God: Author of Law and Liberty, by Steven Montgomery

Many members of the Church believe that God is subject to physical laws or that He perfectly understands and obeys the physical laws of the universe. In other words, that God is some sort of super-scientist who has managed to understand all of the laws of the universe. This is a common belief but it lacks scriptural basis.

Instead, God is the author of law. Law does not exist independently of God.

Consider the following:

And again, verily I say unto you, he hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons; (D&C 88:42 italics mine.)

You see, God is the great lawgiver, and in a sense that means more than simply the giver of moral laws or commandments. He is also the giver of the laws of physics, chemistry, and so forth.

Gospel Scholar and former religious instructor at Brigham Young University, Lamar E. Garrard, held this understanding. He wrote for instance:

Joseph Smith did not give self-existing law—which does not think, plan, or have purpose and also does not have body, parts, or passions—credit for the uniformity and order in the universe. Rather, he taught that the universe is governed and upheld by a powerful God who has body, parts, and passions and who is in the form of man. "If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible . . . you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves."

God takes credit not only for the movement of the heavenly bodies but also for the physical changes that take place above the earth in the atmosphere, on the earth, and in the earth itself. For example, since he is responsible for creating natural law, he is ultimately responsible for the rain and snow and for the budding and blossoming of plants. He told William Marks and Newel K. Whitney to "settle up their business speedily and journey from the land of Kirtland, before I, the Lord, send again the snows upon the earth." He also told them, "will I not make solitary places to bud and blossom, and to bring forth in abundance? saith the Lord." (D&C 117:1, 7.)

Joseph Smith explained that physical matter must obey the decrees or commandments of God (natural laws) until these laws are changed or revoked by a different commandment from God: "God has made certain decrees which are fixed and immovable; for instance, God set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens, and gave them their laws, conditions and bounds, which they cannot pass, except by His commandments; they all move in perfect harmony in their sphere and order, and are as lights, wonders, and signs unto us. The sea also has its bounds which it cannot pass." (Lamar E. Garrard, Doctrines for Exaltation: The 1989 Sperry Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants, Susan Easton Black Editor, 55-71.)

That God is the author of law was also the understanding of  Elder Anthon H. Lund, member of the 1st Presidency, who held that:

We believe that everything is ruled by law. We are thankful that it is so, for otherwise we would live in a world of chance, in a fearful uncertainty of what would happen next. I believe that the material laws that can be traced in the creation had an intelligent will behind them, that the laws themselves were never superior to the will of God. He made those laws, and by His power they became effective to accomplish His purposes. (Conference Report, April 1916, p. 12. italics mine)

Also Elder Parley P. Pratt who stated that God:

has the power to govern and control the universe. (JD 17:324 italics mine)

Here I believe Pratt was referring to God as the author of all natural laws. How else could he “govern and control the universe?”

But wait, Joseph Smith believed likewise. He stated:

God set the sun, the moon, and the stars in the heavens, and gave them their laws, conditions and bounds, which they cannot pass, except by His commandments; they all move in perfect harmony in their sphere and order. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 197-98.)


If . . . we admit that God is the source of all wisdom and understanding, we must admit that by His direct inspiration He has taught man that law is necessary in order to govern and regulate His own immediate interest and welfare: for this reason, that law is beneficial to promote peace and happiness among men. And as before remarked, God is the source from whence proceeds all good; and if man is benefited by law, then certainly, law is good; and if law is good, then law, or the principle of it emanated from God; for God is the source of all good; consequently, then, he was the first Author of law, or the principle of it, to mankind. (Joseph Smith, HC 2:12-13.)

Joseph Fielding McConkie goes even further. Writing that it is heresy to believe that God is not the author of law:

A common Latter-day Saint heresy is that we become as God is through education or the mastery of laws. The notion being that God became God by identifying the laws of nature and learning how to live in harmony with them and how to harness them for his purposes. Our present text (see also v. 36) refutes such a notion. God is the author of law, not the co- partner with it. We do not worship law. Law, like the sectarian god, is without body, parts, and passions; it knows nothing of justice or mercy, or of good or evil. It has no power to determine or change its own course.

But, says one, is it not by obedience to law that Christ became as his Father and that we become as God is? To which the answer is, Yes, of course, but Christ followed only laws that had been ordained by the Father. His salvation rested in doing the will of the Father, not in discovering laws that govern in the universe and attempting to comply with them. So it is with us. We seek salvation in the teachings of the prophets, not that of scholars.

It is righteousness of which the scriptures speak, not scholarship. Exaltation is obtained by faith in Christ, repentance from sin, compliance with the ordinances of salvation, and enjoying the companionship of the Holy Ghost, not by the mastery of math and science. By obedience to gospel principles, Christ obtained the fulness of his Father. Having obtained that fulness, he became the personification of the Father and thus became a perfect expression of the mind and will of the Father. The power and authority of the Father thus became his and so we say of him (as we say of the Father) that he is in and through all things, that nothing is greater than he is, for he and the Father are one. The idea that God became such by the mastery of the laws of nature is a modern tower of Babel built on a college campus. It gets men no closer to heaven than its ancient counterpart. By contrast, revelation tells us, "The powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness" (D&C 121:36). (Revelations of the Restoration. D&C 88)

That God is the author of natural law also makes sense in light of: Moses 6:63; Psalms 19; and Alma 30:44. The fact that: “all things bear record of Christ,” that “the Heavens declare the Glory of God,” and that planets which “move in [a] regular form,” testifies “of a Supreme Creator” suggests that there was deliberate design in the making of such law.

That God is the author of law holds all sorts of theological and philosophical implications. None of which is within the scope of this thesis, except the idea --common to the founders--that, for man's law to be just, it had to be founded upon God's law. For instance, many Founding Father's quoted William Blackstone who wrote:

Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation, depend all human laws. . . (William Blackstone, as quoted by Verna M. Hall, ed. Christian History of the Constitution of the United States, p. 253)

Regarding the "law of nature" and even in the absence of direct revelation, man was not left alone to determine how man's law should be determined. God provided man the ability to reason intellectually, and feel intuitively, the proper course to guide one's actions and in the enacting of laws. John Locke could write therefore: "As men we have God for our King, and are under the law of Reason: As Christians, we have Jesus the Messiah for our King, and are under the law revealed by him in the gospel." --(John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity). The "law of reason," is manifest to individuals through the Light of Christ, and therefore through the operation of the Light of Christ just human laws can be determined.

That God is the author of law should also give new meaning to Thomas Paine:

But where some say is the king of America? I´ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the royal brute of Great Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the Word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other. (Thomas Paine, Common Sense)

For further information, See also:

Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt, Man to Be Judged by Law-A Law Given to All Things-The Law of Gravitation...Various authors, Journal of Discourses, vol. 21 ( 1881)

This curious law some will tell us is merely a law of materials, that God had nothing to do with it. But I dispute it. I say that God is the Author of this law; and were it not for this infinitely wise provision, there would not be such a thing as one particle of matter being drawn to another; and a stone, when loosened from the hand, would still remain where it is set free.

Again we see our world here—the earth on which we are permitted to live and have our being,—sweeping round the great centre of the solar system, once in 365 days and a fraction of a day: it has continued in this path, not only through a few centuries, but for thousands of years; or, in other words, it has followed this course according to some undeviating law. Whatever this law may be God has ordained it, for he has ordained the "law which is given to all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons."

This is a law, and the Lord is the Author of it. It is not a law of nature. It is not a law of blind materials which have no knowledge or life connected with them, or in them or round about them.

Here, then, is a regular law of velocity; and you may extend this to any distance, in the solar system, that you please.

Now, who ordained this velocity? Did the unconscious materials of nature come together, and undertake to consider this matter? Here are laws that are conducted with great intelligence,—intelligence too, that was not understood for several thousand years preceding the period of Newton. We have no account that the most civilized nations of the earth had any idea of the law of velocity depending on the inverse square root of the distance. Yet this law existed, whether understood by man or not; it made no difference whether the nations were ignorant in regard to this matter or not, the law existed, and operated for ages unperceived by mortals.

The Latter-day Saints say, that the Lord of Hosts who has given us laws, adapted to our condition as free agents, has also given laws to these material worlds, by which they act and by which they are preserved for a great, and wise and good purpose, to sustain unnumbered myriads of animated beings, who are by numerous other laws adapted to these worlds, and enjoy life therein. We now have been speaking of the infinitely wise law of the velocity of planets. But this law would not preserve our universe in its present beautiful order, if the law of gravitation was not exactly what it is. We say that the law of gravitation acts inversely as the square of the distance. Now, why doesn't it vary as the cube of the distance? Why doesn't it vary inversely as the fourth power of the distance, or some other law of distance? Because all these other laws would throw the system into destruction at once; it could not be sustained. There is only one law among an infinite number that might be chosen, that would preserve the system in its present beautiful order, and that is the law of the inverse square of the distance. Who gave this law to materials that they should have this attractive force? The Book of Covenants tells us that "God hath given a law unto all things by which they move in their times and their seasons;" but if he had given a different law than this I have named, in regard to gravitation, the whole system, in a very short period, would be reduced to a chaotic mass, lifeless and inanimate, existing for no purpose, accomplishing no design or end. All this infinite wreck of worlds would be the necessary result of selecting an unwise law, varying from the one which now obtains among gravitating materials.

The law of velocity must be exactly adapted to the law of the inverse square of the attractive power. Who was it that made this adaptation? Did the materials endow themselves with both of these laws? Did they perceive that no other laws would render the universe stable of lasting? Or, otherwise, is there an all-wise and all-powerful Governor who brings all things under the dominion of laws, wise in their action, powerful in their nature, and preserving the grand machinery of the universe, in the most perfect harmony in the working of all its parts?

We might go on and speak of a great many other principles connected with these laws, but let us now come to the laws given to intelligent beings. God has given laws to what might be termed intelligent nature; but let me say, that what is termed intelligent nature is sometimes called in this same revelation from which I have been reading, a spirit, or rather, a power that "is in all things, through all things, round about all things, and the law by which all things are governed." It is, then, an intelligent power that encircles itself through, or over, or round about every particle or every atom, and these atoms act in accordance with the law that is ordained, and do not deviate from it unless commanded by the same authority that gave the law. The same Being who gave the law to materials by which they act, can counteract the law. He did so in the instance when Elisha caused iron to swim. We read, that as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water. The man, was much concerned, because it was a borrowed axe. "And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he showed him the place. And he cut down a stick and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim." Now what was it that caused the axe to rise in the water? The same Being who gave the law of gravitation, which caused the axe to sink, counteracted that law, and caused the axe to swim. The same Being who gave the law of universal gravitation, can counteract this law. He did it, in many instances, in ancient times. He divided the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to pass. The water stood up like walls, in a great heap, not for a few seconds, or minutes, but stood there sufficiently long to allow the Israelites to get to the other side of the sea. Now, what was it that counteracted this law of nature? What was it that caused this watery element, which has a tendency to spread out and sink to its own level, to stand up in a heap, almost like a solid body? The same Being who gave the law, which governs the yielding liquid properties of water, can counteract the law, so as to make the water stand in heaps. God is the great Author of all law, and is just as able to counteract a law, as he is to continue a law. Let him withdraw the command that materials shall attract all other materials; let him say to matter, "I no longer require you to act according to that law," and you would not find the earth going in an orbit around the sun. There would be no bond of union to keep things in their proper place; everything would be left to itself. Let God withdraw his law, or let him command adversely, and he will be obeyed; because he has the power thus to direct; and the intelligence which surrounds these materials, the spirit that is in and through all these things, would understand the command and act accordingly. In the same way the Lord heals the sick. He has made the tabernacles of the children of men, and he has organized them according to a law, so that every part of the human system is adapted to every other part. The blood flows through the arteries, and through the veins, and every part performs its proper functions. When any part or portion of this wonderfully constructed being, or, in other words, this almost perfect machine, becomes deranged or out of order, the same Being who first constructed man, with all the different organs, muscles, sinews and skin, can easily mend or regulate the same, and cause every part to work in perfect harmony with every other part, so as to impart health, and life, and vigor to the whole machinery. You would certainly think that a person was not much of a mechanic if, after he had constructed a beautiful clock, and it had run for several years, and got out of order—if when you applied to him for repairs he replied that he could not, you would be apt to say, "You made it in the first place: you certainly ought to know what is the matter, and you can repair and restore it to working order." Just so with the Lord. When our human machinery is out of order, he understands all about it; and he is the best physician that can be employed; and he also can be employed without money and without price. He imparts to this machinery his Holy Spirit which circulates through the whole body, and promotes health and strength in the individual. But how apt we are to apply to inferior physicians. As soon as something ails this mortal tabernacle, the cry is, "Oh, mother, or husband, will you send for the doctor. My son is very sick, and we need the doctor." Now this is sometimes the way with those who call themselves Latter-day Saints, but they ought to be ashamed that they do not honor the name which they have taken upon themselves. The Lord has ordained that when you are sick, you should apply the simple ordinance of the laying on of hands, or the anointing with oil by his servants in the name of Jesus Christ. In this ordinance there is more power than in all the medical ability in the world; for there are many diseases which baffle the skill of the wisest physicians, while by the laying on of the hands of the servants of God—not in their own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ—according to the directions given in the scriptures, we have the promise that they shall be healed; that is, if they are not appointed unto death.