Is God Really Incomprehensible?
My wife and I have been called to serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we have been assigned to serve in the Indiana, Indianapolis Mission for 23 months. I have been thinking of why we want to serve this mission. My wife and I both served as missionaries before we were married and we have always planned on serving together when the time was right. We just celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary and I am now retired, so the time is right. Another reason for serving is we want to be an example to our grandchildren (and future generations as well) that missions are a priority for us and it should be for them as well. I believe the most important reason we want to serve our mission is we are both firm believers in the message that The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth again and we have living prophets and the priesthood authority to administer the saving ordinances that will allow us to return to live with our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ as families after this mortal life.
In six weeks my wife and I will begin our mission when we enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo. The first week of training will be for our individual responsibilities (Sue as the mission nurse and me as an office assistant) and the second week we will receive the same training as the younger missionaries receive before they go out to their individual missions.
Beginning today and for the next five weeks I would like to attempt to explain some of the differences between the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those of other churches. I have wondered why traditional Christians have such a hard time understanding what we believe because to me our understanding of God and our purpose is so simple it is easy to understand and makes much more sense than traditional Christian beliefs.
The topics that I will be discussing include: the nature of God and Jesus Christ, the doctrine of the apostacy and restoration, is the bible all there is?, do we need a prophet today?, is there only one true church of Jesus Christ?, and what should Christ’s Church look like today?
I want to start this discussion with the topic of the nature of God. I do this because what members of the LDS Church believe about God is fundamental to all the other doctrines we have in the church and is one of the biggest disagreements we have with other Christian churches.
As a teenager my family attended the Methodist Church and though I tried to understand the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, it never made much sense to me? Let’s start with what traditional Christian churches teach about the nature of God.
“The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is not one but three coeternal consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as "one God in three Divine Persons". The three Persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios). In this context, a "nature" is what one is, whereas a "person" is who one is. Sometimes differing views are referred to as nontrinitarian.
“According to this central mystery of most Christian faiths, there is only one God in three Persons: while distinct in their relations with each other ("it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds"), they are stated to be one in all else, co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial, and each is God, whole and entire. Accordingly, the whole work of creation and grace in Christianity is seen as a single operation common to all three divine persons, in which each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, so that all things are "from the Father", "through the Son" and "in the Holy Spirit" (Wikipedia-Trinity)
And from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:“The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the "mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God". To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith before the Incarnation of God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit. . .
“The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the "consubstantial Trinity". The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: "The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God." In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), "Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature."
“The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary." "Father", "Son", "Holy Spirit" are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: "He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son." They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: "It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds. The divine Unity is Triune.
“The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance." Indeed "everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship." "Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.” (The Revelation of God as Trinity)
Now compare those descriptions of God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost to what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint (or the Mormons) teaches about what we believe:
“The Trinity is a common Christian belief that the Godhead is one being represented by three persons. Mormons do believe in God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. But Mormons do not believe in the traditional concept of the Trinity. Here’s why.
“Mormons do not believe in the Trinity concept because it is not supported by scripture. It was not until the councils of Nicaea (AD 325) and Chalcedon (AD 451) that the doctrine of the Trinity was defined. The formal doctrine of the Trinity is not found in the New Testament because the idea was only introduced hundreds of years later. Mormons center their faith instead on the Godhead as three distinct personages as supported by scripture.
“Mormons believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct personages. They are separate beings united in the purpose of bringing all of God’s children back to His presence, but They are not one singular being. Together They comprise the Godhead.
“Remember the story in Matthew when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist? It’s a perfect example of three distinct beings acting together—as a Godhead—to accomplish the will of Heavenly Father.
“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: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16–17).
“In that moment, all three members of the Godhead were present. Christ, being baptized; the Holy Ghost, as indicated by the sign of the dove; and Heavenly Father’s voice emanating from the heavens.” (Do Mormons Believe in the Trinity?)
This teaching explains that we are literally children of God, Our Heavenly Father:
“The vast family of humankind was created with divine potential and in the image of our Father, who wants His children to thrive, to become like Him, and to return to live with Him. We instinctively desire this same thing; we long for a reunion with a home and family we can’t quite remember.
“The idea of God as our Father is not allegorical; it is literal. Our mortal bodies are remarkable scientific wonders and works of art—they are widely diverse, mortal bodies patterned after God’s own glorified, immortal body, as indicated in Genesis 1:26, where God says, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” And Moses also wrote of having seen God and talking to Him “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). The New Testament likewise reveals Jesus Christ to have been begotten by God and created in His image. During His life on earth, Christ’s earthly body—which looked like ours—reflected this parentage. We are like our Father and His Son, whose combined work is to help us achieve eternal, exalted life with Them in heaven.” (What is the nature of God?)
And finally from the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“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.” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:22)
I would ask anyone to read these two definitions of God tell me that the traditional Christian teaching makes more sense than the LDS’s teaching of the nature of God. How can something that is incomprehensible and a mystery of faith and teaches that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are literally one in the same person be understood? That really is a mystery!
The LDS’s teaching is simple, beautiful, and true. Everyone who lives here on this earth lived prior to birth as spirit children of God, our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ was the Father’s firstborn and is our older brother. Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created this earth for us so we would be able to come here and prove that we can keep God’s commandments and receive the necessary ordinances that will allow us to return to live in the presence of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ after this mortal life is over. Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament and is the “I AM” that appeared to Moses and the other prophets. (John 8:58) In his mortal ministry, Christ was born of Mary and worked out the Atonement which allows us to overcome spiritual death on condition of repentance and acceptance of him as our Savior and obedience to his commandments. Christ was crucified and rose the 3rd day and was the first fruit of the resurrection which is a free gift to all.
We are all sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters, and we are commanded to love everyone as Christ loved us. To God and Christ there is no distinction between bond and free, male and female, wealth or stature, living or dead; they love all of us. Heavenly Father has even provided a way for those that did not know about Jesus Christ or his church and did not have the opportunity to accept his Gospel and receive the saving ordinances. All of Heavenly Father’s children will have the opportunity to hear and accept the gospel in this life or in the spirit world before the resurrection and the necessary ordinances will be performed for them in the temples of the Lord by those of us that are still here in mortality.
Everyone’s, living and dead, responsibility is to come unto Christ through baptism by those holding the proper authority, to receive the blessings of the house of the Lord to be sealed as families, and to do our best to keep the commandments and endure to the end. None of us live sinless lives and through the grace of Jesus Christ we overcome those sins and can be cleansed through his atoning blood and finally we can be found worthy to enter into the presence of God and live as eternal families.
To me this is beautiful and makes perfect sense. I would ask anyone to explain how the traditional Christian teaching of the trinity, the purpose of this life, and what the afterlife will be like makes more sense.
If you like this, I invite you to share it with your social media friends. Your comments and questions are welcome.