“Up, Make Us Gods”

Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.

Isaiah 2:8, 2 Nephi 12:8

When Moses delayed coming down from Mount Sinai, the Israelites became restless. Turning to Moses’ second in command, Aaron, they demanded that he create idols for them to worship, following the pattern they had seen in Egypt:

Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

Exodus 32:1

After Aaron created the golden calf, the people made the following bizarre assertion: “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4).

There’s some real confusion here between creator and created. How can the statue which you just formed be the god which delivered you from slavery? More broadly, how can something created by you be worthy of your adoration?

We would never fall into a trap like that, would we? The prophet Moroni would beg to differ. Writing on the American continent around 400 A.D., he saw his future readers in a vision and was appalled at our insistence on serving God in our own way. He said we have polluted our churches (Mormon 8:36, 38). He said we prioritize acquiring wealth over taking care of other people (Mormon 8:37, 39-40). He also said that we have “imagined up unto [ourselves] a god” who is malleable instead of worshipping the true, unchanging God (Mormon 9:10, 15).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland observed:

It is a characteristic of our age that if people want any gods at all, they want them to be gods who do not demand much, comfortable gods, smooth gods who not only don’t rock the boat but don’t even row it, gods who pat us on the head, make us giggle, then tell us to run along and pick marigolds.

Talk about man creating God in his own image!

The Cost—and Blessings—of Discipleship,” General Conference, April 2014

President Russell M. Nelson recently reminded us that “God sets the terms” for our covenant relationship with Him, and that “we agree to those terms.” (“The Power of Spiritual Momentum,” General Conference, April 2022, footnote 5). It would be foolish for a student to prescribe what and how they should be taught. Learning requires trust in the teacher. Likewise, if the whole point of worship is to reach upward, to connect with our Creator, who knows infinitely more than we do and who can help us become far better than we are, then why would we want to dictate the terms of that worship?

Today, I will approach God on His terms, not my own. I will worship Him according to His instructions. I will remember that He is my Creator, and that He can help me grow if I am willing to let Him guide me.

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