“We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” – First Article of Faith
With over 100 different Latter Day Saint/Mormon denominations, there are widely differing views of the nature of God. These range from the traditional Trinitarian views given us by the Catholics to rather bizarre ideas, like the Adam-God theory. Here we will attempt to go over the evolution of the Retored Gospel’s views on deity.
The trinity is a concept easy to explain, but hard to understand. The general teaching is that the Father is the Son is the Holy Spirit, but at the same time the Father is not the Son is not the Holy Spirit. How this works is a mystery that humans, by our finite nature, cannot understand. This view was first accepted by the Catholics, and passed on to Protestant Christians. Most of the world’s Christians still hold this popular view today.
The original Church of Jesus Christ presumed the trinitarian view, until the Doctrine and Covenants were sustained in 1835. The “Doctrine” portion of this book of scripture was what is now known as the Lectures on Faith. Here, the movement was changed to reflect Joseph Smith’s understanding of his first vision, where filled by the Holy Spirit he saw God the Father and Son surrounded by angels. This new view fit in relation to the New Testament, or rather his and Rigdon’s view of it at the time. (See “God the Father, God the Son” below.)
Today, there are Latter Day Saint denominations that still worship the traditional Christian trinity, including Community of Christ, the second largest Mormon denomination.
God the Father, God the Son
“He, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” –Acts 7: 55 KJV
In 1835, the Church of God, formerly the Church of the Latter Day Saints, formerly the Church of Jesus Christ, accepted into canon the Doctrine and Covenants. There, the young church canonized an idea of God that better reflected the teaching of the New Testament:
“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things… They are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fullness: The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man…” -Lectures on Faith 7
Together, according to this scripture, God the Father and Son are of one mind, and the mind or unity of these two is the Holy Ghost.
“[Jesus,] Possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son… And these three constitute the Godhead, and are one.” -Lectures on Faith 7
In this way, they are all one God. To the trinitarian, this can easily appear to be a convoluted attempt to explain trinitarianism.
However, to others it makes it clear there are two Gods, God the Father, a spirit, and God the Son, with a physical body. This is the view of Mormon denominations such as the Church of Jesus Christ.
“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” – Joseph Smith Jr. (LDS Doctrine and Covenants 130: 22)
A few years before Joseph Smith Jr.’s death in 1844, the Mormon concept of God evolved again. Officially, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit were now at least three personages; the Father and Son with physical bodies, and the Holy Ghost as a Spirit.
Unofficially, we later learned from Brigham Young that Joseph may have added the idea that the Holy Spirit was in fact Adam/Michael the archangel, and from others that God the Father was married, and the Queen of Heaven is his wife; also a Goddess in her own right. These secret teachings are still whispered of by members of the Latter-day Saint branch of Mormonism, though official denied or in question. Some of these teachings are official doctrines of LDS offshoots.
“And Elohim said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So Elohim created mankind in his own image, in the image of Elohim were they created; male and female.” – Moses (Genesis 1: 26-27)
Though we pray through Jesus Christ, it is to our Heavenly Father, or Elohim, we have been taught to pray. Elohim is a plural term as it refers to the trinity to some, God the Father and son to others, to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to many, and both God the Father and God the Mother to others still.
Joseph Smith reportedly did see heavenly mother in vision.
“One day the Prophet Joseph asked [Zebedee Coltrin] and Sidney Rigdon to accompany him into the woods to pray. When they had reached a secluded spot Joseph laid down on his back and stretched out his arms. He told the brethren to lie one on each arm, and then shut their eyes. After they had prayed he told them to open their eyes. They did so and saw a brilliant light surrounding a pedestal which seemed to rest on the earth. They closed their eyes and again prayed. They then saw, on opening them, the Father seated upon a throne; they prayed again and on looking saw the Mother also; after praying and looking the fourth time they saw the Savior added to the group.” -Abraham H. Cannon (Wilcox, Linda P. (1987), “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven”, in Maureen Ursenbach Beecher; Lavina Fielding Anderson, Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, pp. 64–77.)
However, there are not any known Latter Day Saint denominations that worship Heavenly Mother, even if Elohim refers to both the Father God and the Mother Goddess (see Jeremiah 7:18). Both may be considered Gods and they would literally be the Father and Mother of our spirits after some fashion. As Elohim they would be the one God identified as God the Father, as they are one in purpose and sealed by the Holy Priesthood to be one from all eternity to all eternity. Together, they would be one with the Son in purpose.
Those that do worship Elohim do so in spirit when we worship Jesus Christ, as they are the parents of our spirits. This is done through our communication with the Holy Ghost. Those that worship Elohim do so in truth when we worship Jesus Christ as they understand these are real; true physical begins that exists in both time and space, omniscient and omnipotent. Those Mormons that believe this idea of the nature of God understand that just as all of the Scriptures are a testament of Christ, Chrsit testifies of Elohim.
“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” – Nephi (2 Nephi 25: 26 OPV)
It is Christ that we worship. This is Christ’s Fellowship, and as Latter Day Saints and Mormons we are Christians, and thus worship the Father in the name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Redeemer of mankind. He is the Word made flesh, and the proof of God’s love for us. He is the Comforter, the Great Example, and the Savior of those that would follow Him. We fellowship in his name, and we are his saints. If we are born again, we are saved by his grace through his atonement. He pleaded for us in Calvary, died on the Cross for us, and rose on the third day that we too might be resurrected.
The Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost
“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” – Paul (1 Corinthians 6: 19 KJV)
All gifts of the Spirit come from the Holy Ghost; for example, the Spirit of Prophecy is how the Holy Ghost testifies to us of the divinity of Jesus Christ. We may feel God’s love through the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit of truth, love, joy, wisdom, and more and a gift to us from God. It is through the Holy Ghost that we worship God in Spirit and truth. Once we are born again of both water and fire, we are moved by the Spirit of God to do Christ’s works. These works do not save us, as it is Christ’s Grace that has done this, yet they show that we are saved (James 2:18 KJV).
Adam-God Theory vs. Adam-God Doctrine
“He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” -Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses
The Adam-God theory presented by both the LDS church and anti-Mormon groups states that Brigham Young taught that God the Father is in fact Adam, the first man, who is Michael the archangel. If one reads Young’s sermons on the subject one could misconstrue this idea.
However, the LDS temple service known as the endowment still has many of the additions Young added to it, including the part where God the Father sends the pre-mortal Jesus and Adam (here Jehovah and Michael) to create the world. The Adam-God theory then, falls flat. According to the teachings of the temple endowment, Adam could not be the Father.
This leads us to the Adam-God doctrine; that God the Father is the father as the creator of our spirits, Jesus is the father as the creator of our flesh and our salvation, and Adam is the father of the human race. Thus all are the Father in some sense.
According to this theology, Adam did not retake his physical body when Christ was resurrected, as so many others did when the graves were opened. Rather, he remained a Spirit as the member of the Godhead known as the Holy Ghost.
This doctrine is still taught in the LDS temples, and is still a fundamental doctrine for a number of LDS offshoots. However, it is not officially endorsed or taught outside of the temple by the LDS church, so most members are unaware of it and/or do not endorse, believe, or teach it.
When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us. -Joseph Smith Jr.
As this brief overview shows, there are many views of deity within the Latter Day Saint/Mormon movement. In the Fellowship, we do not promote one view over the other. We all must come to our own views of God, as we understand him, or them, through Christ’s grace. As we grow closer to God, we will better understand the divine nature of our creator.
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Featured image: Holy Trinity by Il Pordenone (1484–1539) circa 1530-1535.