In 1842, Mr. John Wentworth, the editor of the Chicago Democrat, wrote to Joseph Smith to request information about the church. The “Wentworth Letter,” as it came to be known, was written in response to this inquiry. The letter concisely described the early history of the church and finished with 13 basic articles of the church. These articles have since been called the Thirteen Articles of Faith.
It is these Articles of Faith that I choose to discuss now, as they will give the reader an insight into LDS views and beliefs.
Article # 1 – We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
Much of traditional Christianity gets their understanding of the Godhead from the Nicene Creed, and the later Athanasian Creed. The Nicene Creed was initially written in AD 325. Several leading bishops were gathered together by the decree of Constantine, the Roman Emperor. The council of Nicaea was called to settle disagreements of various doctrines. The Nicene Creed was a compromise, as the participants of the council could not all agree on the nature of God, and Jesus Christ.
To read the Nicene Creed go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed
In addition to the Nicene Creed, the concept of the Trinity came into existence about 500 A.D. according to Wikipedia probably in Gaul. The Athanasian Creed can be found here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02033b.htm
For me personally, the creeds are confusing and difficult to understand. Part of the Athanasian Creed states: “The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible.”
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we believe that a boy named Joseph Smith read in the Bible:
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
(New Testament James 1:5)
Afterwards, he stated,
12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.
13 At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to "ask of God," concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture.
(Pearl of Great Price JS-History 1:12 - 13)
Subsequently, he retired to a grove of trees near his family’s farm and asked God, which of all the churches was true. In response, he received a glorious manifestation of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. From this experience he learned for himself that God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, His Son, were separate and distinct persons.
He had a similar experience to Stephen in the New Testament:
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
(New Testament Acts 7:55 - 56)
Other scriptures from the New Testament, that support the view that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate and distinct include:
13 ¶ Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
16 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:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
(New Testament Matthew 3:13 - 17)
Here, we have all three members of the Godhead, the Father – whose voice was heard from heaven, the Son, who was in the water with John, and the Holy Ghost – who descended like a dove. Ventriloquism would’ve been required, if Jesus and His Father were the same entity.
While in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said:
39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
(New Testament Matthew 26:39)
If He and the Father were the same person, then this request becomes illogical, doesn’t it?
One final passage, though many more could be used, as Jesus hung on the Cross he said:
34 ¶ Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…
(New Testament Luke 23:34)
It would stand to reason that if He were the Father, He would’ve said something like, “I forgive you because you know not what you do.” Instead, He asked His Father to forgive them.
And yet, there are passages in the scripture that suggest they are the same. How can this be, and how can I know what is right?
One example that could be confusing is:
9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
(New Testament John 14:9)
Here Jesus intimates that if you have seen him, you have seen the Father. Confusing?
26 ¶ And God 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.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
(Old Testament Genesis 1:26 - 27)
In this passage we learn that Adam was created in the image of God. On a side note, this passage in the Old Testament shows a plural concept to God, when it uses pronouns like “us” and “our.”
From modern revelation we learn:
26 And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so. And I, God, said: Let them have dominion over the fishes 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.
27 And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.
(Pearl of Great Price Moses 2:26 - 27)
This shows that God, the Father, and His Only Begotten, Jesus, had the same image, as did Adam for that matter, i.e. they looked the same. To look at one was like looking at the other. In the citation of John 14:9, shown above, Jesus is telling Phillip, that if you’ve seen one of them, you know what they both look like.
One of the most enlightening passages of scripture on this subject can be found in the 17th Chapter of John. It is referred to as the Intercessory Prayer, where Christ is praying to His Father (a strange thing to do if He and His Father are the same person) on behalf of His apostles and disciples. In part it reads (emphasis added):
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
(New Testament John 17:11)
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: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
(New Testament John 17:20 - 23)
Obviously, Jesus wasn’t asking that all of his disciples be turned into the same person. Rather, He asked that they be one, in the same sense that He and His Father are one. That is, one in purpose, one in thought, one in action, and one in righteousness.
The Godhead was not intended to be “Incomprehensible,” as Jesus said:
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
(New Testament John 17:3)
How can you learn if these things are true? Don’t believe them just because I wrote them, even though I seem to have tied together several different passages of scripture. Instead, follow the admonition of James 1:5, and go ask your loving Father in Heaven. If you ask sincerely, with real intent, the truth will be given to you.
I have put James’ challenge to the test for myself. I know that God lives, and that Jesus is the Christ.