Godhead_(Latter_Day_Saints)

Godhead (Latter Day Saints)

In the Latter Day Saint movement, the Godhead are the objects of worship and devotion within the faith. It consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Depending on era and denomination, the Latter Day Saint movement accommodates a variety of doctrines concerning the interrelationship and metaphysical nature of the Christian Godhead. These teachings derive mainly from the movement's founder Joseph Smith, Jr., whose teachings evolved over his lifetime.

The prevailing Godhead doctrine within Mormonism is non-Trinitarian, based on Smith's sermons on the subject in the last few years before his 1844 assassination which described the Father, Son, and Spirit as three distinct persons. However, many adherents such as those within the Community of Christ view Trinitarianism as compatible with the Book of Mormon and other early Mormon scripture. Some Mormon fundamentalists also derive part of their Godhead theology from statements by Brigham Young, which they recognize as the Adam God doctrine. It is also common within Mormonism for adherents to believe in a Heavenly Mother and other deities, although they are not traditionally classed within the Godhead and not often viewed as objects of worship.

Early Latter Day Saint concepts

Most early Latter Day Saints came from a Protestant religious background, believing in the Trinity. In contrast, as early as 1832, Joseph Smith Jr., restorer of the organization, taught that the Father and the Son were distinct, individual members of the Godhead. (See D&C 76:12-24). Smith's teachings described Heavenly Father and Son as possessing distinct physical bodies and the Holy Ghost in spirit, being one together in glory, and purpose (See [D&C 130:22).

Teachings

The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants both describe God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three different beings as one ———oneness to be in purpose, desire, and all divine attributes while maintaining their physical and personal distinctness. They are not, however, considered to be one in substance as many Trinitarian Christians believe. A number of sections of the Book of Mormon, for example, show Jesus appearing with a body of spirit before his birth, and with a tangible body after his resurrection.

Prior to Jesus's birth, The Book of Mormon depicts Jesus as a spirit "without flesh and blood", although with a spirit "body" that looked similar to that as Jesus would appear during his physical life. (Ether 3). Moreover, Jesus described himself as follows: "Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters." (Ether 3:14). In another passage of The Book of Mormon, the prophet Abinadi stated,

"I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—and they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth." (Mosiah 15:1-4).

After Jesus' resurrection and ascension into heaven, The Book of Mormon states that he visited a small group of people in the Americas, who saw that he had a tangible body. During his visit, he was announced by the voice of God the Father, and those present felt the Holy Spirit, but only the Son was seen. Jesus is quoted,

"Father, thou hast given them the Holy Ghost because they believe in me; and thou seest that they believe in me because thou hearest them, and they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them. And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one." (3 Nephi 19:22-23).

The Book of Mormon states that Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit are "one" (See 3 Nephi 11:36). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints interprets this "oneness" as a metaphorical oneness in spirit, purpose, and glory, rather than a physical or bodily unity. On the other hand, some Protestant-oriented Latter Day Saint sects, such as the Community of Christ, consider the Book of Mormon to be consistent with trinitarianism.

In 1838, Smith published a narrative of his First Vision, in which he described seeing both God the Father and a separate Jesus Christ in a vision.

In public sermons later in life, Smith began to describe what he thought was the true nature of the Godhead in much greater detail. In 1843, Smith provided his final public description in which he described God the Father as having a physical body, and the Holy Spirit, also, is a distinct personage: "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us." (D&C 130:22).

During this period, Smith also introduced a theology that could support the existence of a Heavenly Mother. The primary source for this theology is the sermon he delivered at the funeral of King Follett (commonly called the King Follett Discourse). In the Church today, it is generally believed that a Heavenly Mother exists, but very little is acknowledged or known beyond Her existence.

Jesus is identified as The Son; he is also identified with Jehovah or Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, who some Christians identify with God the Father.

After the death of Joseph Smith

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently holds Joseph Smith's 1843 explanation of the Godhead as official doctrine, which is to say that the Father and the Son have physical, glorified bodies, while the Holy Ghost has only a body of spirit. This official doctrine is supported with the circumstances surrounding the baptism of Jesus, as recorded in the Bible: the Father spoke from heaven, the Son stood on Earth in the water, and the Holy Ghost appeared separately (Matthew 3:16-17). The First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, in which young Joseph saw the Father and the Son as two personages, also illustrates the Church's official doctrine on the Godhead.

Some Latter-day Saints as well as members of other faiths that comprise the Latter Day Saint movement, have posited additional theories on the nature of the Godhead, some of which appear in the following lists.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Adherents to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that both the Father and the Son have glorified physical bodies, and the Holy Ghost has a body of spirit. The differences between the Mormon doctrine of the Godhead and that of Trinitarianism, have set Mormonism apart, with the result that some Christian denominations reject Mormonism as being a branch of the Christian Faith. See Mormonism and Christianity.

The late prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, offered a declaration of belief in a July 2006 Ensign magazine article entitled, "In These Three I Believe," wherein he reaffirmed the teachings of the LDS Church regarding the distinct individuality and perfect unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. He affirmed that God the Father is "the Father of the spirits of all men," "the great Creator, the Ruler of the universe," whose "love encompasses all of His children, and it is His work and glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of His sons and daughters of all generations." He affirmed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and "the one perfect man to walk the earth," is the "Firstborn of the Father and the only Begotten of the Father in the flesh," and that He fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy that "his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) He affirmed, "He is the Savior and Redeemer of the world," through whose loving atoning sacrifice is extended to "every son and daughter of God, the opportunity for eternal life and exaltation in our Father's kingdom, as we hearken to and obey His commandments.... I worship Him as I worship His Father, in spirit and in truth.... We approach the Father through the Son. He is our intercessor at the throne of God." He affirmed that the Holy Ghost is a distinct spirit being who is the Comforter and the Testifier of Truth, and that the "perfect unity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost binds these three into the oneness of the divine Godhead."

The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite)

The Church of Jesus Christ believes God, the Father, to be an omnipotent personage of glory. The Father has a form, is eternal, and has emotions - love, hate, forgiveness, etc. Jesus Christ is the express image of the father and was with the father from the foundation of the world. He is considered the Messiah and Son of God. The Holy Ghost is considered to be a separate being of spirit, without a body.

William Cadman wrote this matter,

"There has been much said about Joseph Smith...all people who manifest faith in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, do acknowledge him to be inspired of God when but a youth....He has been a much accused man, whether truly or falsely, eternity will reveal."

The Community of Christ and Protestant-oriented denominations

  • Trinitarianism

Alternative Latter Day Saint conceptions

The following theories are not official doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but rather ideas suggested by individuals:

See also

Notes

References

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