This is the first of a few essays that will be broadly linked. In this one, I explore the idea that we need to align ourselves with God instead of trying to make Him into what we want Him to be.
Have you ever met anyone who said, "I could never believe in a God who _____________," and then filled in the blank with the thing they could not tolerate.
This attitude strikes me as odd.
Perhaps it's my father's voice in my head that causes my discomfort. My family joined the church in the late 1960's; I was the youngest of my parents' four children and we were all baptized together. My parents had been very active in their protestant church prior to our joining the Mormons, but my father had expressed his concern about our church's changing because of social changes at the time.
My father's view was that if God is God, and if He does not change, then the church should not vote about what was true this year or not. For my father, God was a fixed point, a given. And it was up to us to discover who He was, not to create Him in or change Him to the image we liked.
So when someone tells me he prefers the God of the New Testament to the God of the Old Testament, I'm confused. (Now I've written before about the fact that the Old Testament also teaches the need for love of God and love of fellowman, just as the New Testament does.) Or if he wants to select a la carte the characteristics of a God he can believe in.
It seems to me what our job is in this regard is to discover God, not to create Him. We can discover Him through study of the scriptures, through revelation through the prophets (including modern prophets), and have those truths ratified through our own personal spiritual experience.
Personally I'm guided by some counsel I received from Elder Theodore Burton of the Seventy while I was on my mission. He taught in a zone conference that those things the Lord felt most strongly about He tended to say more than once in the scriptures. He suggested that teachings that appear only in one obscure verse might not be as significant as those broad themes that get repeated play.
Perhaps you've had a similar experience to mine that in General Conferences I sometimes hear themes emerge from a particular session. It may be I hear those themes because I come to the conference with questions, but I don't think that's always the case.
In any event, I am reluctant to couch my faith and testimony in terms of what I want God to be like; instead I try to understand how He has revealed Himself to be. My understanding continues to grow and develop, even 43 years since my baptism. But it's not God that's changing. It's me. And hopefully, I'm changing for the better.