Based upon an assigned talk:
The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent
Jeffrey R. Holland
OCTOBER 2007 General Conference
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings.
But even as we invite one and all to examine closely the marvel of it, there is one thing we would not like anyone to wonder about—that is whether or not we are “Christians.”
EDITORIALIZING ABOUT CHRISTIANS…..UNFORTUNATELY FOR US, IT’S ABOUT 18-1900 YEARS SINCE THOSE WHO NOW CALL THEMSELVES “CHRISTIANS” BOUGHT THE FRANCHISE, AND STUCK THAT BRAND ON WHATEVER THEY DEEMED APPROPRIATE IN TERMS OF DOCTRINE. THE REAL TITLE OF CHRIST’S CHURCH HOWEVER, IS “SAINTS.” “CHRISTIANS” IS NOT THE ACTUAL BIBLICAL NAME FOR CHURCH OR ITS PEOPLE.
SINCE THE RESTORATION, LATTER DAY SAINTS ARE PERHAPS, SOMETIMES TOO EAGER TO BUY INTO CHRISTIAN HISTORY, WHICH IS NOT THAT NOBLE A STORY IN MANY CASES. THE LDS CHURCH IS A RESTORATION, NOT A REFORMATION/CORRECTION/CONTINUATION OF THIS SO-CALLED “CHRISTIAN” TRADITION OF SOME 2000 YEARS. IT IS A NEW BEGINNING NOT FROM SCRATCH, BUT A RE-BOOT. FROM THE ORIGINAL DISKS.
FIRST LET’S ASK OURSELVES, WHAT WAS KNOWN, OR WHAT WAS THE “GOSPEL” IN THE FIRST AND SECOND CENTURIES AFTER CHRIST? THE ANSWER IS VERY SIMPLE:
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
The Lutheran Service Book has the following text:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Christian Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.[d][e]
Church of Denmark
(Note: As I read this creed from the pulpit, many in the congregation were reciting it themselves in their heads, and afterwards several came forth to point out it was not quite the one they’d learned in Confirmation class etc. This is because even this small creed has been under constant polishing from sect to sect, and even within generations of the same sect, for some 1900 years.)
THIS CREED IS NOT IN SCRIPTURE, BUT BY TRADITION IT WAS GLEANED FROM SCRIPTURE AND ALLEGEDLY WRITTEN BY ORIGINAL APOSTLES TO UNIFY THEIR MESSAGE. IT IS CLAIMED BY ITS ADHERENTS TO BE “TRINITARIAN” IN NATURE, MEANING FATHER, SON, AND HOLY GHOST ARE THE SAME BEING OF THE SAME SUBSTANCE, EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE SEPARATE. BUT JUST READING IT DOESN’T GIVE ANY PARTICULAR EVIDENCE OF “TRINITARIAN” THINKING BY ITS AUTHOR/AUTHORS.
THIS SIMPLE, CONDENSED SUMMARY OF THE ORIGINAL “CHRISTIAN” MESSAGE GOT MUDDLED AND COMPROMISED BY THE GRECO/ROMAN PHILOSOPHERS WHO BROUGHT “CHRISTIANITY” INTO THE LONGSTANDING ACADEMIC WORLD OF MAJOR WRITERS LIKE SOCRATES AND PLATO, WHO AUTHORED OTHER CREEDS TO SELL THE NOTION OF THE “TRINITY” MANY CENTURIES LATER, BUT THIS SAME CREED IS RECITED TODAY BY NUMEROUS CHRISTIAN SECTS, AND IN EVEN THE MOST FUNDAMENTALIST SECTS, TRINITARIANISM IS JUST ASSUMED TO BE PART OF IT BY TRADITION. PROTESTANTS FOR THE MOST PART SPENT LITTLE TIME PARSING OUT THE NATURE OF DEITY, CONTENT TO DISMISS IT AS BEYOND HUMAN COMPREHENSION, A “MYSTERY.”
WHEN JOSEPH SMITH KNELT DOWN IN THE SACRED GROVE, COMING FROM THIS “CHRISTIAN” BACKGROUND, IT MUST BE NOTED AS A CRITICAL, CENTRAL LDS CONCEPT, THAT HE RECEIVED AN ANSWER TO A PRAYER HE WAS NOT PRAYING FOR. HE RECEIVED A FIRST VISITATION–NOT A VISION, AS OUR LATE GREAT BISHOP MARK MACDONALD OF CES ONCE SAID. IT WAS A VISITATION, NOT A VISION. JOSEPH WAS EXPECTING NEITHER VISITATION NOR VISION THAT DAY. YOUNG JOE SMITH WAS JUST WONDERING WHAT CHURCH HE SHOULD JOIN. HE WASN’T ASKING ABOUT THE BASIC NATURE OF GOD AND HIS RELATIONSHIP TO MAN. HE DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT WAS AN ISSUE AT THE TIME. BUT JUST RECEIVING THESE TWO PERSONAGES REGARDLESS OF THE MESSAGE THEY BROUGHT, IT WAS CLEAR THAT JOSEPH SMITH SAW TWO SEPARATE BEINGS. THAT ALONE WAS HERETICAL IN “CHRISTIAN” CIRCLES OF THE DAY. OR EVEN TODAY. HE WASN’T LOOKING FOR HERETICAL. HE JUST WONDERED IF IT WAS OK TO BE A METHODIST OR PRESBYTERIAN OR WHATNOT.
FATHER. SON. SEPARATE. THE PRESENCE HOLY GHOST. DRIVING OFF OF SATAN. THE 4 MAJOR PLAYERS OF GOSPEL STORY WERE ALL PRESENT IN PERSON IN THE SACRED GROVE.
BACK TO BROTHER HOLLAND:
By and large any controversy in this matter has swirled around two doctrinal issues—our view of the Godhead and our belief in the principle of continuing revelation leading to an open scriptural canon. In addressing this we do not need to be apologists for our faith, but we would like not to be misunderstood. So with a desire to increase understanding and unequivocally declare our Christianity, I speak today on the first of those two doctrinal issues just mentioned.
Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”2 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].”3
So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. Now, a word about that post–New Testament history might be helpful.
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)4 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.
THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA WAS CALLED BY THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE. THE BISHOP OF ROME WASN’T PRESENT–HE WASN’T THE “POPE” AS WE KNOW HIM TODAY. FRICTION AFTER NICAEA, CULMINATING IN ATHANASIAN CREED SOME HUNDREDS OF YEARS LATER, LED TO THE CHURCH’S 1ST SCHISM, OR SPLIT, WHERE THE EASTERN CHURCH BASED IN CONSTANTANOPLE, THE FORMER ROMAN CAPITAL UNDER CONSTANTINE, SPLIT OFF AND TWO POPES, THE BISHOP OF ROME, AND THE BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE, EXCOMMUNICATED EACH OTHER. THE EASTERN CHURCH HELD THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS A SEPARATE SUBSTANCE, OR BEING, FROM FATHER AND SON.
LATER, IN THE 1500’S, THE ANGLICAN CHURCH SPLIT FROM THE ROMAN FOLD, SO HENRY THE 8TH COULD REMARRY REPEATEDLY, TRYING FOR A SON AND HEIR. HIS PROPONENTS BASED THIS INDEPENDENCE ON “PROTESTANT” IDEAS ABOUT THE ROMAN POPE NOT BEING THE CHURCH’S SOLE AUTHORITY. HENRY 8TH TOOK ADVANTAGE OF VERY ENLIGHTENED “PROTESTANT” REFORMERS LIKE MARTIN LUTHER, BUT WAS PRIMARILY MOTIVATED BY POLITICAL AND PERSONAL, RATHER THAN THEOLOGICAL OBJECTIONS IN HIS REFORMATIONAL GOALS. HE DECLARED THE KING WAS THE SOLE PROTECTOR OF THE CHURCH, BY DIVINE RIGHT TO RULE.
WHAT EMBOLDENED HENRY’S ANGLICAN SPLIT, WAS THE DEVELOPMENT THAT ON OCTOBER 31 1517, A DEVOUT ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST NAMED MARTIN LUTHER NAILED 95 COMPLAINTS OR “THESES” ON THE DOOR OF HIS LOCAL CHURCH DEMANDING A “REFORMATION” OF THE ROMAN CHURCH, INVENTING IN THESE COMPLAINTS, THE IDEA OF “SOLA SCRIPTURAL,” MEANING, THE SCRIPTURES WERE ALL, THAT THEY WERE THE SOLE OR FINAL AUTHORITY OF THE CHURCH. THAT BASICALLY KICKED OFF THE “PROTESTANT REFORMATION.”
MARTIN LUTHER NEVER HAD ANY INTENTION OF LEAVING THE ROMAN CHURCH OR CLERGY, MUCH LESS LEAD A SERIES OF PROTESTANT SCHISMS. BUT LUTHER DID HAVE IDEAS ABOUT A UNIVERSAL, UNPAID LAY-CLERGY OF ALL WORTHY ORDAINED MALES THAT WAS A NON-STARTER IN THE ROMAN CHURCH, AND NEVER QUITE TOOK OFF EVEN IN PROTESTANT CIRCLES, BUT SOUNDED A LOT LIKE THE LDS APPROACH TO A LAY CLERGY.
WHILE ON THE ONE HAND, CLAIMING THAT “SCRIPTURE IS ALL,” LUTHER PERSONALLY COMPLAINED THAT HE DIDN’T LIKE THE BOOKS OF ESTHER OR THE NEW TESTAMENT BOOKS OF HEBREWS, JAMES, JUDE, AND THE REVELATION OF JOHN. HE CALLED THE LETTER OF JAMES “AN EPISTLE OF STRAW,” FINDING LITTLE IN IT THAT POINTED TO CHRIST AND HIS SAVING WORK. LUTHER ALSO HAD HARSH WORDS FOR THE REVELATION OF JOHN, SAYING THAT HE COULD “IN NO WAY DETECT THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT PRODUCED IT.”
HEBREWS HE THOUGHT WAS TOO “JEWISH.”
AS A RESULT, HE MOVED THESE PERSONALLY DISPUTED BOOKS TO THE END OF HIS OWN BIBLE TRANSLATION OUT OF THE NORMAL ORDER.
ANOTHER NOTED PROTESTANT REFORMER, AND FOUNDER OF MOST OF THE SORT OF RELIGION JOSEPH SMITH WAS SURROUNDED WITH IN AMERICA’S “BURNED OVER DISTRICT,” WAS JEAN CAUVAN OR AS WE KNOW HIM TODAY IN ENGLISH–JOHN CALVIN. AROUND 1535 AND ONWARD, HE PICKED UP THE DECLARATION OF MARTIN LUTHER, SOLA SCRIPTURA. AND MADE THE STUDY AND APPLICATION OF BIBLICAL “LAW” HIS MISSION.
(JEAN CAUVIN–SWISS THEOLOGIAN BORN IN FRANCE WHOSE TENETS, PREDESTINATION AND THE IRRESISTIBILITY OF GRACE AND JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH, DEFINED PRESBYSERIANISM. 1509-1564)
CALVIN WAS FRENCH, BUT EVENTUALLY SET UP SHOP IN GENEVA, WHERE HE SOON BECAME DISPARAGINGLY KNOWN AS THE “POPE OF GENEVA.” HE MADE LAW, JUDGED AND JURIED LAW, AND EXECUTED PENALTIES ALLEGEDLY, AS HE DECLARED IT, DIRECTLY OUT OF THE BIBLE. HIS OPERATING THEORY WAS A COMPLETE UNION OF CHURCH AND STATE, THE BIBLE BEING THE SOLE ARBITRATOR OF RIGHT AND WRONG. THIS WAS SOON INCLUDING THINGS LIKE IMPRISONING HIS OWN SISTER FOR DANCING, AND BEHEADING SCHOLARS HE DEEMED TO BE HERETICS, OR ROASTING HIS THEOLOGICAL ADVERSARIES ON BONFIRES KINDLED BY THEIR OWN CALVIN-PROCLAIMED “HERETICAL” WRITINGS.
CALVIN’S MOST FAMOUS ATROCITY WAS THE BURNING OF SERVATUS, WHO HAD BEEN SCHOLASTICALLY BOASTING AROUND EUROPE HE WAS CHALLENGING CALVIN TO AN OPEN, ONE-ON-ONE DEBATE, OVER A NUMBER OF CALVIN’S DOCTRINES. BUT WHEN SERVATUS SHOWED UP FOR THE DEBATE IN GENEVA, HE WAS ARRESTED, TRUSSED UP IN CHAINS AND ROASTED SLOWLY TO DEATH. CALVIN’ SKULKED AWAY AND WASN’T PRESENT FOR THE LENGTHY, TORTUROUS DEATH. HIS ONLY COMMENT ON THE MATTER WAS THAT HE’D HAVE PREFERED IT IF THE COUNCIL HAD VOTED TO BEHEAD SERVATUS RATHER THAN LIGHT A FIRE UNDER HIM.
(BUT OF COURSE, THE COMBINED CHURCH/CIVIL COUNCIL WOULD HAVE TAKEN ANY RECOMMENDATION CALVIN CARED TO MAKE, SO THIS WAS DISINGENUOUS.)
CALVIN’S FIRST PROBLEM WITH THE GREATER CHRISTIAN WORLD AT THE TIME HOWEVER, WAS THAT IN ALL HIS BIBLICAL RESEARCH, HE VERY CLEARLY HAD TO CONFESS THAT HE FOUND NO BIBLICAL SUPPORT FOR A TRINITARIAN VIEW OF GOD, WHICH BY THEN HAD BECOME THE UNIVERSAL WESTERN “ORTHODOX” CHRISTIAN BELIEF. HE PERSONALLY REFUSED TO USE THE TERM TRINITY, AND USED “GODHEAD” INSTEAD TO SIDESTEP THE ISSUE. HE ESSENTIALLY AGREED TO SHUT UP ABOUT IT TO KEEP HIS POWER BASE.
CALVIN CODIFIED A LOT OF NONSENSICAL “ORTHODOX” CHRISTIAN BELIEFS, LIKE PREDESTINATION, MANIFEST DESTINY, THE DOCTRINE OF HEATHEN NATIONS VS THE “ELECT,” AND SO FORTH. MANY OF THESE ARE BASED UPON THE EX-NIHILO THEORY OF CREATION, MEANING GOD CREATED EVERYTHING OUT OF NOTHING AND ONLY HIS CONSTANT WILL MAINTAINS EVERY PARTICLE AND ASPECT OF THE UNIVERSE, MEANING FREE WILL IS AN ILLUSION. THESE NOTIONS SPAWNED OFF A LARGE NUMBER OF TROUBLING PROPOSITIONS THAT ARE NOW PART OF OVER A MILLENIA OLD SYSTEM OF PROTESTANT “CHRISTIAN ORTHODOXY.”
WHILE THE ENTIRE PROTESTANT REFORMATION CONDEMNED THE ROMAN CHURCH AS CORRUPT AND PERVERTED FROM “TRUE CHRISTIANITY” BY THE SYSTEMATIC OPPRESSION OF A CARNAL AND SELF-SATISFYING CLERGY, VERY FEW OF THE PROTESTANT OFFSHOOTS DROPPED THE TRINITARIAN MODEL OF THE GODHEAD. OR IN OTHER WORDS, WHILE CLINGING TO THE NICENE AND ATHANASIAN CREEDS PRODUCED BY THIS “CORRUPT” ROMAN CLERGY AND SCHOLARSHIP AS ABSOLUTE, PERFECT AND PURE TRUTH, THE PROTESTANTS OPENLY MOCKED AND CONDEMNED THE CHURCH AND CLERGY WHO’D ORIGINATED IT.
HERE’S WHAT THOMAS JEFFERSON, WHO WAS NEARLY A CONTEMPORARY OF JOSEPH SMITH, HAD TO SAY ON CHRISTIANITY:
It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticisms that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one . . . But this constitutes the craft, the power and the profit of the priests. Sweep away their gossamer fabrics of factitious religion, and they would catch no more flies. We should all then, like the Quakers, live without an order of priests, moralize for ourselves, follow the oracle of conscience, and say nothing about what no man can understand, nor therefore believe.
—– To Dr. Waterhouse, 1815
The priests have so disfigured the simple religion of Jesus that no one who reads the sophistications they have engrafted on it, from the jargon of Plato, of Aristotle and other mystics, would conceive these could have been fathered on the sublime preacher of the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, knowing the importance of names, they have assumed that of Christians, while they are mere Platonists, or anything rather than disciples of Jesus.
—– To Carey, 1816: N. Y. Pub Lib., MS, IV, 40
PLATONISTS? WHAT’S JEFFERSON ON ABOUT?
WELL, JEFFERSON WAS REFERRING TO THE LATER APOLOGISTS OF THE ROMAN CHURCH AND OTHERS, WHO, BEING “EDUCATED,” HAD LONG STUDIED A PHILOSOPHICAL DISCIPLINE THAT EXPLORED “PERFECT BEING THEORY.” IN OTHER WORDS: WHAT WOULD A PERFECT BEING HAVE TO BE LIKE?
(SOME REALLY DRY READING IF YOU’RE INTERESTED: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ub9NAwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA103&dq=PLATONISM+NATURE+OF+GOD&ots=TZsyshqbHM&sig=Dm-xQ2Imkfye-BvuJuLKsOHexXM#v=onepage&q=PLATONISM%20NATURE%20OF%20GOD&f=false)
ACCORDING TO THE ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS, A PERFECT BEING COULD NOT BE DIVIDED. THERE CANNOT BE MORE THAN ONE PERFECT BEING. “THE ONE.” A PERFECT BEING CANNOT BE AFFECTED BY ANY OTHER PHYSICAL, MENTAL, OR EMOTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCE OR BEING. (IF HUMAN SUFFERING CAUSED GOD TO GRIEVE, HE CANNOT BE A PERFECT BEING.) GOD CONTROLS ALL OF THE UNIVERSE, THE UNIVERSE DOES NOT CONTROL GOD. GOD WILLS ANYTHING INTO BEING OUT OF NOTHING. AND SO FORTH.
OUT OF THIS PHILOSOPHICAL OR “SCIENTIFIC” SET OF PRECONDITIONS, THE LATER CHURCH FATHERS AND APOLOGISTS ATTEMPTED TO RECONCILE THIS “SCIENCE” WITH THE SCRIPTURAL RECORDS. OUT OF THIS CAME:
The Nicene Creed (A.D. 325)
The Council of Nicaea convened in A.D. 325 to settle a dispute regarding the nature of Christ. Arius (a presbyter of Alexandria who was the founder of Arianism) argued that the Son was created from the nonexistent, and was of a different substance than the Father. There was a time, Arius argued, when the Son was not. But Christ was the highest of all created beings. Athanasius of Alexandria, the champion of orthodoxy, stressed the oneness of God while maintaining three distinct Persons within the Godhead. He maintained that the Son was the same substance as the Father (and hence, was fully divine). Athanasius argued for the eternally personal existence of the Son. A mediating position was set forth by Eusebius of Caesarea, who argued that the Son was of a similar substance with the Father. After considerable debate, Athanasius won out and Christ was recognized by the council as being on a level with the Father as an uncreated Being.
The Nicene Creed reads:
I believe in one God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds [God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance [essence] with the Father; by whom all things were made; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And [I believe] in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets.
And [I believe] in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen. (This last paragraph was added in A.D. 381.)
The Athanasian Creed (Date: Unknown)
The Athanasian Creed is essentially an amplification of the Nicene Creed. (Note that in the wiki link below, it is not the work of Athansius at all, and furthermore, has been re-worked numerous times through the centuries.) It came to be generally adopted among the Western churches. This creed contains the words:
We worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For the person of the Father is one; of the Son, another; of the Holy Spirit, another. But the divinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one, the glory equal, the majesty equal. Such as is the Father, such also is the Son, and such the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Spirit is infinite. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal Beings, but one eternal Being. So also there are not three uncreated Beings, nor three infinite Beings, but one uncreated and one infinite Being. In like manner, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. And yet there are not three omnipotent Beings, but one omnipotent Being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God only. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord only. For as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess each person distinctively to be both God and Lord, we are prohibited by the Catholic religion to say that there are three Gods or Lords. The Father is made by none, nor created, nor begotten. The Son is from the Father alone, not made, not created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is not created by the Father and the Son, nor begotten, but proceeds. Therefore, there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity there is nothing prior or posterior, nothing greater or less, but all three persons are coeternal and coequal to themselves. So that through all, as was said above, both unity in trinity and trinity in unity is to be adored. Whoever would be saved, let him thus think concerning the Trinity.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (A.D. 1646)
The Westminster Confession arose out of the stormy political scene in England during the reign of Charles I. “Charles met with resistance when he attempted to impose episcopacy on the Church of Scotland and to conform its services to the Church of England’s Common Book of Prayer. A civil war erupted and Oliver Cromwell led the Puritan forces to victory. Charles I was beheaded in the process. In 1643 the English parliament commissioned the Westminster Assembly to develop the creed of the Church of England. The 121 English Puritan ministers met for 1,163 daily sessions from 1643 to 1649. The Westminster Confession of Faith, completed in 1646, affirmed a strong Calvinistic position and disavowed ‘the errors of Arminianism, Roman Catholicism, and sectarianism.'”
Below is the statement of God found in the Westminster Confession of Faith:
I. There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute, working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal most just and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
II. God hath all live, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them: He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, and upon them, whatsoever Himself pleaseth. In His sight all things are open and manifest; His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.
In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.
We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings…To whom was Jesus pleading so fervently all those years, including in such anguished cries as “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”14and “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”?15 To acknowledge 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. Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best: “Christ Jesus … being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”16
A related reason The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is excluded from the Christian category by some is because we believe, as did the ancient prophets and apostles, in an embodied—but certainly glorified—God.17 To those who criticize this scripturally based belief, I ask at least rhetorically: If the idea of an embodied God is repugnant, why are the central doctrines and singularly most distinguishing characteristics of all Christianity the Incarnation, the Atonement, and the physical Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ? If having a body is not only not needed but not desirable by Deity, why did the Redeemer of mankind redeem His body, redeeming it from the grasp of death and the grave, guaranteeing it would never again be separated from His spirit in time or eternity?18Any who dismisses the concept of an embodied God dismisses both the mortal and the resurrected Christ. No one claiming to be a true Christian will want to do that.
Now, to anyone within the sound of my voice who has wondered regarding our Christianity, I bear this witness. I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal, living Son of our literal, living God. This Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer who, under the guidance of the Father, was the Creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. I bear witness that He was born of a virgin mother, that in His lifetime He performed mighty miracles observed by legions of His disciples and by His enemies as well. I testify that He had power over death because He was divine but that He willingly subjected Himself to death for our sake because for a period of time He was also mortal. I declare that in His willing submission to death He took upon Himself the sins of the world, paying an infinite price for every sorrow and sickness, every heartache and unhappiness from Adam to the end of the world. In doing so He conquered both the grave physically and hell spiritually and set the human family free. I bear witness that He was literally resurrected from the tomb and, after ascending to His Father to complete the process of that Resurrection, He appeared, repeatedly, to hundreds of disciples in the Old World and in the New. I know He is the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah who will one day come again in final glory, to reign on earth as Lord of lords and King of kings. I know that there is no other name given under heaven whereby a man can be saved and that only by relying wholly upon His merits, mercy, and everlasting grace19 can we gain eternal life.
My additional testimony regarding this resplendent doctrine is that in preparation for His millennial latter-day reign, Jesus has already come, more than once, in embodied majestic glory. In the spring of 1820, a 14-year-old boy, confused by many of these very doctrines that still confuse much of Christendom, went into a grove of trees to pray. In answer to that earnest prayer offered at such a tender age, the Father and the Son appeared as embodied, glorified beings to the boy prophet Joseph Smith. That day marked the beginning of the return of the true, New Testament gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the restoration of other prophetic truths offered from Adam down to the present day.
I testify that my witness of these things is true and that the heavens are open to all who seek the same confirmation. Through the Holy Spirit of Truth, may we allknow “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent.”20 Then may we live Their teachings and be true Christians in deed, as well as in word, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.