Overheard in Young Men’s Today

March 7, 2010    By: Matt W. @ 2:36 pm   Category: Life

Leader: Sin and Death separate us from God.

YM1: Even God sins, just look at the flood.

Leader: God doesn’t really sin, we’ll talk about it in a minute.

YM2: I thought was like the God before our God who did all that stuff.

Leader: There was no God before our God.

YM1: Yes there was, there were Gods the made him God.

Leader: Well it is possible there is an infinite regress of Gods, but…

YM1: Yeah, and Zeus was the First God.

Leader: [exasperated sigh]


  1. The kids were closer to the truth (according to true LDS theology and not the “Sunday School” book answer). The leader saying there “was no God before our God” is at odds with prophets who taught “As man now is, God once was…”. Although even President Hinckey said he didn’t know what that means.

    When we don’t even know what “God” means, why do we even worry about how many earrings someone has?

    Comment by Mike S — March 7, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

  2. Mike – you’re right about theological ambiguity, but I’m not sure that’s totally fair. We’re a very orthopraxic Church in a way. We know more about God through our actions than from sitting around wondering whether there’s an infinite regress of Gods. I mean, once we get the issue settled about who God is, then what? THEN we modify our behavior, right?

    If Hinckley truly was a prophet, it seems that he spent more time worrying about right actions than defining the ontological status of Heavenly Father, and though that’s frustrating for us philosophical types, I feel that there’s a lot to be said about that. I’m kind of a pragmatist that way. I mean, if God’s a exalted man or if he’s a giant pink lizard, does that change whether I am kind to my wife tonight?

    Comment by Syphax — March 7, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  3. Um, in the Old Testament, there is no God before our God.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 7, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

  4. A good friend of mine once observed that we Mormons like to dwell on what’s “possible”, but he wished we would focus more on what’s “probable”. I agree. Reading through the Sermon in the Grove in its entirety shows that Joseph is clearly teaching about a “Head God”, which seems to contradict this idea of an infinite regression of Gods.

    Not that your young men would be interested in “My Take on Joseph Smith’s King Follet Sermon”, but maybe for balance: http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/07/my-take-on-joseph-smiths-king-follet.html

    Comment by Clean Cut — March 7, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

  5. (according to true LDS theology and not the “Sunday School” book answer)


    What does that even mean?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 7, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

  6. Clean Cut: he wished we would focus more on what’s “probable”. I agree.

    Isn’t it obvious that what’s probable is whatever theory I happen to be leaning toward at any given time?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 7, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

  7. As a Sunday School teacher, my husband once invited a General Authority to come to his Youth Sunday School class. The GA told let the kids ask him whatever questions they had.
    A young man asked, “Is there the church in space?”

    Comment by jks — March 7, 2010 @ 7:14 pm

  8. Syphax:

    I actually agree with your sentiment, which is very Buddhist in reality.

    Things the Buddha taught:

    – We shouldn’t do something just because it is traditional, because someone told us to, because a book tells us to, etc. We should try it for ourselves and cling to that which is good. Therefore, you should be nice to your wife because because your experience shows that is the right thing to do – and not because God is an exalted man or a pink lizard.

    – We should do what is right and not even worry about questions like the origin of the universe, the origin of God, etc. His example is a man just shot by an arrow. We should focus pragmatically on treating the man, not trying to find out everything about who shot the arrow, where it was shot from, etc.

    It’s a very pragmatic way of thinking.

    Comment by Mike S — March 7, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

  9. While not as theologically significant, yesterday one of our YM was convinced that werewolves were real and that witches could physically transform into animals. This in large part because they saw it on the Discovery Channel.

    Best part, “You just don’t believe because you haven’t seen them.” /sigh

    Comment by A. Davis — March 8, 2010 @ 8:00 am

  10. Clean Cut: the whole “possible”/”probable” divide is quite problematic. There is no empirical evidence with which to judge probability of any of these claims in such an instance. I think that there is an imposed openness here.

    ie- See Geoff’s response.

    JKS and A. Davis- those are awesome examples.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 8, 2010 @ 9:22 am

  11. Our best recent example of “overheard in YM” in my ward was during a lesson on “sexual purity.” The beginning of the lesson went like this:

    Teacher: Who know the meaning of the word “chastity”

    Youth: Easy, chastity is the pure love of Christ.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 8, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  12. Chastity never faileth?

    Comment by Matt W. — March 8, 2010 @ 11:47 am

  13. Matt (#10), while I agree that this can be problematic, and I also with the “imposed openness”, I worry that some will conclude that as a result “anything goes” or even that all views are equally valid. While I don’t want to loose the freedom to believe as I please, and it may be my OPINION that X view is better than others and Y view is flat out bad, it is a FACT that some writings and ideas are simply better supported than others.

    I don’t expect to persuade everyone that my take on X or Z is more “likely” or more “plausible”–but nor is that my objective. I just want others to understand it correctly and understand why I think it is good. That’s all. People can decide for themselves based on their own logic.

    But certainly as more writings and scholarship come forth which better support certain views, other views or ideas begin to take a back seat–even if that means tradition must change. We’ve seen that happen in the past and we’ll most likely see it in the future. As people become more informed, they will most likely choose the better supported option–or at least that which is most explicit rather than somewhat implicit.

    Other options may never get off the agenda (and sometimes it’s a struggle just to get an item on the agenda), but at least we can try to critically evaluate between opinion, rhetoric, and scholarship. Perhaps we can’t “prove” why one is better than the other, but at least people can make up their own minds after being informed of alternatives.

    As aquinas mentioned on that “imposed openness” post, the next conversation really ought to be about “the idea of what criteria we use to judge ideas (indeed whether we should judge them at all)”–THAT would move the discussion forward.

    Comment by Clean Cut — March 8, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

  14. I’d rather have that then a) the YM not showing up at all b) the YM being rude and ignoring the whole esson c) the YM tuning out except to parrot “pray, read your scriptures, go to church”!

    They sound like a fun bunch, and sometimes being able to have an interesting conversation on the fly can be so much more meaningful than reading the canned lessons from the manual. These kids have heard the exact same lessons for their entire lives…they gotta mix it up somehow. I’m glad to hear they are asking questions and thinking outside the box.

    Comment by Olive — March 9, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  15. Can I also provide a I overheard in Sunday School”?

    My wife and I teach the 12-15 year olds. But last week the teachers of the 16-18 year olds were gone so we got to also teach their class.

    The lesson we gave was on the degrees of glory and why there is different seperations. Typically our kids just stare quietly (yes you read that right, quietly) as if they turned all brain functions down, but the older kids had lots to say.

    Anyways, a 16 year old girl said:

    “Yeah, when we die we’ll go before Gods judgement bar and He’ll be telling us how much bad stuff we did and the only reason He’ll stop being pissed at us is because Jesus will stand next to us and explain to God why we should be allowed into heaven, like a lawyer, but a really good one.”

    On a similar note, anyone have any advice on what’s a good way tell a kid their views (or the views they’re parroting of their parents) are jacked-up and wrong? Just wondering.

    Comment by Riley — March 11, 2010 @ 5:21 pm

  16. Wrong according to whom?

    Comment by Mike S — March 11, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  17. Me, since I alone hold the key to correctly interpret scripture.

    Comment by Riley — March 12, 2010 @ 10:06 am

  18. According to my understanding of LDS doctrine, Jehovah is the “God” of the OT, and is the premortal Jesus. Thus, when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, we may presume he was teaching them to pray to the god they knew (i.e., the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), which would have been the god of the OT – which was himself in premortal form.

    I suppose youth should be forgiven for misunderstanding the identities of the “infinite regress” of gods in LDS theology, or even for being confused by the identities of “the Godhead”. Afterall, it seems D&C 109 reveals that Joseph Smith either prayed to Jesus (Jehovah is addressed 4 times directly), or he believed God the Father’s name was Jehovah.

    Can you coherently teach youth about Jehovah, Elohim and Michael? If so, what would you teach?

    Comment by Dan — May 31, 2010 @ 2:34 pm