Is the teaching of the LDS Church today
consistent with that of the early 1830’s? If the Mormon
Church’s claim to be the “only true church on earth today” is
to be believed, one would expect consistency in teaching from
the beginning until today. However, based on the earliest
works of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (then
“The Church of Christ”), the answer to the above question is
an emphatic no. Since the first version of the Book of
Mormon was published (1830), an evolution of theological
thought can be clearly traced.
On page 186 of the
original Book of Mormon (B.of M.), in the book of Mosiah
(15:4-5), we find an example of the relationship of Jesus
Christ and God the Father, from the original Mormon
the Father and Son: and they are one God, yea, the
very Eternal Father of Heaven and of Earth; and thus the
flesh becoming subject to the spirit, or the Son to the
Father, being one God,... (emphasis ours).
This verse teaches
two fundamental concepts that were present in Joseph Smith’s
original theological ideas: monotheism (the belief in one
God), and the spiritual nature of God the Father. We also note
that Joseph Smith attempted to emulate the doctrine of
the Trinity in this passage and in the process produced a view
that is not only contrary to modern LDS teaching, but to the
actual Christian doctrine of the Trinity as well.
Another example is
found on page 544 (Ether 3:14) of the same version quoted
earlier, which states:
Behold, I am he
which was prepared from the foundation of the world to
redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the
Father and the Son (emphasis ours).
A third example is
found in the book of Alma, page 253 of the first version,
...Is there more
than one God? And he answereth No. Now Zeezrom saith unto
him again: How knowest thou these things? And he saith An
angel hath made them known to me (Alma 11:28b-31).
examples, it is clear that at the time the Book of Mormon was
first published, Joseph Smith believed that God the Father and
God the Son were different manifestations of a single God.
Even the Preface to the B.of M., written by the three
witnesses concludes by stating:
And the honor be
to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which
is one God. Amen.
these examples undeniably show a monotheistic belief on
the part of Joseph Smith which differs greatly from the
polytheistic (a belief in many gods) concepts he developed
later in his life. For the Book of Mormon, there is only one
God, not three, or many more.
A departure from
the monotheistic view established with the B.of M. can be
traced to the 1851 version of the Pearl of Great Price. By
placing parallel passages in the books of Moses and Abraham
side by side, an evolution of thought is clearly demonstrated
within the Pearl of Great Price itself.
And I God said: let there be there light; and
there was light....
And (the Gods) said: Let there light; and
there was light...
And I, God, called the dry land Earth;....
And the Gods pronounced the earth
And I, God, made the beasts of the earth after
And the Gods organized the of the earth to bring
forth the beasts after their kind,....
And I, the Lord God, planted
a garden eastward in Eden....
And the Gods planted a garden in Eden,....
2:3,10, 25, 3:8
Book of Abraham 4:3,10,25,
The emphasis in
these passages is ours, highlighting the departure from a
single God to the current view of multiple Gods.
In 1835 a series
of lectures was published that was contained within the same
volume as the original “Doctrines and Covenants.” In the
preface of the work we read the following:
The first part
of the book will be found to contain a series of Lectures as
delivered before a Theological class in this place, and in
consequence of their embracing the important doctrine of
salvation, we have arranged them into the following
work....There may be an aversion in the minds of some
against receiving any thing purporting to be articles of
religious faith, in consequence of there being so many now
extant; but if men believe a system, and profess that it was
given by inspiration, certainly, the more intelligibly they
can present it, the better.
class” spoken of in the quote referred to a class of Elders in
Kirtland, Ohio. The “articles of religious faith” refers to
the “Lectures on Faith.” The preface concludes with the
endorsements of Joseph Smith Jr., Oliver Cowdery, Sidney
Rigdon and F.G. Williams. Represented in those “Lectures on
Faith” are the following attributes of God the Father:
God the Father is
a personage of Spirit:
-They are the
Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of
spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and
fulness: (Lecture Fifth, page 53).
God the Father is
omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient and without beginning of
We here observe
that God is the only supreme governor, and independent
being, in whom all fulness and perfection dwells; who is
omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without
beginning of days or end of life; (Lecture Second, page
The “Lectures on
Faith” were removed in the 1921 edition of Doctrines and
Covenants. The reasoning behind the removal is not consistent
with the endorsements that supported the lectures prior to
that point in time such as,
lectures were judiciously arranged and compiled, and were
profitable for doctrine;... (1835, Doctrines and
Covenants, page 256)
Q. Does the
foregoing account of the Godhead lay a sure foundation
for the exercise of faith in him unto life and
A. It does.
(1835, Doctrines and Covenants, page 58)
It becomes quite
apparent that the “founding fathers” considered the “Lectures
on Faith” to be theologically true, concise in its
presentation and “profitable for doctrine.”
So when did the
doctrines in these important areas change to present day LDS
beliefs? In the middle to late 1830’s Joseph Smith’s beliefs
about God changed tremendously. He developed the concept that
“God was once a man.” This great swing in belief created a
ripple affect in the Mormon concept of the attributes of God.
To demonstrate this, specific citations from LDS sources
relevant to individual attributes of God will be quoted, even
though they may not be the earliest writings of those views.
God the Father is
a personage of flesh, not spirit:
himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heavens, is a man like
unto one of yourselves, that is the great secret. If the
vail was rent to-day, and the great God, who holds this
world in its orbit, and upholds all things by his power; if
you were to see him to-day, you would see him in all the
person, image and very form as a man;... (Joseph Smith,
Times and Seasons, vol. 5, pp.613-14, 1844)
God is not
We are now, or
may be, as perfect in our sphere as God and Angels are in
theirs, but the greatest intelligence in existence (God) can
continually ascend to greater heights of perfection (Brigham
Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 93,1852).
God is not
God himself is
increasing and progressing in knowledge, power, and
dominion, and will do so, worlds without end (Wiltord
Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 120,
God has not always
He is our
Father- the Father of our spirits, and was once a man in
mortal flesh as we are, and is now an exalted Being (Brigham
Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 333,1859).
So where does one
turn to determine the very character of God? Does one stand
with the beliefs of the LDS Church in the early 1830’s, or
does one stand with the attributes of God as presented by the
current church doctrine? And if God were to have chosen Joseph
Smith to be a prophet, why would that prophet teach such
utterly contradictory concepts of God within the space of less
than twenty years?
to the question of where one finds true information about who
God really is, we would direct your attention not to a human
organization, but to the revelation of God in the Bible. First
of all, God doesn’t change. For I am the Lord, I change
not; (Malachi 3:6). God has always been God.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou
hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting
thou art God (Psalm
90:2). God is spirit, and is not limited to a physical body
like human beings. God is a Spirit: and they that
worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John
4:24). God is omniscient (all knowing). In whom are hid
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
(Colossians 2:3). God is omnipotent (all powerful). But our
God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath
pleased (Psalm 115:3). God is omnipresent (unlimited
by time and space). Can any hide himself in secret places
that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I
fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord (Jeremiah
23:24). God the Father is identified as God. Grace be unto
you, and peace, from God, our Father... (1
Corinthians 1:3). Jesus Christ is identified as God. In the
beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and
the Word was God (John 1:1). God the Father and God the
Son share the one being that is God. Believest thou not
that I (Jesus) am in the Father, and the Father in me?
the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the
Fat her that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works
(John 14:10). The Holy Spirit (Ghost) is God. But Peter
said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the
Holy Ghost, and
keep back part of the price of the land ?
. . . thou hast not
lied unto men, but unto God
(Acts 5:3-4). There is only one being of God,
but three persons who share that one being.
God’s being, since it is infinite and eternal,
can be shared by three persons (not in the sense
of a physical person, but in the sense of a thinking, willing
entity). l am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no
God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the
west, that there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there
is none else (Isaiah 45:5-6).
Why is it
important to know who God is? Because Jesus said, And this
is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3). To
believe in a false God is to engage in idolatry and to risk
losing your soul.