A Response to Elder Holland’s Jan 2016 Ensign article.
Recently, something struck me as completely ironic; it was an article in the January 2016 Ensign, by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland – a repeat of an address entitled ‘The Godhead,’ delivered during a seminar for new mission presidents at the Provo Missionary Training Centre on June 23, 2013. This Ensign article was entitled ‘Knowing the Godhead.’ In it, Elder Holland starts by reminding the Saints that a CORRECT idea of the Godhead and their attributes, is essential to worshipping properly and being saved eternally. He wrote:
“The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God.” Furthermore, he added, “I want you all to know Him, and to be familiar with Him.” We must have “a correct idea of his … perfections, and attributes” and an admiration for “the excellency of [His] character.” (bold emphasis mine)
He goes on to write that a CORRECT understanding about God is essential from those who know the truth:
“Many of those “fish” (referring to missionary contacts) in our expanding frontier do not know who God is or what His Fatherhood is actually like; they do not know who Jesus Christ really is or why His is the only name given under heaven whereby we may be saved (see Acts 4:12); they do not know who the Holy Ghost is or why this member of the Godhead “was sent forth to teach the truth” . . . . . Ultimately, “true and saving worship is found only among those who know the truth about … the Godhead.”
Then, after describing the LDS God and how He should be worshipped, he states:
“Few of our investigators will know that kind of God now, in or out of contemporary Christianity.” He then depicts other types of God as possibly: “ethereal mist or vague philosophical First Cause, or a deistic absentee landlord” (bold emphasis mine)
He also quotes Elder McConkie to reinforce his point:
“Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminded us that Lucifer understands the significance of such doctrine, even if we don’t. He said:
“There is no salvation in believing … false doctrine, particularly a false or unwise view about the Godhead or any of its members.…
“It follows that the devil would rather spread false doctrine about God and the Godhead, and induce false feelings with reference to any one of them, than almost any other thing he could do.” (bold emphasis mine)
So why is Elder Holland’s message so ironic?
It is ironic, because Smith himself declared and gave witness of a ‘Protestant type God’ for the first 18 years after his ‘Visitation of Angels’ (changed later to the ‘First Vision’) A thoroughly Trinitarian concept–along biblical lines–as attested by the Book of Mormon, which absolutely taught (originally), that the Son was basically the Father ‘incarnate’ and the Holy Ghost being simply the ‘Mind of God’ (not a personage). The Church of course, has since altered specific verses in the Book of Mormon to make the Godhead appear separate. They have said it made for greater ‘Clarity.’ What! Clarity? More like Confusion. It was a total identity change – a complete makeover from ‘One Eternal Father’ to the ‘Father AND the Son.’ Just to give you one of many examples that could be used:
1830 Edition: p.25 lines 10-11. And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!… (One God incarnate)
1981 Edition: 1 Nephi 11:21 And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!… (Two Gods)
That makes God in the first edition, a different person in the next edition! Also, the Book of Mormon has always declared God to be a personage of ‘Spirit’ (not having a body with flesh and bones, nor 3 personages – just one). Jim Whitefield said:
“The truth is that Smith originally wrote the Book of Mormon monotheistically, because at that time, he believed God and Jesus Christ were indeed one and the same being, just as mainstream Christians do. It wasn’t the Nephites who were confused or didn’t record things accurately; they were a figment of Smith’s imagination. It was Smith’s creative mind that kept introducing new ideas, some of which then conflicted with his previous thinking and therefore his earlier writings. It was only later that his ideas controversially evolved into polytheism, by which time much had already been written which contradicted Smith’s new theology. His writings are still interlaced with many unaltered monotheistic (Trinitarian) statements.” (The Mormon Delusion Vol.2)
It is true, there are verses here and there – in both the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, where Jesus appears separate from the Father – such as when praying to the Father. Nevertheless, the ‘three in one’ Trinitarian concept is very strong in both books. The ‘Lectures of Faith’ penned by Smith and now discarded from the D&C, taught the same Trinitarian view. Jim continues:
“An integral part of the original Doctrine and Covenants was the Lectures of Faith. Whilst these lectures were removed from canonised scripture in 1921 and no longer form the ‘Doctrine’ part of the D&C, the seven lectures were once deemed the very foundation of Church doctrine. Following them being taught in the School of the Prophets, they were actually supposed to be memorised, such was their doctrinal significance. Lecture Five in particular, became an embarrassment for the Church and although still available today, the lectures are seldom referred to and are now largely ignored and conveniently forgotten.
. . . . . Smith still believed God was a spirit without a body and Jesus alone had a resurrected body. In his mind, they constituted one God. The tradition of the trinity was firmly held by Smith. As already discussed, D&C 130:22, which was written on 2 April 1843, confirmed Smith’s new theology, which appears to have evolved from around 1836-1837 onwards: “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.” The Mormon Delusion Vol. 2 (bold emphasis mine)
Notice above – in 1843, Smith states the Holy Ghost is a ‘personage of spirit.’ Previously he had thought and taught that the Holy Ghost was merely ‘the Mind’ of God. You notice Smith did not say what form this personage took? The idea that this spirit was an un-embodied ‘male’ personage was not known or suggested by Smith, nor was it suggested by any Prophet; that is, not until 1893 when three intellectual LDS theologians – B.H. Roberts, James E. Talmage and John A Widtsoe, became the chief architects of a New (and officially approved) Church alteration in the very nature of the Godhead!
According to Thomas G. Alexander, in his ‘THE RECONSTRUCTION OF MORMON DOCTRINE’ these three men: “established the Church’s basic doctrines of the Godhead and had undertaken a reconstruction which doctrine [went] far beyond anything described in the ‘Lectures on Faith’ (by Smith) or generally believed by Church members prior to 1838.”
To add to the madness, Brigham Young adopted what Smith (late in his life) had taught: that Adam was God, the Father of our spirits. This concept of God’s identity was no surprise to the saints from 1844, till Young’s death in 1877, (though some odd leaders struggled against it). It was even utilised by Young as part of a ‘lecture at the veil’ in the temple endowment ceremony. However, no sooner was Brigham cold in the grave, when successive leaders began to distance themselves from his Adam/God teaching. Finally, the three afore mentioned theologians, put it to death and completely dispensed with it.
The Church today say it was never a doctrine, but it was; just as in these days, the Church has produced an essay on ‘Race and the Priesthood’ wherein they use language in blatant denial of their clearly defined past reasons for withholding the Priesthood from the Blacks – as if it were all based on member speculation and supposition – as if it was nothing to do with them! I find their shrouded repudiation extraordinary.
But think for a moment…. Smith claimed a ‘First Vision’ of the Godhead, which was the first opportunity for God Himself (since the apostasy and Dark Ages) To verbally and properly declare His identity – thus saving the entire world from ongoing confusion? So God failed miserably. Then, to cap it all – for nearly 2 decades, Smith taught us about a DIFFERENT Godhead in ALL his original Church scripture – including the Lectures of Faith, Book of Commandment and Book of Mormon. And God never bothered to correct him.
Because he never had a Vision of the Father and Son. He simply back-dated a new brain-wave idea in 1838 and slotted it into a 1820 pretended experience (a time when he only spoke of seeing angels, Moroni and gold plates – not the Father and the Son). Such a claim in 1838, lent him a greater authoritative power, during a period of alarming apostasy with a number of his key leaders.
So, Smith’s ‘Protestant’ God, utilised from the cultural beliefs of his time – right up till 1835 -1842, was far removed from the present day reconstructed Mormon God. The God of Smith’s later life was diminished into the concept of a glorified man – a plurality of them – strewn across the infinite universe. This was about the time he invented ‘The Book of Abraham’ as well. Also, the time he was heavily into sex with anybody’s wife and anybody’s daughter. This entire rotten concept of the female role in heaven as spirit breeding machines to patriarchs, further promoted the misogynistic abuse of women in his lifetime. In fact, Smith, Young and all other prophets, merely reflected the anthropomorphic God within them – who they were.
Hence, the nastiness, pettiness and prejudice of Smith’s God and Young’s God. By contrast, I remember the kindness of one prophet in my own lifetime (1964) David O.McKay. Someone on the Mormon Curtain remembers President McKay as I did. The anthropomorphic God of McKay was manifestly different, as can be detected in this very simple comment:
“When people complained about some girls in the July 24th parade being in swimsuits and “not dressed appropriately, McKay said, “I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t beautiful.”
If men like Oaks, Ballard, Nelson and Monson had the same soul as President McKay, perhaps today’s same-sex couples might have been more celebrated and their children less persecuted? Instead, we have seen the callous – sometimes vicious God, which these men mirror. In his article Elder Holland includes the rhetoric of kindness and tolerance of other faiths, but his message is very different – it has that same harsh ‘we are true’ – ‘you are false’ emphasis. What is even worse, he proclaims other beliefs and other non-LDS methods of worship as ‘not real’ which cannot have the same result as an LDS belief. As always, arrogance is not far from any form of fundamentalist certitude.
Holland lambasts other ideas of the Godhead thus:
“Many evolutions and iterations of religious creeds have greatly distorted the simple clarity of true doctrine, declaring 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. In such creeds, all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.”
When reading such words, I think of the Nicene Creed, given in 325 A.D. and written to express the ancient Church’s teachings about the Trinity and the affirmation of their historical belief in the realities of Jesus’ life. As many as 1,800 bishops, priests and deacons met to hammer out a number of matters during the occasion of the Nicene Creed. One line from the Catholic News Herald, intrigued me:
“Many of the bishops had the marks of persecution on their faces – they had faced the threat of death for their faith and they were sensitive to details of doctrine. These were not wishy-washy men.”
In the Catholic bashing days of Talmage and McConkie (authors of ‘The Great Apostasy’ ‘Articles of Faith’ and ‘Mormon Doctrine’) the Nicene Creed was derided. And yet, this founder Joseph Smith believed and established the self-same Trinitarian concept of God but I never saw it, till I stood back from Mormonism. If you read the Book of Mormon and the Lectures of Faith – looking for this type of God, He will jump out of the page at you! I find it quite laughable and ironic that Holland brags and promotes the LDS God that can save the world, yet fails to see the same ‘man-made’ evolution of Deity within his own Church?
Lastly, from Holland….
“So no investigator can come into this Church with a real testimony, with real conversion, with what we are seeking for and calling real growth in each convert, unless he or she has had at least the beginning of some personal, spiritual, true experience with God. That kind of true experience can come only when there is the realization that He is a real being, an actual person, a literal Father of flesh and bone who speaks and sees and feels, who knows all His children’s names and all their needs, who hears all their prayers, and who wants all His children in His Church.” (Bold emphasis mine)
Correction Elder Holland: Real conversion, Real growth and True spiritual experiences have been claimed from all kinds of believers within all kinds of faiths with all kinds of possible Gods… and if they happen to bring communion, deep peace and meaning, then they are as valid as any other sales pitch on the Almighty.
Some helpful links to my remarks:
Adam/God theory: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam%E2%80%93God_doctrine
David O’McKay: http://mormoncurtain.com/topic_davidomckay.html
‘THE RECONSTRUCTION OF MORMON DOCTRINE’ By Thomas G. Alexander: http://www.lds-mormon.com/changod.shtml
Elder Holland’s Ensign talk: https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/01/knowing-the-godhead?lang=eng
Origins of the Nicene Creed: http://www.catholicnewsherald.com/our-faith/200-news/roknewspager-yearfaith/2718-the-nicene-creed-and-its-origins?showall=&start=1