Knowledge of the True Nature of the Godhead is a Blessing

Area Presidency Message: Knowledge of the True Nature of the Godhead is a Blessing

In the weeks and months leading up to my baptism into the Church at the age of 23, I was always thrilled to be taught by the missionaries. I loved to learn from them, especially things that made clear to me what had previously confused me. Perhaps the most obvious of these was my relationship to God. Knowing that God the Father and Jesus Christ together visited, spoke to, and had the appearance of men, was a wonderful discovery to me. And, surprisingly at the time, it didn’t astound me as it probably should have, given the erroneous teaching I’d received all my life about a God who could not be comprehended and who both filled space and yet sometimes was present in a specific place at a specific time.

What I’ve also found over the years as I’ve spoken to those who are members of other Churches, is that many of them believe in God as we know He exists – as a Heavenly Father. They believe that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to the earth as foretold in the scriptures and that they are entirely separate beings. They believe this innately, despite the doctrines of their Churches teaching otherwise. As I’ve considered this, I’ve realized that it shouldn’t surprise me because while we’re here on the earth, we’re not so much discovering new doctrine as we are taught by the Spirit, but re-discovering doctrine that we’d known prior to this life. There is a more literal “re-cognition”, rather than just “recognition” in the usual sense of the word.

President Joseph Fielding Smith gave an appropriate summary of what had happened to the truth regarding the Godhead over the centuries as he said: “It should be remembered that the entire Christian world in 1820 had lost the true doctrine concerning God. The simple truth which was understood so clearly by the apostles and saints of old had been lost in the mysteries of an apostate world. All the ancient prophets, and the apostles of Jesus Christ had a clear understanding that the Father and the Son were separate personages, as our scriptures so clearly teach. Through apostasy this knowledge was lost, and in the year 325 A.D., a strange doctrine was introduced and soon spread throughout the Christian world. This doctrine confounded the persons of the Godhead, and distorted the true doctrine of God.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, vol. 3, p. 117.)

Elder Jeffrey R Holland gave further clarification: “In the year A.D. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address - among other things - the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creeds - and others to come over the centuries - declared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, immanent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time…..”

But “we believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true.

Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].” (Jeffrey R Holland at General Conference, Oct 2007)

So, what in simple terms is the true doctrine concerning the Godhead?

The Godhead consists of three separate persons being God the Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost. All three are united in purpose, as stated so well above by Elder Jeffrey R Holland, but their roles differ in order to accomplish Heavenly Father’s great Plan of Salvation.

God the Father, also known as Elohim, is both the supreme ruler of the universe and, at the same time, the most loving and kind of fathers. In my work in Papua New Guinea, where the people speak Pidgin English, their name for Heavenly Father says it better than most. There, He is called “Papa God”, and that is who He is! The great Plan of Salvation is His, and the opportunity for us to come to earth and receive bodies, to progress and grow, and to have eternal happiness, are all of His conceiving. It is to Him that we pray, through the name of Jesus Christ. But it is He who answers our prayers and loves us as a true father, and unconditionally.

Jesus Christ, also known as Jehovah, works under the direction of Heavenly Father. He is the Father’s only begotten Son in the flesh and is in complete harmony with the Father in all things. He is also the eldest of His Father’s spirit children and it was Him who created the earth under His Father’s direction. He willingly accepted the wonderful, yet terrible, assignment to be the Redeemer of us all. His Atonement was motivated by love, and love is His hallmark. Our goal is to develop to the stage where our wills are also aligned with His and the Father’s and to emulate His characteristics. (3 Nephi 27:21, 27)

The third member of the Godhead is the Holy Ghost. He is a personage of spirit. He is sometimes called the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God. His role is to testify of the truth to us so that we have His help in combatting the challenges of this life. He can give us comfort in times of turmoil and bring peace and assurance to our hearts as we do the things that enable us to have His companionship. The Holy Ghost “will show unto you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:5) The Holy Ghost was assigned to remain with us after the Saviour left the earth in order to teach, comfort and help us, and to witness to us of truth. When we hear or read eternal truths, and have sincere hearts and real intent, the Holy Ghost will give us an assurance of that truth. (Moroni 10:4) That assurance usually comes through a warm feeling in our hearts, similar to the feelings we have when we hold a new born baby in our arms. It is a quiet, peaceful feeling. We try to enable such feelings by having reverence and quietness in our Church meetings. Our Church music is of that quiet, reverent nature rather than loud drumming and raucous singing so that we encourage the Holy Spirit to be there and to be felt.

How blessed we are to understand these truths and to be able to really know God. That is our objective. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:48) It is the greatest of joys to know our Heavenly Father’s love, to feel the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, and to enjoy the peace, comfort, and witness of the Holy Ghost. With this divine heritage, we can have assurance and always feel loved. What a blessing to be members of our Saviour’s Church and to be counted amongst His sheep.