Revelation’s Surety and Christ’s Relationship with the Father.

8.14.16

Today, I am going to speak on the Godhead or La Trinidad (trinity) as they say en Español. Getting to know God is one of the great human quests. In the novel, The Life of Pi, we follow the protagonist, Pi, on this journey. In his childhood, he learns from his mother’s Hindu faith of Brahma’s infinitude, who despite attempted descriptions of being (call it One, Truth, Unity, or Absolute) Brahma always bursts at the seams of understanding.  As he matured, Pi became acquainted with a Christian priest and fell in awe at the message of love and kindness of Jesus, the Son of God, who committed the greatest act of love in dying for the world’s sins. Still, later, he met a Muslim who taught him to recognize Allah in all things and to pray with a complete body and spirit.

Pi’s family becomes confused and even alarmed at their son believing and practicing three religions separated by millennia of doctrinal differences. At a meeting, the Christian priest, the Muslim imam, and the Hindu Pandit all met to determine Pi’s fate. In only a matter of minutes the discussion broke down as the three wise men of faith began to focus more about the validity of a resurrected human, the idolatry of polytheism, and whether Muhammad’s revelations were a mix of epilepsy and sun sickness. They lost focus on the pastoral and spiritual needs of their sheep.

Later Pi reflected, “That was my introduction to interfaith dialogue.”

 

Paul, too, brings attention to this phenomenon. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul first discusses the importance of faith in God.

1 Corinthians 2:5
Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

In verse seven, He identifies the need to know “the wisdom and mysteries of God.”

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit.

And finally, he rather boldly claims in verse 16,

16 We have the mind of Christ.

In Chapter 8, Paul declares the nature of God.

4…we know … that there is none other God but one.
5 For though there be [many] that are called gods…
6 To us there is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ.

Now, despite Paul’s bold claim of having the mind of Christ through prophetic revelation, he differs in approach from the three faith leaders.

2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing

But what of his knowledge of the nature of God?

  1. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

He further emphasizes the supremacy of charity in chapter 13.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; … whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

What humility.  The man who saw the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus, teaches us something about the limited nature of revelation, even powerful ones.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but [later] face to face: now I know in part; but [later] shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Lest we forget his point, in concluding the letter in chapter 16, he admonishes the readers to

13 stand fast in the faith…
But, more importantly,
14 Let all your things be done with charity.

 

Brigham Young explained:

“Even the best of the Latter-day Saints have but a faint idea of the attributes of the Deity. Were the former[-day] and Latter-day Saints collected together, with their Apostles and Prophets to discuss this matter, I am led to think there would be found a great variety in their views and feelings upon this subject. It is as much my right to differ from other men, as it is theirs to differ from me, in points of doctrine and principle” (JD  2:123).

With this long introduction in mind, I hope to speak about our doctrine of the Godhead in such a way that charitably promotes faith, yet maturely recognizes that we all, (including apostles of the Lord) see through a glass darkly and have a partial knowledge.

 

Today’s teachings of Deity include the first article of faith: We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

Additionally, Eliza R. Snow, President of the General Relief Society, and of whom Brigham Young called a “prophetess,” asked,

In heav’ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I’ve a mother there

As a hymn is a prayer unto God, she prays to our heavenly parents in the next verse,

Father, Mother, may I meet you
in your royal courts on high?
With your mutual approbation
Let me come and dwell with you.

We also believe that we may become like God furthering his creative work.  Eliza’s brother, President Lorenzo Snow, taught

As man now is, God once was:
As God now is, man may be.

We believe in many divine beings.  We worship God, in the name of the Son.

Like Brigham Young’s description and Pi’s story, there is a lot of variety in belief amongst the God’s children.  The infinitude of God requires us to always fall short in understanding Him.  Alma teaches that all creation points to a God.  In this creation, God has emphasized that variety gives it beauty.  Through different points of view, we all may come to understand different aspects of God. Joseph Smith taught, “Mormonism is Truth… One of the grand fundamental principles is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.”[1] At different points in history and among different people, the nature of God’s being has been understood in distinct ways.  Learning these distinctions adds beauty to our relationship with God.

In our own history, the relationships among Elohim, Jehovah, Adam, and Jesus Christ were not always clear.  There are many references at the start of our Church of there being only one God.  An example, is where the three witnesses state that God, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is one God (rather than the now common “are” one God.)  In early 1830, there was no indication in church teachings of any intention to question centuries-old Christian teachings about the relationships among God and Jesus Christ. Later, Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, the Father.  And hence, Jehovah and Elohim were Michael’s father and grandfather, respectively.[2]  Not all leaders held to this.  Parley P. Pratt referred to God as the “Great Jehovah Eloheem” (one person). In fact, for seven decades, statements about them, (in the words of one historian) “were a jumble of confusion and contradiction.”[3] So much so that in 1895, President Wilford Woodruff instructed the Saints to “cease troubling yourselves about who God is; who Adam is, who Christ is, who Jehovah is.”[4]

Consensus did not arrive into its modern form until 1915 with Elder James Talmage’s, Jesus the Christ. In it, he taught that Jesus “was Jehovah, the Eternal One.”  The following year, the first presidency and quorum of the twelve issued a statement, largely written by Elder Talmage, entitled The Doctrinal Exposition on the Father and the Son, which outlines the beliefs we now hold today.

A Latter-Day Saint scholar said, “The LDS use of the titles Elohim and Jehovah to designate God Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ is not meant to insist that this is how these titles were always used anciently, including in the Holy Bible.”[5] Elder Talmage said Jesus “was Jehovah”, not that Jehovah is always Jesus.  Clarifying this important distinction helps us understand the meaning of ancient scripture to the ancients.  I will use a Psalm to illustrate this.  The ancient Israelites were strictly monotheistic.  In their view, the words Elohim and Jehovah were both names for the same God.

King James translators had a system to translate the three Hebrew titles of God. Elohim[6] is the plural of El, translated as God. Jehovah[7] is translated as LORD, all capital letters. Hence, the common Old Testament phrase, LORD my God, is literally Jehovah my Elohim.

Third, the word Adonai[8].  A word meaning master or ruler or lord. This is translated as Lord with only the L capitalized. Like Elohim, Adonai is plural.

The most quoted passage from the Old Testament in the New Testament at thirty-three occurrences is Psalm 110:1. The New Testament authors used it to show the divinity of Jesus under the Jewish monotheistic worship.

Psalm 110:1. The LORD [Jehovah] said unto my Lord [Adona], Sit thou at my right hand.

Acts 2 has Peter speaking on the day of Pentecost.

32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
33 Therefore [He is exalted at] the right hand of God…
34 …The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

Here understanding Jehovah as God the Father helps us comprehend Peter’s use of the Psalm.

Another example.

In the Old Testament, there are no prayers invoking God as a Father. In the New Testament, however, the four Gospels alone quote Jesus calling God Father 170 times.  Jesus also introduced the idea of calling God Abba[9], an intimate Aramaic equivalent of “Dad.” There are no precedents from the entire literature of Jewish prayer prior to the New Testament for God being so addressed. [10]

This indicates the very close and familiar relationship Jesus had with his Father.  Paul expounded on this, as it relates to us.

Romans 8

  1. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
  2. …ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father.
  3. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
  4. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.[11]

Finally, Christ taught how we may be heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ in his Intercessory prayer found in John 17.

11 … these [the disciples] are in the world… Holy Father, keep … those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.

 

Let us become one with Christ as he is with the Father. Earlier that night, Christ taught how.  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” John 13:35

 

[1] Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 199

[2] JD 1:51. 1852.  Another time he taught that Eloheim, Yahovah and Michael represented the Deity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Recorded in Joseph F. Smith Journal, 17 June 1871.

[3] Turner, John G. The Mormon Jesus: A Biography. 2016

[4] Millennial Star. 6 June 1895, 355.

[5] http://en.fairmormon.org/Mormonism_and_the_nature_of_God/Elohim_and_Jehovah

[6] Elohim is used 2,570 times in the Old Testament.

[7] Jehovah is used 5,321 times.

[8] Adonai is used over 300 times.

[9] Mark 14:36

[10] Elohim and Jehovah in Mormonism and the Bible
Boyd Kirkland
DIALOGUE, A JOURNAL OF MORMON THOUGHT, Vol. 19, No.  1, Spring 1986

[11] See also Galatians 4:4-7

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