One of the things that intrigued my parents into investigating the LDS church was when they heard that Mormons believed that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, were 3 separate and distinct beings. The modern day belief of many Christian churches regarding the Godhead being one being in 3 separate forms came about at the council of Nicea.
In A.D. 325, a council of Christian bishops met to discuss a consensus on their belief in God. One problem with this council was the church of Christ had ceased to exist and had gone into apostasy, leaving a group of men to reach an uninspired consensus on the nature of God. If you will recall the letters of the disciples to the various churches throughout the New Testament region, they were always trying to correct doctrine and ensure there was a unity of the faith (Eph. 4:13) among the branches of the church. As the disciples were put to death, the church members and even leadership began to lose its bearings. There was nobody to give direction to the false doctrines that permeated a church full of converts with different backgrounds and beliefs. This apostasy, or as some term it a falling away, was well known to the disciples of Christ. When the Thessalonians were getting geared up for the second coming of Christ, Paul warned them in these words that there had to be a full apostasy first.
2 Thess 2:1-3
1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
If there was to be a falling away, the only way to restore the church of Christ was by again calling a prophet and apostle to the earth. The prophet Amos said:
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
Peter taught this shortly after Christ’s resurrection that the people needed to focus on repentance and not the second coming. He specifically told the people that Christ would remain in the heavens until the time was right for God to again speak by the mouth of holy prophets.
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
In the Spring of 1820, a young man named Joseph Smith prayed in faith to God asking which church he should join, because he was very confused about the different churches and their contradictory doctrines. Joseph’s prayer was answered by a glorious manifestation of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appearing to Joseph. Forevermore, Joseph would know with a perfect knowledge that these two heavenly beings were in fact separate and distinct individuals who were one in purpose, not one in body. He was also given to know that the Holy Ghost was also a separate personage of spirit.
When the Bible says man was created in the image of God, it’s literally true. (Gen 1:26-27)
When Jesus was baptized and the people heard the voice of the Father from the heavens, it’s because the Father is a separate holy being whose magnificent son had just fulfilled a necessary covenant to show us the path home. (Matt 3:13-17)
When Stephen was being stoned and he looked up into the heavens and saw two separate beings standing together acknowledging that his work on earth was complete:
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
When Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19), he was being literal.
When Jesus prayed to the Father and asked if there was any way the bitter cup of the crucifixion might be taken from him, it was Him praying to his Father *in* Heaven. (Matt 26:42)
When Jesus said during his ministry, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29), on the cross he said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt 27:26). Moments later he said, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46)
We know these things to be true and the Bible to be understood in this context, because God spoke to a prophet in these latter days and restored that simple truth to the earth. For more specifics on our views of each member of the Godhead, please see this post “Who is God?“
Most people don’t know much about LDS church founder Joseph Smith. He had an incredible life of persecution from the time he was 14 and had what we call the “First Vision” to the time he was murdered by a mob in Carthadge, IL.
For the unfamiliar reader, the First Vision was the experience Joseph had during his time of religious confusion (you may read Joseph’s account here). There was a time when many religions were vying for converts and it created much confusion to young Joseph. He came across the scripture in James 1:5 which reads, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph was moved upon by this scripture and decided to take God up on his promise. He went into the woods near his home and while he prayed to inquire of God which of all the churches he should join, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph in a vision and instructed him that he should join none of the churches of that day saying “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” Joseph was told he would do a great work on the earth to restore the true gospel of Jesus Christ in it’s purity. He was called to be God’s chosen prophet on earth just as Moses and other ancient prophets had been called and spoke with God “face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exo. 33:11).
Just weeks before Joseph’s death, the well respected Josiah Quincy traveled from Boston to pay him a visit in Nauvoo, IL. Of that trip, Mr. Quincy wrote this:
“It is by no means improbable that some future textbook, for the use of generations yet unborn, will contain a question something like this: What historical American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful influence upon the destinies of his countrymen? And it is by no means impossible that the answer to that interrogatory may be thus written: Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet. And the reply, absurd as it doubtless seems to most men now living, may be an obvious commonplace to their descendants. History deals in surprises and paradoxes quite as startling as this. The man who established a religion in this age of free debate, who was and is today accepted by hundreds of thousands as a direct emissary from the Most High,–such a rare human being is not to be disposed of by pelting his memory with unsavory epithets.”
In Joseph’s last days before the martyrdom, he evidently had this dream which I had never heard of till I saw this touching video someone produced. Joseph Smith was an amazing man, called of God to serve as his mouthpiece on earth. He sealed his testimony with his blood, living true to the end in that faith that God revealed to him.