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The Nature of God in the Book of Mormon
by Dr. Robert L. Millet
The Prophet Joseph Smith's statement that a man could get nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon than by any other book (Book of Mormon Introduction) has to do not only with the book's spiritual power, but also with its more powerful treatment of the nature of God than any other book of scripture. In this presentation we are going to discuss the Gods and the Godhead in the Book of Mormon, but first let me give some introductory ideas about the Book of Mormon and its characters.
Doctrine and Covenants 20:11 speaks of the Book of Mormon as proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true. Those holy scriptures happen to make up the Bible. So, the Book of Mormon helps to establish the essential truthfulness of the Bible. The Book of Mormon witnesses that there is a God who is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable from beginning to end, as does the Bible and also the Doctrine and Covenants. (See Isn't God the Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever?)
Where would the Nephites (See Book of Mormon Peoples) have obtained a knowledge of God? The brass plates could have been one source, and we are going to refer to some specific teachings about God from the brass plates. The Nephites could have also learned about God from the traditions taught by prophets and in families over the generations. Another possibility could have been through independent revelation.
Let's then begin our discussion of the Nephite teachings about God by first considering the reality of someone who doesn't always take center stage in the Book of Mormon --- our Heavenly Father, or Elohim. He is referred to early in the Book of Mormon. In 1 Nephi 10:4 Nephi writes: "Yea, even six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem, a prophet would the Lord God raise up among the Jews even a Messiah, or, in other words, a Savior of the world." The phrase Lord God in that verse seems to refer to Elohim (Heavenly Father). (See Teachings About God the Father home page)
Another reference to Elohim is found in a passage from King Benjamin's speech in Mosiah 2:34:
I say unto you, that there are not any among you, except it be your little children that have not been taught concerning these things, but what knoweth that ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are. (Emphasis added)
People frequently assert that the Book of Mormon is trinitarian in nature, that the Book of Mormon really only refers to one God. But a careful reading of the text reveals references to Elohim, our Heavenly Father, as well as to his Son. Jesus, or Jehovah, is the central character of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon testifies, predominately, of him. But it is clear in the record that Christ worships another God.
Another idea to keep in mind is the concept of worship being taught in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon unquestioningly teaches that we worship Christ, as Elder McConkie pointed out some years ago. We are reverentially grateful and appreciative for what Christ has done, and we seek to imitate and emulate his life. (See Teachings About Jesus Christ home page) But the Book of Mormon evidently also teaches us to worship the Father in the name of the Son.
For example, consider Nephi's language in the following scripture:
And after they [the Jews] have been scattered, and the Lord God hath scourged them by other nations for the space of many generations, yea, even down from generation to generation until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God, and the atonement, which is infinite for all mankind and when that day shall come that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name, with pure hearts and clean hands, and look not forward any more for another Messiah, then, at that time, the day will come that it must needs be expedient that they should believe these things. (2 Nephi 25:16, emphasis added)
The ultimate object of our worship is the Father, but we worship him in the name of the Son. In Jacob 4:5, Jacob declares the same doctrine:
Behold, they [the ancients] believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name. And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for righteousness, even as it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son. (Emphasis added)
The brass plates prophets can help us better understand the doctrine of prayer to the Father in the name of the Son. Who were the brass plates prophets? When did they live? I'm not sure we know more than that they lived since Abraham and that these prophets, especially Zenos, were important to Nephi and the other Book of Mormon prophets. One of the reasons these plates may have been especially important to Lehi's family is that the plates seem to be records from their direct ancestors (see 3 Nephi 10:16). We have a strong witness in the Book of Mormon of the importance of the brass plates' messages.
When Lehi got the brass plates, he prophesied "that these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people" (1 Nephi 5:18). Later, when Alma speaks of the brass plates, he says the same thing: The brass plates are to go to "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people" (Alma 37:4). How will the brass plates go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people? We don't even have them.
Well, these prophets are saying that the teachings from the brass plates are to go to everyone. One way this will happen is through the Book of Mormon prophets who quote from the brass plates.
The brass plates were very Christ and gospel centered, as is evident in Alma 33, where it speaks of two brass plates prophets in a row teaching about God and the Godhead. In Alma 32 and 33, Alma is teaching the humble Zoramites about faith. The poor Zoramites were concerned because they could not worship in the synagogues. Alma shows them, by quoting some ancient brass plates prophets (Zenos and Zenock), that a person doesn't have to have a building in order to worship God.
In Alma 33:2-10 we learn doctrine from a part of Zenos's prayer:
And Alma said unto them: Behold, ye have said that ye could not worship your God because ye are cast out of your synagogues. But behold, I say unto you, if ye suppose that ye cannot worship God, ye do greatly err, and ye ought to search the scriptures; if ye suppose that they have taught you this, ye do not understand them.
Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?
For he said: Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness; yea, thou wast merciful when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn them to me.
Yea, O God, and thou wast merciful unto me when I did cry unto thee in my field; when I did cry unto thee in my prayer, and thou didst hear me.
And again, O God, when I did turn to my house thou didst hear me in my prayer.
And when I did turn unto my closet, O Lord, and prayed unto thee, thou didst hear me.
Yea, thou art merciful unto thy children when they cry unto thee, to be heard of thee and not of men, and thou wilt hear them.
Yea, O God, thou hast been merciful unto me, and heard my cries in the midst of thy congregations.
Yea, and thou hast also heard me when I have been cast out and have been despised by mine enemies; yea, thou didst hear my cries, and wast angry with mine enemies, and thou didst visit them in thine anger with speedy destruction.
So far, we have learned about praying and where we can do it. Zenos tells the Zoramites they can pray in many different places in the wilderness, in fields, houses, closets, and in congregations. Now, we come to a key verse, verse 11, where Zenos teaches about the Godhead:
And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son.
Zenos is praying to the Father in the name of the Son! And the judgments of God have been turned away because of the atonement of the Son. Alma is quoting from the brass plates. We somewhat equate the brass plates with the Old Testament, but compare Old Testament teachings with Alma 33:11. In the Old Testament, Jehovah is the only God we know about. Zenos, a prophet living in Old Testament times, is teaching a defined concept of the Godhead that it consists of more than one being. Now, we will hear from another brass plates prophet, Zenock. Let's continue with verses 12-16:
And now Alma said unto them: Do ye believe those scriptures which have been written by them of old?
Behold, if ye do, ye must believe what Zenos said; for, behold he said: Thou hast turned away thy judgments because of thy Son.
Now behold, my brethren, I would ask if ye have read the scriptures? If ye have, how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God?
For it is not written that Zenos alone spake of these things, but Zenock also spake of these things.
For behold, he said: Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son.
Notice that Zenock's language is similar to Zenos's. Zenock taught that the people couldn't understand the mercies God bestowed upon them because of His Son. There is evidence here of a relationship between the Son's atonement and the Father's judgments that is not clear in our present Old Testament. And so, because the Nephites were relying heavily upon brass plates information, perhaps the Nephites had information concerning the nature of God and the Godhead that, as far as we know, might have been much clearer than that of their biblical colleagues' in the Old World.
The Nephite record confirms the existence of the Father. It teaches us to worship and to pray to the Father in the name of the Son. The Book of Mormon helps us to understand the nature of the Godhead, just as the brass plates helped the Nephites to understand the concept of the Godhead.
I would also like to point out that in the Book of Mormon we learn that Christ is the God of ancient Israel (See Jesus Christ is Jehovah). In 1 Nephi 6:3-4, Nephi states his views regarding the plates, particularly about the work he was doing on the small plates. He says:
And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.
For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. (Emphasis added)
From these verses, we learn that Nephi intends to persuade us to come unto the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We learn more about this God in 1 Nephi 19:10:
And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.
So, we learned more about the God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of ancient Israel. We learned that he is going to be lifted up and crucified. Notice the particular details given in this verse: three days of darkness, the crucifixion, the burial, and so on. We know that this God is Jesus Christ.
So, we've talked about the Father, Elohim, as a reality. We've talked about Jesus Christ as the God of ancient Israel, and we've gotten, from the brass plates prophets Zenos, Zenock, and Neum, some specific details about Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Now, let's find out what the Book of Mormon teaches us about the Holy Ghost.
One of the marvelous lessons we learn from the scriptures is that prophets are not the only ones who get to see the visions of heaven. All worthy people are entitled to marvelous experiences with the Spirit.
Joseph Smith once taught that "God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them." Moses entreated, "Would God that all the Lord's people were prophets" (Numbers 11:29). Nephi teaches us how to receive these blessings.
And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him [God], as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. . . .
For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God [that is, those things that can only be known by revelation] shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. (1 Nephi 10:17, 19, emphasis added)
So, we learn that God, through the Holy Ghost, blesses all men and women who seek. Prophets and apostles simply stand as the example of our revelatory possibilities; they are not the exclusive case.
Nephi desires to receive the same vision his father received. As he sits pondering, Nephi experiences some marvelous things as the Spirit of the Lord takes him through quite an extensive vision, and then an angel questions him. By 1 Nephi 11, Nephi has seen the tree of life and is given to understand that it is symbolic of the love of God as manifest in Christ.
Let's read 1 Nephi 11:9-11 to learn more about the Holy Ghost:
And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.
And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another. (Emphasis added)
There seem to be at least two possibilities of whom Nephi is speaking to in those verses: (1) the premortal Messiah, Christ himself, the Spirit Lord, or (2) the Holy Ghost. Now, the latter possibility would make Nephi's experience a bit unusual because nowhere else in the scriptures do we have the Holy Ghost appear and speak with someone "as a man speaketh with another." (I suppose we would describe what takes place at the baptism of Jesus as an appearance of the Holy Ghost to man, but he was not in the form of a man.)
One way to discover who is speaking to Nephi is to examine the different uses of the phrase Spirit of the Lord in the Book of Mormon. The phrase Spirit of the Lord occurs exactly forty times. If you study these forty references, you will find that the phrase Spirit of the Lord refers most of the time to the Holy Ghost and occasionally to the light of Christ. I prefer to read this passage from 1 Nephi 11:11 as an appearance of the Holy Ghost to Nephi. Elder Talmage, in The Articles of Faith, suggested that he also felt this was the Holy Ghost, and President Romney concurred. Thus, Nephi's experience with the Holy Ghost appearing as a spirit man was a pretty singular occasion.
So, within the first twenty pages (eleven chapters) of the Book of Mormon, we learn that the powers of the Holy Ghost are real; that God constantly reveals himself, by the Holy Ghost, to those who seek and search; and that the Holy Ghost, though a spirit personage, is in the form of a man.
Let's discuss another role of the Holy Ghost and a couple of the gifts we receive from this Holy Spirit. In 2 Nephi 31, one of the most well-known chapters in the Book of Mormon, is Nephi's discussion of what he calls the "doctrine of Christ." Let's read 2 Nephi 31:13 and then talk about its import in regard to the Holy Ghost.
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ, by baptism yea, by following your Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word, behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of Israel.
If we follow our Lord Jesus Christ down into the waters of baptism, we then receive the Holy Ghost and experience the baptism of fire, Nephi says. Why is it called a baptism of fire? The Holy Ghost, as revelator and sanctifier, cleanses and purifies man; that purification of the human soul is the baptism of fire.
After he explains how we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, Nephi introduces the related concept of speaking "with the tongue of angels." What does it mean to speak with the tongue of angels?
In 2 Nephi 32:2-3, Nephi clarifies:
Do ye not remember that I said unto you that after ye had received the Holy Ghost ye could speak with the tongue of angels? And now, how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost?
Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
Let me give you a couple of illustrations of this gift from the Spirit. I was coming out of a general priesthood meeting six months ago when I heard one of the brethren say to a younger brother, "President Hinckley just spoke with the tongue of angels." The brother meant that President Hinckley was saying exactly what Christ would say if he were present.
At the 1973 October general conference, President Harold B. Lee gave a powerful opening address entitled "Who Am I?" The next day President Romney opened the conference and gave a powerful witness of Christ's atonement. The next speaker, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, said how touched he was by President Lee's and President Romney's remarks, and he said, "I had it impressed upon me . . . that if the Lord himself had been here, those statements which came from [President Lee and President Romney] are the very things that he [the Lord] would say at this time." Elder McConkie was teaching that when we speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, we speak with the tongue of angels, which means we speak what the Lord or angels would speak if they were present.
Nephi, in 2 Nephi 33:1, speaks of another power and duty of the Holy Ghost's of which we should become aware.
And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. (Emphasis added)
That is the duty of the Holy Ghost to carry the message of truth to the hearts of others. So, the Book of Mormon teaches us about the natures of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Let's add to our discussion by talking for a moment about the condescension of God. Nephi discusses this concept in 1 Nephi 11:13-36, where he records his conversation with an angel after he sees the vision of the tree of life. Elder McConkie has suggested that in this chapter we are introduced to two condescensions: the condescension of God the Father and the condescension of God the Son.
In a talk that he delivered to BYU students in 1969, Elder McConkie quoted at length from 1 Nephi 11, then said, "What, then, is the condescension of God? As I understand the definition of condescension, it is the act of descending to a lower and less dignified state; or waiving the privileges of one's rank and status; of bestowing honors and favors upon one of lesser stature or status." Obviously, we don't use the word condescend in the same way today; it has become a pejorative term.
When the angel says to Nephi, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" (1 Nephi 11:16), essentially the angel is asking, "Do you understand that God is going to leave his high station and live among human beings? Can you fathom the majesty of the Lord Jehovah, the God of the ancients, coming down to earth?"
The passage in 1 Nephi 11:16-25 seems to refer to the condescension of God the Father, not that of the Son. On another occasion Elder McConkie, also speaking of this concept of the condescension of the Father, said:
Without overstepping the bounds of propriety by saying more than is appropriate, let us say this: God the Almighty; the Maker and Preserver and Upholder of all things; the Omnipotent One; . . . God the Almighty, who is infinite and eternal, elects, in his fathomless wisdom, to beget a Son, an Only Son, the Only Begotten in the flesh.
God, who is infinite and immortal, condescends to step down from his throne, to join with one who is finite and mortal in bringing forth, "after the manner of the flesh," the Mortal Messiah.
We find an account of the condescension of the Son in 1 Nephi 11:26-27, where it begins to speak of what Christ will do when he comes to earth:
And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!
And I looked and beheld the Redeemer of the world, of whom my father had spoken; and I also beheld the prophet who should prepare the way before him.
Nephi sees the Lord coming down to earth, subjecting himself to mankind, being put to death, and so on; thus, he sees the condescension of God the Son.
Maybe it was this same idea that inspired the preaching in Mosiah 3:5-7. King Benjamin, having been instructed by an angel, either paraphrases or quotes the words of the angel talking about this idea of the coming down of the great God:
For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases.
And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men.
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people.
King Benjamin seems to be using the language, "hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer" to show that the Son is more than man He is God. The same language appears in Mosiah 3:9: "And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name; and even after all this they shall consider him a man." Benjamin is teaching that although men will consider Christ a man, he is not just a man. This is the coming down, the condescension of the great God.
As early as 1 Nephi 1, we learn that it is costly to teach this doctrine of condescension. Lehi is forced to leave Jerusalem for teaching it. The people want to kill him for two reasons: (1) because he tells them that they need to repent and (2) because he told them of the coming of a Messiah. Abinadi also got in trouble for teaching these truths it cost him his life! In Mosiah 7:26-28 Limhi is explaining how the people reacted to Abinadi's teachings.
And a prophet of the Lord have they slain; yea, a chosen man of God, who told them of their wickedness and abominations, and prophesied of many things which are to come, yea, even the coming of Christ.
And because he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth And now, because he said this, they did put him to death.
The third major concept that I think it is important to review in a discussion about the Godhead is the role of Jesus Christ as both Father and Son. In 1916 the First Presidency and the Twelve issued a document entitled "The Father and the Son."
The document taught that we speak of Christ as the Father in three senses: (1) Father of creation (the Book of Mormon refers to him specifically as the "very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth and of all things which in them are" [Alma 11:39]); (2) Father of the rebirth, by virtue of his role in bringing about the new birth; thus, he is the Father of those who are born again into his kingdom; and (3) Father through the divine investiture of authority.
In that 1916 document, the First Presidency tells of Christ speaking with divine investiture of authority in the sense that the Father has put upon him His words and His name; that is to say, there are many places in scripture where Jesus speaks in the first person as though he were the Father. Now, a couple of interesting places in the Doctrine and Covenants illustrate this. I'd like us to turn to them and see if we can clarify.
First, let's look at Doctrine and Covenants 29:1. There is no question who is talking here. The Savior says, "Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am." Now, look at verse 42 of the same section: "Behold, I say unto you that I, the Lord God, gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I, the Lord God, should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of mine Only Begotten Son." The speaker apparently changed person in the same revelation.
Let's look at one more example before we comment. In Doctrine and Covenants 49:5 it reads: "Thus saith the Lord; for I am God, and have sent mine Only Begotten Son into the world." These seem to be the words of Elohim. But then look at verse 28 of that section: "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, and I come quickly." Christ again changed person.
I remember teaching this to a Doctrine and Covenants class. I showed it to the group and asked, "What is going on here? Why would the Lord do this?" There was a stillness and silence in the class, and I wasn't going to give the answer. I waited and waited.
Finally a hand went up in the back, and a student said, "I think I know why the Lord is doing this."
I said, "Why?"
"To confuse us!" he said. I think there must be another reason. How could you more graphically illustrate the oneness of the Father and the Son than by having Christ speak as both of them in the same revelation? In the Church we go to great lengths to show that there is a Father and a Son and that they are separate beings. But the fact is, they are infinitely more one than they are separate, though they remain separate persons.
So, by divine investiture of authority, Christ speaks the words of the Father using the name of the Father . Let me add one dimension to this discussion of divine investiture of authority because I think it will shed some light on particular events in the Book of Mormon. There is another sense in which Christ acts by divine investiture of authority. The Father has given His Son, Jesus, His powers and His attributes, which were conveyed to the Son in conception.
With these ideas in mind then, let's turn to Mosiah 15:1-3. This scripture, perhaps one of the more difficult passages in all the Book of Mormon, makes a little more sense in this light. (It is ironic to me that Abinadi is teaching these deep doctrines of condescension and divine investiture of authority to known apostates, Noah and his priests!
And now Abinadi said unto them: 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.
That's simple enough, isn't it? Because Christ dwells in flesh (meaning he takes a physical body like every other daughter and son of God), he'll be called a son of God, the Son of God. But because he will inherit from his Father the powers and the attributes of God, his Father, he will be known as the Father. Abinadi is playing on the relationships between the dichotomies flesh/Spirit, man/God, and son/Father.
We have read how Nephi learned about the condescension of God. We have read how Benjamin, as instructed by the angel, taught the condescension of God. Abinadi teaches the condescension of God by first quoting Isaiah 53's discussion of Christ as the suffering servant. Then he asks how Christ can be God the Messiah and King-Ruler and at the same time, be the suffering servant? Abinadi answers that when Christ comes to earth, he will have flesh, but he will also have the powers of the Spirit. He will be a man, but he will also be God. He will be the Son, but we will call him Father.
Mosiah 15:4 reads: "And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth." The temptation is to assume that the speaker in that verse means Elohim and Jehovah are one God. They are one Godhead, but this is a discussion not of the Godhead, but of the nature and role of God the Son. In other words, I think Abinadi is saying that Christ is both flesh and spirit, man and God, Son and Father those attributes, powers, and titles, being blended wondrously in one being, Jesus Christ, "the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth." This is a great declaration and testimony about the coming of the Messiah.
What should a person know about the nature of God when he or she finishes reading the Book of Mormon? The book draws us nearer to God through its power of the Spirit, and we come to know that there is a God God the Father and God the Son. We know there is an act of atonement. We know there is a Holy Ghost who reveals the Father and the Son and who allows us, if we are worthy, to speak with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. We know there is a great God who has come down to earth. (When we understand the doctrine of Christ's condescension, we sing the hymns [e.g., "I marvel that he should descend from his throne divine"] with a little more reverence.) The Book of Mormon, I would suggest to you, is a great invitation to know God as the Nephites knew him.
The four major record keepers (Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni) have some very interesting things in common. They each saw our day and spoke of our day; they each saw Christ; they were each ministered to by angels; and they each said, basically, "I will meet you before the bar of God, and you and I will talk about this." Nephi even says, "And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect . . . my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, I bid you everlasting farewell" (2 Nephi 33:14).
Moroni's great testimony and invitation is found at the end of the Book of Mormon in Ether 12:38-41:
And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.
And then shall ye know that I have seen Jesus, and that he hath talked with me face to face, and that he told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language, concerning these things;
And only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing.
And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.
What was one of the great purposes of the Book of Mormon? To testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God. I don't think we would have much difficulty convincing some people in the world that Jesus is the Christ; however, we probably would have some difficulty convincing them that he is the Eternal God, as the Book of Mormon sets him forth.
In 2 Nephi 11:6-7 Nephi bears this wonderful testimony:
And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish.
For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time.
That is a pretty powerful message. Of course there is a Heavenly Father. Of course Christ worshipped the Father. But the Book of Mormon's central witness is that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God. I bear testimony of this truth. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
(See Basic Beliefs home page; Book of Mormon home page; Teachings About the Godhead home page)
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