A core belief of all Christians is the testimony of Jesus Christ as divine. The nature of the godhead — God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Ghost — is a key topic in religious discussion, and has been debated for centuries. The traditional Christian view describes the godhead, or trinity, as united in substance and in person in a way that is incomprehensible by man. As Latter-day Saints we believe as all Christians do “in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (Articles of Faith 1). We believe that they are one in purpose and mission and that they are three separate divine beings.
A brief study of history will show that the idea of numerical separateness of the godhead is not new, and was believed by many early Christians. For example, Arius, founder of Arianism, was ruled a heretic after the first council of Nicea for preaching, among other controversial doctrines, the separateness of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
There are many biblical passages which clearly show the separateness in person of God the Father and Jesus Christ (see Matthew 3:16-17, Luke 22:42, Acts 7:55-56). However, there are many others which also state that they are one (see Deuteronomy 6:4, John 10:30, 1 John 5:7). This dichotomy has long been recognized, and the First Council of Nicaea was convened in AD 325 to, among other reasons, set forth in formal creed the official view of the church. The famous Nicene creed, which was adopted at that council and continues today as a cornerstone statement of many current doctrines of the trinity, describes Jesus Christ as “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father” (The Nicene Creed).
The convening of councils for the construction of creeds has been the method used by “traditional” Christian churches to resolve doctrinal disputes. As Latter-day Saints we believe that there is a better way: through revelation given directly to authorized prophets, God has revealed and continues to reveal many gospel truths. Among the doctrines made clear in modern times by revelation is the nature of the godhead as three beings, united in purpose and separate in person. We value the inspired words in the Bible, and we believe that the same spirit which inspired its writers still inspires holy men today to teach doctrines that are equally true and valuable.
It might be said that the doctrine of the trinity is the very first of all doctrines in which Latter-day Saint teachings differ from the traditional Christian view. The first prophet called of God in modern times was Joseph Smith. When he was a boy, disputes among churches prompted him to ask God for himself which church preached the eternal truth about God and salvation. In answer, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in glorious vision. God the Father himself said to Joseph “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith – History 1:17). What better example can there be of the unity of the Father and the Son as separate beings?
As stated earlier, Biblical evidence for the LDS doctrine is abundant. I have not focused on them so as to emphasize that we do not base our belief on a creed made by scholars concerning an expert interpretation of the Bible. We base our belief on the testimony given to us by the Holy Ghost that the first vision of Joseph Smith was real and prophets continue to reveal truth about God. I strongly recommend that any reader who wishes to see strong Biblical evidence of our belief read this talk (or watch it) by an apostle and special witness of Jesus Christ. I invite anybody who wishes to discover the truth of our message to study the scriptures, pray and ask God, who will tell you by the Holy Ghost that it is true.
This article was written by guest author Stephen Stacey