Friday, October 12, 2012

What Mormons Really Believe: The Godhead

In order to understand more fully why the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormons) believe as they do and act as they do, I feel it is important to have knowledge of what our core beliefs are. It is not my intention to make believers out of everyone who reads this. I have no doubt many will shake their heads in wonderment that such fanciful things could be believed. My hope is to simply inform those who are looking for enlightenment in why we believe what we do.

I should also state that while I am a member of this church, I do not speak for them in any official way. This is simply me taking what has been taught and trying to help you understand.

To start I would like to make this important statement: we worship Jesus Christ. It is in the name of our church. We believe the Bible to be the word of God so far as it is translated correctly. I point this out because many comments have been made that we worship Joseph Smith, a man who we believe restored the gospel of Jesus Christ in these days.

The second portion of that sentence is true. The lack of truth lies in one word: worship. We do not worship Joseph Smith. We revere him as a prophet, just as we revere prophets of old: Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Peter, and many others from the Old and New Testaments. But there is only one person we worship, and that is Jesus Christ.

One of the largest reasons we, as Mormons, are not considered Christian by other Christian faiths is our belief system in the Godhead. It is here I would like to focus this first post.

God the Father

One of the core beliefs of our faith states: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” Where our views tend to depart from that of other faiths is in the belief that these are three distinct, separate individuals. Jesus Christ is literally the spirit child of the Father, but he is also the only ‘begotten’ of the Father – meaning Christ is the only mortal child as well.

Christ talks often of Heavenly Father during His time on earth.

“My Father is greater than I” John 14:28.

And again:

“Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:…And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” John 17:1,3.

For me, the moment of Christ being baptized is one of the greatest proofs of these three beings as separate, as is shone in Matthew 3:16-17.

“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

“And lo a voice from Heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

For us as Mormons the idea that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two separate beings was solidified when both came to Joseph Smith as an answer to a simple prayer. Joseph saw each individual, similar in appearance but definitely not the same person.

“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son, hear Him!” Joseph Smith – History 1:17.

Again there is the proclamation of God the Father declaring Jesus Christ to be His Son, only this time there was a witness who acknowledged them as two separate Beings.

We were created in God the Father’s image.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” Genesis 1:26-27.

We are His children.

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” Psalm 82:6.

As Mormons we also believe that we might also become like God.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if it so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” Romans 8:16-17.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” 1 John 3:1-2.

I will, as I begin to study a lot more about this particular subject, write a separate post on this belief. For now, I simply hope it helps you to understand just a little of our belief in the Father.

Jesus Christ

“In giving revelations our Savior speaks at times for himself; at other times for the Father, and in the Father’s name, as though he were the Father, and yet it is Jesus Christ, our Redeemer who gives the message” (Smith, Joseph Fielding, Selections from Doctrines of Salvation, p. 19).

I referred earlier to the visitation of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to Joseph Smith. If we continue reading in the next few verses we can see Jesus speaking in behalf of the Father.

“…When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong) – and which I should join.

“I was answered that I must join none of them” (Joseph Smith – History 1:17-19, italics added).

Though God the Father could have directed Joseph in what to do, He left it up to His Son, who did so as though He were the Father.

Think for a moment of a Mother and Father who are in harmony, that work together to raise their children. At times we are able to answer for the other, even when the other is not present to affirm a decision. The simple word, “I” is often used in place of “we” because it’s simply not necessary to differentiate between the two. The child knows if one parent says so, the other parent will agree.

So it is with the Father and the Son. Often Jesus Christ speaks in the first person, “I” or “my”, but is actually speaking in behalf of the Father. He is the mediator between the Father and mankind.

When Adam transgressed one of the commandments he could no longer stay in the presence of the Father. Christ stepped in as our advocate. In the scriptures we often witness Him praying to the Father in our behalf.

Christ was the Firstborn in spirit and the Only Begotten in flesh. “…The firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15).

Though Christ was the literal Son of God, he still grew up in a mortal world and needed to live and learn as we all do. He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). Though He never sinned in this life, He was still required to learn as the rest of us: line upon line, precept upon precept.

Jesus Christ did what we all must do: He lived, He died, He was resurrected, and then He ascended to the Father. This we must do also, in our own way, though it will take longer to accomplish.

Holy Ghost

I once read a woman’s article on how Mormon’s bear their testimony. In it she made the comment that “you have to say Holy Ghost. That’s what they call it.” I found it to be such an odd comment as he is often referred to in the Bible as the Holy Ghost. We are not the only ones who refer to him as such. He goes by many different names: The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Truth, and the Comforter.

The mission of the Holy Ghost is simple: to teach truth. Not the truth of Man, but God’s truth.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).

Christ was speaking of the time when He would no longer be among his disciples, though they fought hard not to believe that time would fast approach. In His place would be the Holy Ghost to guide and comfort and direct them in proclaiming the Gospel.

The Holy Ghost reveals things to us. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).

Not only were the prophets directed by the Spirit of God, but as individuals we are given the right to personal revelation as well. He will reveal truth to those who are humble, obedient, and worthy to receive truth and light. These are the basis behind one’s testimony (or personal witness). No other being has that same convincing power. Some hearts are too proud and minds are too closed to receive revelation and become more easily influenced and tricked into believing falsehoods.

In our Church we believe that all have access to that beautiful influence of the Holy Spirit, that ability to have revelation of truth and light. We also believe there is a difference between having the influence of the Holy Ghost, and having the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The influence of the Holy Ghost is not constant. It is here and there as truth and light are humbly searched after and prayed for. The gift of the Holy Ghost comes after one is baptized by immersion by those who have the proper priesthood authority, and are then confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked to receive this gift. For us, we believe that so long as we are worthy, we might have access to the Holy Spirit to guide, guard, and direct us.

That is a basic overview of what we, as Mormons, believe regarding the Godhead. It is not a perfect summary, but it is what I felt guided to share with you at this time. Perhaps there are those out there who might be able to add to this information, especially when it comes to scriptural evidences, or who can clarify things far more than I was able to accomplish.

As I continue to put up posts like this I will attempt to link them together. My next post will center around what Mormons believe when it comes to life before mortality.