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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Nature of The Divine

In my second area, my two companions and I found ourselves knocking on houses. To add the cherry to the already delicious sundae of tracting, it was raining. The first house we knocked on this particular street we met a distraught woman who had, quite recently, lost her niece and was just about to leave for her funeral. She couldn't talk to us, so we did our best with testifying to her about God's plan. Then we gave her a Plan of Salvation pamphlet and rescheduled another time. The next house welcomed us with dogs barking and excitedly running toward us. When we knocked, we were greeted by a man. In a deathly serious tone, he asked us, "Are you Jehovah's Witnesses?" This question doesn't surprise us because we get mixed up with them all of the time. So, we replied by saying, "No, we're with the Church of Jesus Christ of..." Before we could finish he said, "great, come on in." And he stepped to the side. We walked into his home, and was greeted by his wife and daughters. "You came right on time. We are having supper. Let me get you some." Before we knew it, we had bowls of homemade chicken noodle soup placed before us, which was nice to combat the cold feeling of the rain. They were a great family to teach. They are among the most Christ-like people I have met while serving. They had a daughter, who was about seven, and had plenty of questions. One of which, they couldn't answer, nor could any one else answer. Her question was one which would baffle anyone from any other religion. If she asked that question to anyone else, they would think it was a blasphemous thought. It was a question of sincere concern, however.
This young girl asked, in an extremely shy manner, "Why does God have so much power?" The moment she asked this, I knew how to answer her. I had done some previous studies and found the answer in my reading of the Doctrine and Covenants. Of course, we needed to go, so we told her we would get the answer back to her the next time we visited...

The importance of this question is exemplified in a statement by The Prophet Joseph Smith. "If a man learns nothing more than to eat, drink and sleep, and does not comprehend any of the designs of God, the beast comprehends the same things. It eats, drinks, sleeps, and knows nothing more about God; yet it knows as much as we, unless we are able to comprehend by the inspiration of Almighty God. If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves." (emphasis added) Knowing why God has power is important to understand us, and our potential, and ultimately the nature of divine beings.

One such being is the Founder of this Church. He said, "I and my Father are one... the Father is in me, and I in him." (John 10: 30, 38) The view of these passages is one significant difference between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and MOST other christian denominations. There exists two Doctrines explaining the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The first, and most well known, is called the Trinitarian view (AKA: the Trinity), which teaches the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one substance/being. The second, which is the LDS view, is called the Godhead, and teaches the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate beings united in purpose. I just seemed to accept this, the view of the Godhead, without question; until I found in the Book of Mormon passages that read, "And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God," (The Testimony of Three Witnesses) "And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end." (2 Nephi 31: 21) "they are one God..." (Mosiah 15: 4) "Now Zeezrom said, 'Is there more than one God?' And [Amulek] answered, 'No.'" (Alma 11: 28-29, punctuation modernized) "shall be brought... before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged..." (Alma 11: 44) "he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end." (Mormon 7: 7)

These scripture references helped develop the question, "How could they be 'one God'? Especially since there are many scriptures which indicate a plurality, " Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1: 26), "man is become as one of us, to know good and evil... (Gen. 3: 22), "And the Lord said... let us go down, and there confound their language..." (Genesis 11: 6-7), and the events recorded after the Savior's baptism found in Matthew 3: 16-17, and the fact that the Savior prayed to His Father such as the intercessory prayer.

Scripture passages like these have a tendency to confuse people, and create multiple interpretations. Thus, we get the two, "conflicting," doctrines of the Trinity vs. the Godhead. Thus, I hope to abolish the line between the two, and to answer, once and for all one of the most puzzling questions among theologians. The Lord said, "in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." (Matthew 18: 16) And the greatest insight we have concerning these two conflicting doctrines is eyewitness accounts of people who saw the Father, and Son as separate distinct individuals. We read, "[Stephen], 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, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord... And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep." (Acts 7: 55-57, 59-60)

Stephen bore witness as he saw,
"the Son of man standing on the right hand of God."
This is just one witness. In another time, a more recent time, Joseph Smith recorded, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me... 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: 16-17)

Speaking on the subject of of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Elder Jeffry R. Holland declared, "it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings." So, I, again, rhetorically ask, "How can they be 'one God' while still retaining their individuality?" The answer lies in understanding the nature of divine beings, and knowing why God has power. Yes, it is the very answer we gave to that curious young girl. As a companionship, we consulted with each other. Her question was one which could only be answered by deeper doctrine. Therefore, I caution you as you read further. Despite the thickness of the steak, I believe there will be few who disagree with how we answered her question. We returned, later (as we promised her), and read to her the answer from the Doctrine and Covenants. The message, paraphrased, is God is all powerful because He is the most righteous being in the entire universe. God has power because He is good. This is the Glory of God everything obeys Him because of His goodness, righteousness, morality, etc... This is what we told her, and testified if she was as good as she can be, she would be just as powerful. Righteousness is the glory of the Father. He, then, glorified His name in Jesus Christ. "If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God." So, if Christ does anything to make Himself not righteous, The Father's glory will fall, and He will cease to be God. Rather than thinking they are made of the same substance, matter, energy, etc..., we ought to understand they are connected in glory. What one does affects the glory of all the rest. They are united in purpose of existence, rather than united in being. Elder Holland stated, "these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission... filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say... They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except... three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true."

The prophet Joseph Smith commented and clarified original Hebrew scripture further testifying of the plurality of divine beings, even the Godhead:

"One of them spake unto me me... saying,
'[Joseph], this is my Beloved Son, hear him...'"
"I shall comment on the very first Hebrew word in the Bible; I will make a comment on the very first sentence of the history of creation in the Bible--Berosheit. I want to analyze the word. Baith--in, by, through, and everything else. Rosh--the head, Sheit--grammatical termination. When the inspired man wrote it... it read first, 'The head one of the Gods brought forth the Gods.' That is the true meaning of the words. Baurau signifies to bring forth. If you do not believe it, you do not believe the learned man of God... Come here, ye learned men, and read, if you can. I should not have introduced this testimony, were it not to back up the word rosh--the head, the Father of the Gods... In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted [prepared] a plan to create the world and people it."

The Godhead is lead by the head God, who is The Father, even our Father. He is who we worship. Paul wrote, "to us there is but one God, the Father..." (1 Corinthians 8: 5) Christ acknowledged our God was the same as His. He told Mary, "I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20: 17)

Now I want to make it clear acknowledging "the scriptural evidence that otherwise perfectly united members of the Godhead are nevertheless separate and distinct beings is not to be guilty of polytheism; it is, rather, part of the great revelation Jesus came to deliver concerning the nature of divine beings." (Italics and bold added) To put it simply, They are one God because They have the same glory, even the glory of Eloheim, the Father. We worship one God, that is the Eternal Father. We do so through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, even the great Jehovah, and come to that knowledge and worship by the Power of the Holy Ghost.

I want you to know, as Elder Holland put it, "It is not [my] purpose to demean any person's belief nor the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we are asking for ours." The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "Every man has a natural, and, in our country, a constitutional right to be a false prophet, as well as a true prophet." (See also, 11th Article of Faith) But what I am sharing with you is that "our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus [Christ] Himself." (underline added)

You can know whether or not what I am sharing is true by trying our fruits, and asking, seeking and knocking.

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