, but it seems to cast my relationships with family and friends in a slightly different light.

8 comments for “Does God Need Us?

  1. Interestingly Jewish tradition, especially Kabbalistic tradition, asserts that the divine and human economies are intimately intertwined. What we do here affects the divine and vice versa. While I’m not keen on adopting too much of these probably late Jewish views, I think there is something to them from a Mormon perspective. As Gordon points out, we take the binding of the dead and living quite seriously. Further we view a society or economy that exists in heaven as here. (Although exactly what that entails is unclear)

    Further, if we are God’s work and glory, that would seem to entail that our failures hurt God more than simply emotionally. We affect his glory – for the positive when we follow him and for the worse when we rebel. And that it a very Jewish view…

  2. “Perhaps most important is Moses 1:39: ‘this is my work and my glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.’ The notion of mutual interdependence is pervasive in the Gospel.”

    It’s not clear to me how the fact that God’s work and glory consists of lovingly bestowing His grace upon His children equals “mutual interdependence.” For that to be the case, it would have to be the case that God’s glory is, in fact, at least partially a function of our actions, which would mean that His glory is contingent. Certainly that’s a possible interpretation, but by no means an uncontroversial one.

  3. Certainly I don’t want to seem like this is some fixed LDS doctrine. However it is a common teaching that God’s glory arises from those children who obey and from redeeming. That doesn’t mean God’s glory is contingent unless of course salvation is contingent… But that requires some careful consideration between the relationship of particulars, generals, and universals. It may well be the case that the number of saved is contingent that that it is necessary that a large number be saved.

    Put an other way, one lost soul injures God, but God is great enough that this injury doesn’t limit him in any significant way.

    But you are quite right. Even if it is common to interpret these passages as the glory being *success* in bringing to pass the eternal life of children, it may well be in *trying* instead. Further it may well be an all or nothing act, rather than glory tied to degree of success. Further the scriptures and other prophetic statements about sealing and at-one-ment may relate only to the glory of the children being contingent and not the father. I think those less common interpretations, but we must be mindful of them.

  4. I’m with Grasshopper, my wife and I eventually plan to be parents. I feel that it is part of our eternal progression. We need our future children in order to progress in a way that is not possible otherwise. Now, this is not to say that our progression is dependant on our children’s success. Of course not, you can have a wayward child and learn quite a lot (progress) from him/her. So I think our relationship with our children is very similar to God’s relationship with us.

  5. I think some of the scriptures in 3 Nephi, where God states that his joy is full, or the sorrow God shows earlier in 3 Nephi (“how oft would I have gathered you like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not”) suggest that we affect God’s happiness, so in that sense God needs us. He is what He is, his works will continue and I cannot stay him even if I wished, but I do have the power to add a tear to the Face of heaven.

  6. Russell wrote: “it would have to be the case that God’s glory is, in fact, at least partially a function of our actions, which would mean that His glory is contingent.” That is exactly what I meant to imply, and I think this reading of Moses 1:39 is pretty straightforward, though not obviously right (as Russell rightly points out). Thinking about this (and discussing it with my insightful wife) has prompted two questions:

    1. What do we mean by “glory”? I understood Moses 1:39 to be saying that God’s glory increases when we gain eternal life. Every person who obtains the celestial kingdom adds to that glory. Unless I am mistaken, this is a fairly conventional Mormon view, but does it imply that God’s glory is postponed until the completion of the plan of salvation? Perhaps He has glory from other worlds that predate ours, so He is “glorified” now, and will increase in glory in the future.

    Defining “glory” is complicated by comparison with other scriptures. For example, D&C 93:36 reads: “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” Of course, I have no problem with the idea that glory can have multiple meanings, but it might be worth thinking about the possibility that these two scriptures use “glory” in a consistent manner. Glory = Our Exaltation = Light and Truth … we become light and truth?

    2. Does God need glory? This is a variation on my original question. Even if God’s glory is contingent, I wonder if glory in this sense is essential to being God. In my original post, I stated, “the very definition of God implies community.” Again, I am not certain this is right, but it seems right to me.

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